Washington doesn't yet have a film festival on par with the fancy-schmancy celeb magnets that are Sundance and Cannes. But between AFI Docs, DC Shorts and Filmfest DC, we have a solid list of fests offering early looks at quality movies, and the growing inventory includes a couple of bright youngsters in Middleburg and Reston that are both happening this week.
For a first-timer, the Middleburg Film Festival has an impressive lineup of buzzy titles and accomplished guests. The star-studded screen adaptation of Tracy Letts's play "August: Osage County" isn't slated to have a wide release in D.C. until Christmas day, but film fans can see Meryl Streep as a tough-talking family matriarch on Friday.
Moviegoers can also see whether Idris Elba earns all that Oscar chatter in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," which screens Saturday, while Alexander Payne's latest, "Nebraska," shows the same day. The star of that film, the prolific Bruce Dern, won an acting award at Cannes for his role, and he'll be on hand Friday for a Q&A with film critic Janet Maslin. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday with more than 20 films. Tickets to most screenings and events are $15.
Reston's third annual Washington West Film Festival begins Wednesday and runs through the weekend. The festival puts a premium on smart, affecting features, shorts and documentaries. The
20-odd 41 screenings includes "Just a Sigh," which showed at Tribeca and features Emmanuelle Devos and Gabriel Byrne as an actress and the man she encounters on a train. The short film "Good Men" stars Ed Asner and Mark Rydell playing themselves as a couple of old friends who get into it over the Holocaust, terrorism and religion. Both actors will be in attendance for that screening on Saturday. Tickets for most films range from $12 to $15.