November 20, 2009

Organizers preparing for Big Muddy Film Festival

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Some of the best national and international independent films are arriving at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as organizers prepare for the 32nd annual Big Muddy Film Festival in February.

This year’s 10-day version, which runs Feb. 19-28, will feature additional screening locations in the region. There will also be special non-award screenings that focus on queer cinema, and a collection of films featured in an African film documentary festival in St. Louis.

The student-run film festival remains one of the oldest film festivals affiliated with a university.

The festival includes juried films in four categories -- animation, documentary, experimental and narrative. The festival has received approximately 100 submissions for screening so far, said festival adviser Michele Torre, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography. Torre said she expects a flurry of submissions to arrive with the two upcoming deadlines.

The regular deadline for films is Dec. 5, with a Jan. 5 extended deadline.

Torre hopes to see an increase in entries. A pre-screening committee will meet three times in the next two months to view the entries and select films to showcase in the festival. The pre-screening committee includes faculty, staff, students and community members.

Torre expects approximately the same number of festival-selected entries, usually between 70 and 80 films.

Because the film festival is committed to community outreach, festival organizers are looking at additional locations for festival screenings to make it convenient for people to attend, she said.

Torre assisted screening the films last year. She is excited about the opportunity to coordinate this year’s festival.

“What the Big Muddy Film Festival does for Southern Illinois is fabulous,” she said. “It’s an international festival and they bring in world-renowned filmmakers to be jurors.”

Kevin Willmott, an associate professor in the film studies department at the University of Kansas, will be one of the festival’s three jurors. A screenwriter, filmmaker, playwright and actor, Willmott’s work includes “CSA: Confederate States of America,” and “Bunker Hill.”

Torre said she also has some excellent students assisting her in festival preparations, including Danielle N. Williamson, a junior in cinema from Roscoe.

The Department of Cinema & Photography is within the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

For more information, contact festival organizers at 618/453-8301 or by email at