February 16, 2012

Festival features local, international films

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The annual Big Muddy Film Festival will once again provide audiences with a foreign perspective, with some local flavor mixed in.

The festival will feature the works of filmmakers from countries including Bangladesh, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.  But the 34th annual festival at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will also mark the return of an SIU Carbondale cinema and photography alumnus, and feature a documentary on the Southern Illinois community of Cairo.

This year’s festival runs Tuesday, Feb. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 26, at various venues on campus and in Carbondale, and includes two days of pre-festival events that start Sunday, Feb. 19.

Michele Torre, festival adviser and an assistant professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography, is pleased the festival has 63 juried films this year, nearly the same number of works as last year’s 10-day festival. The event will also include juror screenings and workshops, work of SIU Carbondale faculty, and a retrospective look at previous festival entries by four filmmakers who died in the past year.

“I think it is a benefit in that we have really tried to condense the time,” Torre said.  “We have longer screening times during the day and this will allow people to take the time and go to screenings. It allows for screenings where there is a larger audience and the times are better.”

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 funding through a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.

The complete lineup, along with information on jurors, juried films, special events, festival history and other topics is available at bigmuddyfilm.com/.  The festival also features a Facebook page at “Big Muddy Film Festival.”

“Despite hard times we have been able to maintain a quality festival.  We have excellent submissions every year and I believe we have picked the cream of the crop,” Torre said.  “We are still offering the same excellent festival we have offered for 33 years.  My students and community members who volunteer work really hard.  This is a great opportunity for students, faculty, staff and community members to take advantage of something that is really unique.”

Unless noted, tickets to each showcase are free for SIU Carbondale students with student identification, and $4 apiece for the general public.  Festival passes are $30, and are available the day the festival begins. Contact Torre at mtorre@siu.edu for more information.

Tickets for the annual “Best of the Fest” showcase, set for 7 p.m., Feb. 26, at the Liberty Theater, 1333 Walnut St., Murphysboro, are $4 for both SIU Carbondale students and the general public.  There will also be an “In Case You Missed It” screening of this year’s winning films at 6:30 p.m., March 9, at the Yellow Moon Café in Cobden.

The festival is a “terrific event” for the region and significant for the Department of Cinema and Photography, the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts and the University, Dean Gary P. Kolb said.

“We are excited to have the Big Muddy Film Festival on campus for the 34th consecutive year,” Kolb said.  “It is the committed work of our students and faculty advisers that has made the festival an enduring feature of our college’s cultural offerings.  Assistant Professor Michele Torre has done a wonderful job coordinating the festival and our students supply the energy and imagination that make the festival a success.”

The festival includes “Between Two Rivers,” a feature-length 2012 documentary that looks at Cairo’s history up to the present day, including the spring 2011 record-setting floods along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers that prompted some evacuations.  Several SIU Carbondale faculty and staff assisted British filmmakers Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan with the 95-minute documentary, which was researched and filmed over four years.  A free sneak preview of the film is at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19, at the Longbranch Coffeehouse, 100 E. Jackson St., Carbondale.

Three award-winning filmmakers are serving as jurors:  Chris Chomyn, Tomonari Nishikawa, and Steve Reinke will judge juried films and offer workshops while on campus.  The jurors’ individual screenings are free.

“We are very excited to once again host the Big Muddy Film Festival,” said Walter C. Metz, professor and cinema and photography department chair.  “The nationally recognized jurors who come to judge the festival are a terrific professional resource for our students. The Big Muddy also allows both our undergraduate and graduate students to experience first-hand a film festival, allowing them a better chance to successfully submit their work to other film festivals around the world.”

Working with Morris Library and Saluki First Year, the festival opens with a screening of Spike Lee’s 1989 film, “Do The Right Thing,” in the library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium.  A discussion on civility as it relates to the film, contemporary life, and life in Carbondale will follow.  The discussion will feature Beverly Love, an assistant professor in radio-television; Roudy Hildreth, assistant professor in political science; Patsy Manfredi, director of the University’s Core Curriculum; and Father Joseph A. Brown, director of the University’s Africana Studies program.

The festival will include a narrative feature, “Postales,” at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 22, also in Guyon Auditorium.  The first feature film by Josh Hyde, a 2003 SIU Carbondale graduate and 1997 graduate of Carbondale Community High School, “Postales,” made its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June 2010, and has been shown at numerous other festivals.  Hyde will also discuss filmmaking with students while on campus.  An opening night festival reception follows the film at 7 p.m. in the library’s Hall of Presidents and Chancellors.

At 3 p.m., Feb. 25, the festival features “Utopian Abortions,” a special event presented by Studio 27 -- Wago Kreider, an assistant professor in radio-television and Jessica Allee, an architect and experimental film enthusiast.  The event features 14 experimental films and videos that “offer visions of aborted utopias and fragmented futures.”

At 11 a.m., Feb. 26, local artist i/o will perform a live media image and sound experiment, “Expanded Cinema: Traces from Outside the Cave,” at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall, 980 Faner Drive, Carbondale.