February 11, 2016

Big Muddy Film Festival set for Feb. 23-28

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s annual Big Muddy Film Festival will again feature independent films from around the world. 

The 38th annual festival runs for six days, from Feb. 23 through Feb. 28.  Started in 1979, the event 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 more than 70 juried films from several countries, including Canada, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Taiwan, and the United States. In all, the festival will screen 88 films. The festival once again received more than 300 submissions. 

“I think this year’s festival maintains the eclectic nature that we have been known to have in the past,” Hassan Pitts, the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts’ technology coordinator and one of the festival’s directors, said. 

Danyelle Greene, a master’s student in media theory and research, and Matt Crowell, a doctorate student in mass communication and media art, also are festival directors. Crowell said the films representing all four categories this year are strong. 

“I believe this will be a very engaging festival,” Crowell said, adding that the festival will once again feature themed film blocks, including science fiction and a family oriented animation session. 

The kid’s animation block will be from 10 to 11 a.m., Feb. 27, in the Student Center. The event encourages families to bring their children to watch age-appropriate films. A few of the festival entries were produced by grade school children, Crowell said, adding that equipment upgrades make it easier for children to get into filmmaking than in the past. 

Festival screenings will be both on- and off-campus and will once again include screenings throughout the day. Many of the films will be at the Student Center, Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium and University Museum. Other screening locations in Carbondale include the African-American Museum in University Mall; Longbranch Café & Bakery, 100 E. Jackson, St.; and the Varsity Center for the Arts, 418 S. Illinois Ave. 

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

“From my perspective, having any sort of film festival that brings films, imagery and stories to an area where it might not otherwise come is an extreme benefit,” Pitts said. “It’s the job of the festival to make that access possible so it remains relevant. To have that possibility and renew that commitment each year is a benefit.” 

Crowell, who grew up in Carbondale, believes the festival helps “bridge the gap” between Carbondale and the university. The festival is another opportunity to reach out to other areas in the region. Members of The Big Muddy Crew, a registered student organization on campus, are also very involved in the festival. 

All events are free for SIU Carbondale students with student identification. For SIU faculty, staff and the public, tickets are available online or at the door. A festival pass costs $20 and a day pass costs $5. 

Filmmakers Heather Elliott-Famularo, Rosalind Sibielski and Kris Swanberg are serving as judges on juried films and will offer workshops while on campus. The jurors’ individual screenings are free. Swanberg is an SIU Carbondale film production alumna; her feature film, “Unexpected,” premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. 

“Having an alum who has worked within Sundance and having her come back and talk to students and be able to interact so the students can see this is where they can be and progress from college is important,” Greene said.