The Middleburg Film Festival announced today the Audience Award winners for Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature, as well as a Special Presentation Audience Award following the conclusion of the 11th anniversary edition of the four-day festival on Sunday, October 22.
Best Narrative Feature was awarded to American Fiction from writer/director Cord Jefferson who appeared at the Festival to receive the Special Achievement in Filmmaking Award. It’s the third audience award for the Cord Jefferson-directed feature, which also won the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award in September and the Audience Award for U.S. Cinema from the Mill Valley Film Festival. Jefferson’s feature directorial debut stars Jeffrey Wright as a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, he uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own which propels him to the heart of the hypocrisy he claims to disdain. The film also stars Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross and Skyler Wright.
“Congratulations to our remarkable Audience Award winners,” said MFF Executive Director Susan Koch. “We couldn’t be prouder of this year’s lineup and were honored to present so many exceptional films and welcome leading filmmakers to engage in thoughtful conversations.”
The award for Best Documentary Feature went to Invisible Nation, directed by Vanessa Hope who was also in attendance with the film’s producer Ted Hope. documents the election and tenure of Taiwan’s Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, the country’s first female president. The film is an inside account of Tsai’s tightrope walk as she balances the hopes and dreams of her nation between the colossal geopolitical forces of the United States and China. With unprecedented access, director Vanessa Hope captures Tsai at work in her country’s vibrant democracy and as she seeks full international recognition of Taiwan’s right to exist.
Represented at the Festival by its composer and winner of the Distinguished Composer Award, Michael Giacchino, Society of the Snow received the award for Best International Feature. The film tells the incredible survival story of The Old Christians Rugby team’s plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Directed by J. A. Bayona and adapted from a book by Uruguayan author Pablo Vierci, the film chronicles the survivors’ extreme ordeal, their struggle to stay alive, and their eventual rescue. The film is Spain’s Oscar submission for Best International Feature. A section of the film’s Michael Giacchino-composed score world premiered at the Festival on Friday afternoon at a tribute concert for the composer by the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra.
Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers’ The Last Repair Shop, which takes a look at a devoted group of craftspeople who repair Los Angeles public school students’ instruments in one of the last such programs of its kind in the country, was given a Special Presentation Audience Award. The film blends personal histories of the repair people with emotional, firsthand accounts from the student musicians for whom their instruments made all the difference in their lives. Bowers attended MFF to receive the inaugural Sheila Johnson Vanguard Award.
“We are incredibly thankful to all who played a role in making this year’s festival another resounding success,” said MFF Founder and Board Chair Sheila Johnson. “Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to the distributors and filmmakers who entrusted us with their wonderful films and to our sponsors, filmgoers, staff and volunteers for their continued support and tireless work.”
Photo: Claire Folger / 2023 Orion Releasing