Silver Screen: The Big Muddy Film Festival
One of the oldest film festivals associated with a university, the Big Muddy Film Festival, started in 1979. This first annual Big Muddy Film Festival featured thirty-five films, and in the thirty-three years since the festival has grown enormously. The festival receives between 150 and three-hundred entries every year, and entries come from all fifty states and many foreign countries. More than one-hundred screenings will take place during the 2012 festival, which runs Tuesday, February 21 through Sunday, February 26.
This year's film festival kicks off with a pre-festival screening of Spike Lee’s classic Do the Right Thing Tuesday, February 21 at 6 p.m. at the Morris Library Auditorium. The screening is free and open to the public, and a panel discussion about civility-- a theme both the film and the Saluki First Year program explore-- will follow.
Three judges-- Steve Reinke, Tomonari Nishikawa, and Chris Chomyn-- will critique this year’s films and confer awards in narrative, documentary, animation, and experimental categories.
Nishikawa, born in Nagoya, Japan, tells Nightlife he enjoys the process of watching, discussing, and judging the films.
“We spend a lot of time watching movies-- it is kind of fun,” Nishikawa said. “Then there is the process of giving the award, and with each judge it was a very interesting conversation and discussion about whom we should give the award. In general I am interested in the method and the medium. I want to see what kind of method he or she picks to experience the idea.”
Prior to being asked to be a judge for the festival, Chomyn had not even heard of the Big Muddy Film Festival.
“When I heard about, I did some research and I talked to some people, and a lot of people know about it,” Chomyn said. “I didn't, so I am excited to go.”
Part of the mission of the Big Muddy Film Festival is to bring traditionally underserved, culturally and community engaged filmmakers to the area. Many of the festival’s films have local and global relevance, which is good, because honesty is one thing Chomyn looks for in films.
“I like films that seem genuine, that seem honest, where I don't feel like I am being manipulated or I don't feel like someone is making a film beyond their area of expertise or experience,” Chomyn said. He appreciates “[s]omebody that is making a film that comes from a genuine place in them-- a film that resonates and rings true to the human experience....
“I like the films that honestly affect me and that are good films-- it can be narrative, it can experimental, it can be documentary,” Chomyn added. “I am looking to be somehow emotional engaged and emotionally affected by the work. I want to see honesty coming from filmmakers and I don't want to feel like somebody is trying to manipulate me.”
Part of the overall Big Muddy experience for Chomyn is the communal experience of watching the films with audiences. Rather than receiving private screenings, judges will actually attend public screenings as part of the judging process.
“It is much better to watch the films with an audience,” Chomyn said. “You don't want to sit at home and watch discs. You can do that, but you miss out on the whole point of making films-- it is a communal experience.”
Working with the other judges also has appeal, as the types of films and the different backgrounds of the judges will make for some interesting discussions.
“I think it is really intriguing, because I went to the [Big Muddy] website and I looked at the other judges, and it seems to me, from what I can gather, that we are very different in our professional work, and it is going to be interesting to see if we are affected the same way or how we feel about it,” Chomyn said. “I am curious to see how the other judges are approaching it as well. It seems like they are very different filmmakers than I am. I really don't know the kinds of films the festival accepts or what they are looking for, so I am interested to see what they bring in and I am open to it all.”
However, even with different backgrounds, picking the winners for the festival should be a fun process and what should appeal to all of the judges is a universality of experience.
“In all of our work, as different as we are, we are all striving for some sort of connectivity with the audiences,” Chomyn said. “I think we will really come together in the films that stand out. It is going to be interesting. I am really looking forward to it, it should be a fun week.”
Screenings take place throughout Carbondale and the SIU campus. The film awards will be announced Sunday, February 26 at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Theater in Murphysboro. For more information and the complete schedule, visit <http://www.BigMuddyFilm.com>.
who: Film Alternatives
what: Big Muddy Film Festival
where: various venues in SIU, Carbondale, and Murphysboro
when: February 22 through February 26