The type of movies Hollywood supposedly doesn't make anymore are getting a lot of screen time in Washington, D.C. Tom McCarthy's film "Spotlight," about the Boston Globe investigative team that broke the story on the Catholic Church's cover-up of serial sexual abuse in the priesthood, made its Washington premiere on Sept. 30, the opening night of Double Exposure: The Investigative Film Festival .
On Tuesday night, the Motion Picture Association of America hosted a screening and discussion of the film as part of Free Speech Week, where the connection between journalism and the movies was driven home by the MPAA's vice president of legal affairs, Ben Sheffner, himself a one-time journalist (including at Roll Call).
"One thing that journalism and motion pictures have is common is that both industries thrive in this country in large part because of our constitutional guarantee of free speech. And both industries have been at the forefront of the fight for free speech," he said in prepared remarks before the screening.
Now comes Thursday evening, when "Spotlight" will kick off the third annual Middleburg Film Festival, just a short drive from Washington in Virginia's hunt country.
The focus on that kind of film isn't an accident, according to the festival's executive director, Susan Koch.
"I think they're intelligent films, complex films, nuanced films," she said. "That's why I love them."
Koch was especially upbeat about "Spotlight" saying, "That's what you love, when you get a film that's beautifully crafted, well acted, it's just a joy to watch."
"Spotlight" is not the only story about the press in Middleburg's lineup.
"Truth," James Vanderbilt's retelling of the 2004 "60 Minutes II" flawed report calling into question President George W. Bush's military service and the fallout for CBS News' Mary Mapes and Dan Rather, will preview at the festival.
The movie got some D.C. treatment on Oct. 14 at the Navy Memorial theater in Penn Quarter, followed by a discussion with Rather, Vanderbilt and CNN's Brian Stelter.
Those two films won't be the only journalism showcased at Middleburg, which features a healthy dose of long-form nonfiction storytelling in its documentary selections.
From Abigail Disney's "The Armor of Light," about an evangelical Christian minister who rethinks his position on guns; to Jennifer Peedom's "Sherpa," about a deadly accident en route to the summit of Mt. Everest; to "Hitchcock/Truffaut," Kent Jones' recreation of the dialogue between the two giants of cinema, documentaries are well represented.
There is much more among Middleburg's 26-film slate, including Oscar bait such as Sarah Gavron's "Suffragette" and five foreign films under consideration for the Academy Awards' foreign language category.
"That's what films are all about. Expanding your world, introducing you to new places," Koch said. "We try to program for those people who are avid filmgoers as well as those who many not go as often."
The Middleburg Film Festival gets underway Thursday with "Spotlight" and continues through Oct. 25. For a full schedule and ticket information, go to the website at www.middleburgfilm.org .
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