February 07, 2014

Big Muddy Film Festival opens Feb. 18

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The best independent films will be coming to the region with the annual Big Muddy Film Festival later this month.

The 36th annual event at Southern Illinois University Carbondale runs for six days, from Feb. 18 to Feb. 23.  Started in 1979, it remains one of the oldest film festivals affiliated with a university in the nation and features both competition and non-competition screenings daily.  There are juried films in four categories: animation, documentary, experimental and narrative.

This year’s festival features 41 juried films from 12 countries -- Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. The festival drew 212 entries.

The complete lineup, along with information on jurors, juried films, special events, festival history, and other topics is available at bigmuddyfilm.com/

Elisa Herrmann, a visiting assistant professor in film production, is overseeing the festival for the first year.  In addition to the work involved in piecing the festival together with the help of graduate assistants, the process is fun and exciting, she said.

She is pleased with the festival lineup. Because events are at a single venue at a time, there are fewer films but “we believe that we have a very strong selection,” she said.

“I believe that all of the movies are really good and worth watching,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann believes a key component for the festival is bringing to the region films that would not be here otherwise, and the opportunity to meet independent and grass-roots filmmakers.

The festival begins with an opening reception at 5 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Student Center International Lounge.

One of three special screenings during this year’s festival follows the reception. “Drinking Buddies,” by Joe Swanberg, a 2003 graduate from SIU’s Cinema and Photography program, earned Best Feature Film honors at the 2013 Vail Film Festival. The screening begins at 6 p.m. in the Student Center Auditorium.

On Feb. 20, there will be a special screening of National Lampoon’s 1978 classic, “Animal House.”  The screening is at 7 p.m. at Pagliai’s Pizza & Pasta, 509 S. Illinois Ave., Carbondale

On Feb. 22, “Beneath the Blindfold,” a 2012 documentary on survivors of torture by Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger, will be shown 5 p.m. in the John C. Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library. Sommer, a 2009 film festival juror, will also be present for a question-and-answer session.

With the exception of “Animal House” screening, the films will be shown at venues on campus.  All events are free for SIU Carbondale students with student identification. A day pass costs $4 and a festival pass is $15.

“Autumn Sun: A Film About Occupy Oakland” by filmmaker David Martinez is the John Michaels Award recipient.  The documentary film and two other John Michaels selections are part of a screening at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 23 in the Student Center Auditorium. 

The “Best of the Fest” showcase will be at 4:30 p.m., Feb. 23, in the Student Center Auditorium. Tickets are $4 apiece for the general public.

Filmmakers Eliza Hittman, Julie Perini and Michael Robinson are serving as judges on juried films and offer workshops while on campus.  The jurors’ individual screenings are free.