Middlebury’s film fest honors two special guests

The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival is recognizing two special guests at the 4th Annual Festival this Aug. 23-26. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Steve James, a two-time Academy Award nominee and the director of “Hoop Dreams,” “Life Itself” and “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” will receive MNFF’s Sustained Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking Award. Celebrated Pakistani filmmaker Mohammad Ali Naqvi (“Shame,” “Among The Believers,” “Insha’allah Democracy”) will be presented with the Courage in Filmmaking Award, a new honor at this year’s festival. 
Steve James
Steve James burst onto the documentary filmmaking scene in 1994 with his breakthrough film “Hoop Dreams,” which won the 1994 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Editing. The film was recently selected for the prestigious Library of Congress’ National Film Registry (which also holds MNFF honoree Barbara Kopple’s first film, “Harlan County, USA”).  MNFF will screen the Academy Award nominated “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” on Friday, Aug. 24, 7:15 p.m., at the Town Hall Theater as part of its tribute to James’ outstanding work. 
Also on Aug. 24, MNFF will present the first two episodes of James’ recent project, “America To Me,” a much anticipated series that has been acquired by Starz and will receive its broadcast debut later this year. To date, the series has been shown at only a handful of festivals around the world and this will be its Vermont premiere. The screening will take place at 10:30 a.m. at Dana Auditorium on the Middlebury College campus. 
Last but not least, James will present “Minding The Gap,” a new film from first time director Bing Liu. As the film’s Executive Producer, James will shed light on the making of this important and compelling coming-of-age documentary. “Minding The Gap” will screen on Saturday, Aug. 25, 1:30 p.m., at Twilight Hall.  
“I greatly appreciate this honor from MNFF,” James said, “and look forward to spending the weekend in beautiful Vermont and sharing my most recent work with audiences there. Both “Abacus” and “America to Me” are films that mean a great deal to me, and that I hope will resonate with audiences at the festival.”
Mohammad Ali Naqvi
To recognize his continued dedication to documenting stories in the face of grave danger, MNFF is delighted to present Mohammad Ali Naqvi (who goes by Mo Naqvi) with the Courage in Filmmaking Award.  Mo Naqvi is an internationally recognized documentarian whose groundbreaking work sheds light on governmental and human rights issues in the Middle East, where he often risks his own life to capture exclusive footage. His feature documentary “Among the Believers,” co-directed with Hemal Trivedi, screened at the 2016 MNFF and won multiple awards including a 2017 Emmy nod for Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary.
Naqvi’s 2006 film, “Shame,” follows the harrowing story of Mukhtaran Mai, a young girl gang raped in the small Pakistani village of Meerwala. The film gained major attention and won the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Durban International Film Festival, among others.
MNFF will screen “Shame” on Saturday, Aug. 25, 1:30 p.m., at the Town Hall Theater and his latest documentary, “Insh’allah Democracy,” will screen on Sunday, Aug. 26, 1 p.m., also at the Town Hall Theater.
MNFF will present James with the Sustained Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking Award and Naqvi with the Courage in Filmmaking Award during the VTeddy Awards Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m., at the Town Hall Theater.
“Both of these gifted and courageous 2018 honorees make films about issues larger than themselves,” said MNFF Artistic Director Jay Craven. “Both provide rare insight into people engaged in highly charged social, emotional, and political situations.  We’re more than pleased to share their work — and to have them here to speak with our audiences.”
For more info visit middfilmfest.org.

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