This year’s Middleburg Film Festival in Virginia honored one prominent player in the Oscar race—and gave a much-needed boost to another. The leader of the pack, "Spotlight," won the festival’s Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature, following in the footsteps of A24’s "Room," which scored an audience award at Aspen Filmfest after nabbing the bellwether audience prize at TIFF last month.
Audience awards not only help contenders maintain momentum through the long, arduous awards season, but also show voters which titles are likely to play with the public—often a pre-requisite for any potential Academy Award winner. "Harry & Snowman," a lesser known documentary now gaining awards momentum, took the top prize in its category.
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Both films are especially poignant for their David vs. Goliath tales: "Spotlight" serves as a fictionalized portrait of the Boston Globe team of investigative reporters who exposed the Catholic Church’s decades-long cover up of widespread child sexual abuse by priests throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, whereas "Harry & Snowman" recounts the true story of a Dutch immigrant who rescues an ordinary horse from a glue factory, transforming both of their lives and eventually winning the triple crown together—eventually beating out the nation’s highly favored aristocratic "blue bloods."
"Spotlight" opens in theaters Nov 6. "Harry & Snowman" premiered in April.