January 17, 2012

Judges named for Big Muddy Film Festival

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three filmmakers who are widely known for their experimental work and independent films will be part of the 34th annual Big Muddy Film Festival at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next month.

The festival brings the best of independent filmmaking to the region and will run from Feb. 22-26, at various venues on campus and in Carbondale.  A special festival opening event will be the evening of Feb. 21.

Started in 1979, the film festival remains one of the oldest film festivals affiliated with a university in the nation.  The festival features juried films in four categories: animation, documentary, experimental, and narrative. The festival receives some of its funds from the Illinois Arts Council.

Chris Chomyn, Tomonari Nishikawa and Steve Reinke will judge films that compete for recognition and possible prizes.  The filmmakers “push the edge” when it comes to their work, said Michele Torre, festival adviser and an assistant professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography. There are plans for each of the judges to hold workshops or critiques along with screening and discussing their films.

Reinke, an associate professor in Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory & Practice, is an artist and writer best known for his work in video, according to his biography.  His work has screened at many film festivals, including in Sundance, Rotterdam, Oberhausen and the New York Video Festival.  He earned the Bell Canada Video Award in 2006.  Coach House Books published Reinke’s book, “The Shimmering Beast,” in 2011, and “Everybody Loves Nothing” in 2004.

Festival organizers are excited Reinke agreed to be a jurist, Torre said.

“There are so many excellent filmmakers who live in Illinois that it makes it hard to choose every year,” she said.  “We are really lucky he could come.”

Nishikawa is a visiting faculty member in the cinema department at State University of New York at Binghamton, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in cinema and philosophy.  His work has appeared at film festivals including the New York Film Festival, Media City Experimental Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival.  Nishikawa also makes film installations and curates screening programs.  He earned an Asian Public Intellectual Fellowship from the Nippon Foundation in 2008-2009, and spent one year in Malaysia and Thailand to research experimental and personal cinema in the region.

Nishikawa “is an exciting, up-and-coming filmmaker,” Torre said.  “He’s relatively young but he has done some really great work.”

Chomyn is an award-winning cinematographer and is a senior lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where he teaches cinematography and visual communication.  Chomyn’s earned the best cinematography award for his work on “Wild About Harry” at the 2010 CineGear Expo; the film also earned the best feature film award.  In addition to feature films, Chomyn’s work includes commercials, music videos, documentaries, television series, and short films.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Fairfield University, and his Master of Fine Arts from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Theater, Film & Television.

While budgetary constraints prompted the decision to reduce the festival from 10 to five days, Torre emphasizes the same level of commitment and energy remains.  Work continues to select this year’s juried films, along with finalizing times and locations for the screenings, workshops and other events.  The John C. Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library will host many screenings, Torre said.  Three graduate students in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts -- Sylvia Dadian, Alexa Nutile, and Darren S. O’Bryan -- are working on programming, screening and workshop locations.

There were more than 230 film submissions, with projects coming from countries including the United States, Bangladesh, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong, China.  In addition to awards to the top films in each category, there will be awards for audience choice, and the John Michaels Film Award winner.  The “Best of the Fest” will again be at the Liberty Theater in Murphysboro.

As in the past, the festival will also include non-competition events and screenings, including work from cinema and photography alumnus Josh Hyde.  Hyde, a 2003 SIU Carbondale graduate and 1997 graduate of Carbondale Community High School, will discuss filmmaking with students while on campus, Torre said.  Hyde’s first feature film, “Postales,” made its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June 2010, and has since been shown at numerous other festivals, including the Cinemanila International Film Festival in the Philippines, Starz Denver Film Festival, Edmonton International Film Festival, New York International Film Festival, Shanghai International Film Festival, and the London Latin America Film Festival.

“We are excited to have him,” Torre said.  “It’s a great opportunity for students to see the work that former students have done after they leave here.  You don’t have to be in Hollywood to be a successful filmmaker.”

The festival’s website, http://bigmuddyfilm.com/ is in the process of being updated.  There is also a Big Muddy Film Festival page on Facebook.