July 25, 2006

Shafto to coordinate Big Muddy Film Festival

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale has hired a coordinator for its famous Big Muddy Film Festival, in a move officials hope will make the annual event even more successful.

Sally Shafto is a film historian specializing in international cinema with a strong background in French culture and film theory, said Manjunath Pendakur, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts at SIUC. As the Big Muddy Film Festival approaches its 29th year, Pendakur said it was time to dedicate a full-time position to its operation.

"I'm very excited about this development," Pendakur said. "She brings very high qualifications to this position."

During its nearly three decades in existence, the Big Muddy Film Festival grew from a small local event to a multi-day, multi-screen regional happening, with juries, cash prizes and hundreds of entries. More than 300 filmmakers submitted their work last year, with about 60 making the cut.

Faculty members in the cinema and photography department shared the duties associated with putting on the festival, with Assistant Professor Mike Covell – a festival co-founder – heading up those efforts. Pendakur said Shafto will build on that success by broadening the festival's international flavor and increasing its regional impact.

"It will still showcase all kinds of films, from documentaries to shorts and animation, and it will still be in the spring and remain a juried festival," Pendakur said. "We now have a professional who has mounted festivals in other cities who can take the Big Muddy to the next level. She will work with people both inside and outside the college, as well as with the Southern Illinois community in and around Carbondale to get more people involved in viewing important film work from around the world."

Shafto said she looks forward to sharpening the festival's focus and image.

"Today many film festivals try to cater to all tastes, and thus often lack a distinct profile. Besides its great name, the Big Muddy's strength is its ongoing commitment to film genres that often

get overlooked in the U.S.: documentary and experimental while also including narrative cinema," she said. "I feel personally in synch with the festival's mission and I look forward to developing it on a more international scale."

Shafto will work in the cinema and photography department. Her duties include teaching a film studies course, working with students and faculty, writing grant proposals, alumni relations and fund-raising, Pendakur said.

Most recently, Shafto served as the English Web site translator for the French film journal Cahiers du cinema. She also served as assistant director for the Avignon Film Festival in France, where she has lived since moving there in 1998 to finish her doctorate.

Shafto has a master's degree in art history from Columbia University and earned her doctorate in film studies at the University of Iowa. She was curator of Zanzibar Films at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Harvard Film Archives in London and co-organizer of a conference titled "Religion and Cinema" at Princeton University. She taught various classes in film at the Institut International de l'Image et du Son in Trappes, France and at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, among other experiences.

"In many ways I feel that this is an ideal position for me because it will allow me to do programming that will benefit the Carbondale community-at-large and will enable me to stay abreast of the latest developments in film and video." Shafto said. "In addition, I enjoy being in the classroom and I will also have the opportunity to teach in my particular areas of specialization."

Shafto begins her duties at SIUC on Aug. 15.

Coordinating and expanding major cultural outreach programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.