Big Muddy Film Festival 2015: Thirty-seven Years of Independent Cinema at SIU

Big Muddy Film Festival 2015:  Thirty-seven Years of Independent Cinema at SIU
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Big Muddy Film Fest

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Big Muddy Film Festival 33

Who: Film Alternatives
What: Big Muddy Film Festival
When: 2015-02-24 - 2015-03-01
Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t the only movie premiering in Carbondale this month. In fact, dozens of in
Brent Glays

Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t the only movie premiering in Carbondale this month. In fact, dozens of independent features and shorts are being shown throughout next week. For the thirty-seventh year in a row, Carbondale will host the Big Muddy Film Festival, where working artists will show their movies to the community.

Stacy Calvert, a research graduate assistant at SIU, is directing the festival.

“It’s one of the oldest student-run film festivals in the country,” Calvert says, “and it’s very well-known. One of the reasons it’s so well known is because of our work in documentary work and social issues— we have an award called the John Michaels Award, which has been going on for closer to a decade, I believe, and a lot of people know us because of that.”

A winner of the John Michaels award is a film called Finding the Gold Within, which will be shown at the African American Museum of Southern Illinois in the University Mall. Three subjects in the documentary are also going to be there to answer audience questions.

“The film festival lasts six days,” Calvert says. “It’ll be at the SIU Student Center, Morris library in the auditorium. Then we’re also going to have a late-night experimental screening over at the community radio station, it should be really fun, and a screening at Longbranch as well.”

Unlike many film festivals that charge hundreds of dollars, the Big Muddy Film Festival is intentionally affordable for everybody.

“We’re not here to make a profit, so our passes for non-SIU students is either $4 a day, or you can get a pass for $15 that’s good all week. And that’s everything. The fees go directly back into the community, so our submission fees go directly to the awards— we don’t take any of the money to run the festival, we just give it back to the artists.”

Calvert helped sort through more than three-hundred submissions to narrow down the eighty-five best of the best. The films come from around the world, including entries from Great Britain, Japan, and Israel.

“There aren’t any films from SIU students,” Calvert explains. “We have a Little Muddy [Film] Festival for students in April. This festival has submissions from thirty-seven countries, and some of the features have been very successful.”

One example would be Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall, by Edgar Barens, an SIU alum. Barens’s film has been shown on HBO, and was recently nominated for an Oscar.

“We have four different genres: animation, experimental, documentary, and narrative,” Calvert says. “So we take those four categories and we create programs out of them. So, for instance, we have one program called Travel Logs, which is a collection of narrative shorts from around the world, kind of like wander-less short-shorts, then we have the science-fiction section of shorts, with some weird, quirky ones. So yeah, we try to build stuff together, stuff that goes with one another, then we have one on Friday that’s potluck, so you won’t know what kind of shorts you’ll be getting into. It’s great. And yeah, we got amazing submissions this year, it was really hard.”

Calvert estimates of the eighty-five films, thirty percent are features and seventy percent are shorts.

But the festival allows filmgoers to do more than just watch movies. People interested in making them have an opportunity to talk to experienced artists at Big Muddy.

“There’s at least fifteen filmmakers coming out. It’s exciting,” says Calvert. “There will be panels, workshops, talks. The experience should be great. In the past, we’ve used an industry-standard website to advertise, but I’ve done social-media marketing stuff and used social networking to get the word out. It’s made a big difference. People are connected and it’s easy to get the word out these days. We use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.... We’re even using Snapchat this year for the first time.”

So, as we all know, going to the movies can get expensive under normal circumstances. But next week we have an opportunity to watch something new and exciting and different, and our $4 goes back to the artists. Where else can you watch a film on a big screen, then ask questions to the people who made it?

For the complete schedule and more information, visit <>.

who: Film Alternatives

what: Big Muddy Film Festival

where: Student Center Auditorium; Morris Library Auditorium; WDBX


when: February 24 through March 1