Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | October 12th, 2022
The annual Middleburg Film Festival returns for its 2022 iteration—which just happens to be its 10thanniversary—with over 40 exciting feature films to choose from, as well as a number of exciting special events. This year’s fest runs October 13-16, beginning with a Thursday afternoon preview screening of the upcoming Tár, followed by the official opening-night film, White Noise. Other highlights include special screenings of Everything Everywhere All at Once (with a Rising Star Award given to actress Stephanie Hsu, who will attend) and The Woman King (with director Gina Prince-Bythewood attending Friday morning to receive the Agnès Varda Trailblazing Film Artist Award).
For the rest of what is taking place, be sure to visit the festival’s website, from which you can also purchase tickets. Friday night will see actor Brendan Fraser at the post-screening for The Whale, and on Saturday night Ray Romano will be there for his directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens. True, those two films are already sold out, but there’s plenty more to see. Below are my recommendations of five movies I have already watched. If I previously reviewed them, I excerpt from that review. Otherwise, I write a brief capsule of my thoughts. Enjoy!
Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda last wowed us with his first film not shot in his native tongue, The Truth(French and English), and just before that with Shoplifters. A recurring theme in his work is of makeshift families coming together to support each other in times of need, communal bonds far thicker than blood. In Broker, he is true to form in that respect, though the details are fresh. The film is set in South Korea, and given the presence of Song Kang-ho (Parasite), one could be forgiven for mistaking this for the latest from Bong Joon-ho (also Parasite), for whom Song has played De Niro to his Scorsese. But despite the cultural shift, this is very much a Kore-eda picture. Here, a collective of morally compromised individuals (his favorite kind) become a close unit through shared experience. The ending is anything but foretold and the narrative surprises are genuine. Though the themes are the director’s stock-in-trade, the fable is wholly original.
Descendant (Margaret Brown)
In her new documentary Descendant, director Margaret Brown (The Great Invisible) brings a saga both dispiriting and uplifting to the screen. Following the lives, past and present, of the descendants of the last Africans brought to the United States as slaves, the movie examines our nation’s long history of white supremacy and discrimination. In 1860, 52 years after the U.S. banned the international trafficking of enslaved Africans to our shores, one Timothy Meaher, an Alabama businessman, thought it would be a lark to circumvent the law and show what he could get away with. The deed done, he burned the ship, the Clotilda. Brown chronicles the search for the wreck’s remains, along with how redlining and zoning issues have continued to make the lives of the descendants more difficult and dangerous than they should be. It’s as American a tale as they come.
Good Night Oppy (Ryan White)
What motivates us to seek out new frontiers, and what is the biggest exploration of them all? The new documentary Good Night Oppy, from director Ryan White (Assassins), takes us on a journey to Mars, where the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit arrived in 2004, sent to opposite sides of the planet to search for ancient traces of water, and, hopefully, some form of life. Both far exceeded their 90-day expected lifespan, though Spirit eventually gave up the ghost in 2011; Opportunity, or Oppy as her team back home called her, made it all the way to 2018. Mixing CGI animation, archival footage, and interviews with the NASA engineers and scientists who made the mission possible, White probes not only the (relatively) nearby reaches of our solar system, but the inner workings of the human mind. The film is also a call for action on climate change, as we don’t what happened on Mars (yes, there once was water there, as they discover) to happen here. Filled with a diverse cast of fascinating characters, Good Night Oppy proves surprisingly poignant as well as profoundly informative.
A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 Ikiru, director Oliver Hermanus’ Living keeps the same post-WWII setting of the original but transposes it from Japan to England. And what better person to bridge that cultural gap than Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day), who pens the new screenplay. A brilliant master of emotional subtlety who has demonstrated, time and again, an ability to plumb the depths of human despair and highlight even the slimmest glimmer of hope, Ishiguro approaches each subject with the opposite of a heavy hand. Here, his work is beautifully complemented by everyone else’s similar restraint, headlined by the endlessly versatile Bill Nighy (Their Finest).
Though Nikyatu Jusu’s debut feature, Nanny, sometimes strikes its messaging notes with a heavy hand, the film’s overall design and execution prove mostly mesmerizing. And even if the ending rushes through an unspeakable tragedy, inadvertently seeming to minimize its impact, the gravity of the central conflict is never less than intense. Jusu offers a close analysis of the constant hazards faced by immigrants to the United States and how easily their tenuous security can be threatened. This is a story that resonates far beyond the borders of the cinematic frame.