February 08, 2019

Some of the best national, international independent films ready to hit region

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Big Muddy Film Festival is once again set to bring some of the best of independent international and national films to the region later this month.

The Southern Illinois University Carbondale festival, which enters its 41st year as one of the older film festivals affiliated with a university in the nation, will feature 98 films in four categories: animation, documentary, experimental and narrative. 

Continuing a strong tradition

Deborah Tudor, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, emphasizes the film festival is a gem for students and the community.

“This year, we are continuing the tradition of bringing global films and exciting filmmakers to SIU and Carbondale,” she said. “The festival allows us to introduce our students to filmmakers working across the media industry.” 

Festival runs Feb. 18-24 on campus and Carbondale locations

The Varsity Center for the Arts serves as the festival’s central location this year, featuring screenings nearly every evening, including the gala opening on Feb. 18 and closing event on Feb. 24.

Once again, admission to all festival events is free thanks to the generosity of several local businesses, said Sarah Lewison, an associate professor in the Radio, Television, and Digital Media degree program who is faculty adviser and executive director.

 “We didn't want to exclude students from the chance to see independent films from around the country and the world because of cost,” Lewison said. “Times have been hard, and the Big Muddy Crew has been working hard getting generous underwriting from local businesses.” 

The complete festival schedule is available on the website.

The venues include:

  • Varsity Center for the Arts, 418 S. Illinois Ave., Carbondale.
  • SIU Carbondale Morris Library John C. Guyon Auditorium.
  • Carbondale Community Arts, 304 W. Walnut St., Carbondale.
  • Cristaudo’s, 209 S. Illinois Ave., Carbondale.
  • Flyover Infoshop, 214 N. Washington St., Carbondale.
  • Global Gourmet, 102 E. Jackson St., Carbondale.
  • Hangar 9, 511 S. Illinois Ave., Carbondale.
  • WDBX Radio, 224 N. Washington, St., Carbondale.  

Festival to feature several documentary films of note

Lewison notes there are three documentaries of  particular interest:

  • Feb. 18 – 7 p.m., Varsity Center for the Arts: “Scherzo.” Lewison said the vérité-style film follows the working process of a group of New York musicians. Along with the music, the film captures the “an insight into the artistic process.”
  • Feb. 19 – 7 p.m., Varsity Center for the Arts: “Afterward: A look at fascism and its many faces.” Lewison notes the protagonist, a New York psychologist born in Israel, returns to Germany where she is confronted by Neo-Nazism presence and then to Israel where she is challenged by Palestinians “to redefine her world view.”
  • Feb. 21 – 8 p.m., Hangar 9: “Tasteless,” a film about the “the kind of humor that crosses the line” and how it would stand in today’s social climate. The film is based on a series of 1980 paperbacks called “Truly Tasteless Jokes.” 

Journalism alumna will present her film

Jackie Spinner, an award-winning staff writer and war correspondent for The Washington Post from 1995 to 2009, author, and now an associate professor at Columbia College in Chicago, will present her film, “Don’t Forget Me” also at 7 p.m., Feb. 19 at The Varsity Center.

The 28-minute documentary examines the challenges Moroccan parents and their children with autism face in that country. The documentary is inspired by Spinner’s two Moroccan-born adopted children with autism. Spinner graduated from SIU Carbondale in 1992. 

Festival jurors will each present individual workshops/talks

A continuing tradition, the three festival judges will each give juror talks during the week.

“It’s important to remember that students choose these judges, so these are the type of media artists they want to see,” Tudor said. “I encourage everyone to come to the Fest. It’s always a great evening out, and you get to see some fascinating media work that isn’t really available elsewhere in the region.” 

Opening reception, birthday celebration among special events

The opening reception is from 7 to 9 p.m., Feb. 18, at The Varsity Center for the Arts. A special attraction of Saturday morning cartoons will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Feb. 24 at Artspace 304.

The closing reception and ‘Best of the Fest Showcase’ will be at 6 p.m., Feb. 25, at The Varsity Center.

The closing program features films authored by local young people who participated in a scriptwriting workshop at Carbondale Community Arts. The Big Muddy Crew has produced these youth written stories to present at the final program of the festival, as a way of cultivating excitement for a new generation of independent filmmakers.