December 14, 2017

Big Muddy Film Festival gears up for 40th anniversary celebration

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The countdown is on for commemorating one of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s iconic traditions – the Big Muddy Film Festival. The annual film festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary Feb. 19-25. 

Big Muddy built its reputation on strong documentaries that highlight social issues and this year’s collection of films is no different. 

Films include “Left on Pearl” a documentary about the 1971 takeover and occupation of a Harvard University-owned building by hundreds of Boston-area women demanding a Women’s Center and low-income housing for the community; “Flint, Michigan The United States of America 2017,” a short documentary about the daily struggles a grandmother faces while living through the city’s water crisis; and “Erase and Forget,” a documentary on Vietnam veteran and one-time presidential candidate James “Bo” Gritz. 

This year’s event will comprise of 72 films, chosen from 289 films submitted for consideration. Festival judges, along with a lineup, schedule and screening locations will be announced shortly. 

Celebrating 40 years of independent cinema

The event is one of the oldest film festivals affiliated with a university in the nation and will once again feature competition and non-competition films in four categories: animation, documentary, experimental and narrative.

The 40th anniversary “is no small achievement,” Hassan Pitts, the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts’ technology coordinator and festival director, said. He added that it is a time to look back and reflect on the festivals’ successes “while simultaneously using the inspiration looking forward to the future of independent expanding cinema.”

The crux of each year's festival invokes “a solid fusion of education, community, culture and society,” Pitts said. The festival “recognizes the unique combination of the efforts of students, community members, jurors and filmmakers alike that have contributed to this rich history.”

Big Muddy highlights thought-provoking and unique films

Started in 1979 by Michael D. Covell, a then-assistant professor in Department of Cinema and Photography who is now retired, the festival has been a way for residents to see thought-provoking and unique content that might not be available in traditional theater settings. 

“Attracting films from all over the world and across the gamut of production budget levels, the Big Muddy Film Festival has programmed public screenings that probed the conceptual boundaries of film, art, entertainment and cinema,” Pitts said. 

This year’s celebration will include a look back at prior festivals and the filmmakers who screened their films, in addition to the people whose contributions through the years made the festival a recognizable vehicle to show case independent films.