Big Muddy Film Festival 2017: Fantastic Film Experience in Southern Illinois
The Big Muddy Film Festival features a treasure trove of coming attractions when it celebrates its thirty-ninth year February 21 through February 26.
The Big Muddy Film Festival, housed within the SIU Cinema and Photography Department, is one of the oldest student-organized film festivals in the country, and one of the nation’s best-respected, wholly independent, community-focused film festivals.
The Big Muddy Film Festival honors the innovative works of both emerging and established filmmakers and media artists from around the world.
Caleb Bunn, president of Film Alternatives, the Registered Student Organization that plans the Big Muddy Film Festival, said this year’s festival includes seventy films that will be screened throughout the city.
“One thing we’re doing differently this year is expending where you can see the films,” Bunn said. “We are reaching further out into the community and hosting screenings with Longbranch Café, Carbondale Community Arts, and many more great local venues. The community has given so much to us that we want to continue to give back to them.”
Other screening locations will include the African American Museum of Southern Illinois, the Hangar 9, Morris Library Auditorium, the SIU Student Center, and the University Museum Auditorium.
The best works win cash awards in several competition categories, including experimental, narrative, animation, and documentary films. Nationally and internationally recognized artists or critics judge those films. Past jurors include Naomi Uman, Jim Jarmusch, Barbara Hammer, Kerry Laitala, James Benning, and Sasha Waters Freyer.
This year’s jurors include Ines Sommer, who has directed and produced experimental films and documentaries about the arts, women’s issues, direct democracy, and human rights. In 2016, she was featured in alt-weekly New City’s annual Film Fifty/Chicago’s Screen Gems edition.
Sommer’s most recent documentary, Count Me In, chronicles the experiment in direct democracy that gives Chicagoans say over local public projects and money. The film aired on PBS stations across the country and on the PBS World Channel this past fall.
Her company, Sommer Filmworks, produces documentaries and commissioned projects, and Sommer is the cofounder of the not-for-profit Percolator Films. She teaches documentary media at Northwestern University.
The second juror, Alrick Brown, is a professor of film and television with a commitment to social, political, and economic justice. Brown discovered filmmaking after he visited the slave castle of Elmina in Ghana during his two-year tour with the Peace Corps.
He has worked in television as a director, producer, and writer on ABC’s Final Witness, ESPN’s short documentary series Spike Lee’s Lil’ Joint, and the Investigative Discoveries Emmy Award-winning series A Crime to Remember. Death of Two Sons earned him the HBO Life Through Your Lens Emerging Filmmaker Award. His first feature film, Kinyarwanda, received a Sundance World Cinema Audience Award.
The third juror this year, Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat, is a Dominican animator, storyteller, and illustrator. Pichardo-Espaillat is able to creatively manipulate multiple mediums to portray his clients’ visions to target audiences.
Pichardo-Espaillat has provided cutting-edge animations the United Nations, TED-Ed, the School of Life, and Pictoplasma.
Local activists choose the winner of the John Michaels Memorial Film Award, which honors movies that take on themes of peace, justice, community action, human rights, and environmental conservation. Viewers will determine the Audience Choice Award.
Bunn said the Big Muddy Film Festival has been such a mainstay in Southern Illinois because it brings both the university and the city together.
“The Big Muddy offers a novel experience,” he said. “It lets students and community members explore a wider range of cinema than what they’re going to see from Hollywood. We let people tap into independent filmmaking in both the Midwest and the international scene, and I think that connection is really special.”
Bunn said he is especially looking forward to seeing how viewers perceive the festival’s films.
“I can’t wait to see people’s reactions to the films,” Bunn said. “A lot of the time during our prescreening [process], where we are deciding what to let into the festival, I imagine what a large audience will be like, and to see that come to life is always very satisfying. Also, as a filmmaker myself, I love talking to our jurors and the visiting filmmakers [and] learning from them.”
Bunn said much of the event’s success is based on Carbondale.
“The Big Muddy Film Festival would be pointless without the students and the community that comes out to support it, so I’d like to thank everyone who is planning to come out and join us for the festival,” he said.
Hassan Pitts, technology coordinator and executive director for Big Muddy Film Festival, seconded those sentiments.
“I think we have a talented crew this year who is excited to pull off the Big Muddy thirty-ninth,” Pitts said.
For more information about the Big Muddy Film Festival, including the complete film schedule, check out <http://www.BigMuddyFilm.com>.
who: Film Alternatives / SIU Cinema and Photography Department
what: Big Muddy Film Festival
where: multiple venues
when: February 21 through February 26