The weather outside is frightful, but the Big Muddy Film Festival is so delightful. Come in out of the cold and enjoy some of the best our festival has to offer while you’re putting off cleaning the snow off of the car!
At 4pm, in the Student Center Auditorium, we’re showing Doug Swift’s Up River. Newark, Ohio—a typical post-industrial town in the rust belt—has a poverty rate at 30 percent in downtown and neighboring districts. A great many of these folks are the “working poor,” who sometimes carry two or three jobs. Community activists, frustrated after years of giving charity to help citizens out of their worst crises, create a “Think Tank on Poverty.” Those who suffer the most will become the “experts.” They find a safe place to tell their stories, and then learn how to become activists on their own behalf. They get featured in the local newspaper, and their children develop a sense of hope and pride. They go to the state capital to march, meet with their representatives, give voice to the voiceless, and receive more training on how to be effective activists. By the end of their first year, they have educated their city council, and Newark becomes the twelfth state in Ohio to pass Fair Hiring Legislation. Up River is the inspiring story of what one group was able to do in the name of justice for all.
After the screening, come to the International Lounge right outside the auditorium for the Big Muddy Film Festival’s opening reception at 6pm. Discuss the film, find out what else is playing, meet the jurors and get ready to enjoy the rest of the festival.
Then, back to the theater at 8pm for this year’s first juror presentation! Join director and SIU alum Kris Swanberg for her latest film, Unexpected. Unexpected is the story of an inner-city high school teacher who discovers she is pregnant at the same time as one of her most promising students and the two develop an unlikely friendship while struggling to navigate their unexpected pregnancies.
The film will be followed by a Q & A with Kris. Kris Swanberg is began her film career at Southern Illinois University where she studied documentary film production. Using naturalistic techniques and often working with non-actors, Swanberg went on to focus her career in narrative film. Her first feature, It was great, but I was ready to come home played in competition at the SXSW Film Festival in 2009, followed by her next feature, Empire Builder (2012) and short film Baby Mary (2014). Unexpected, starring Cobie Smulders and Anders Holm, premiered in competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and is Swanberg’s third feature.
Then, cap off the night with a double feature at 8pm. ‘Pan Zhog’ means out door banquet in Hakka, it is the period mark for every death, wedding or celebration in town. Pan Zhog, by Hsin-Wei Chin is a sentimental short film about saying goodbye. Mori-so and Gim were neighbors, friends and partners of banquet catering for decades. One day Mori-so got a midnight phone call sending the message of her best friend’s death. The end of life suddenly approached so near. Daily life seemed revolving as usual afterwards yet Mori-so was well aware of the missing one. Mori-so decides to cater a supper for Gim and her families to say goodbye in the way Mori-so and Gim were both familiar with.
Continuing the theme of friendship and loss, Brigitta Wagner’s Rosehill looks at an actress from New York who, after receiving some bad news, escapes to the American Midwest to visit her old friend, a frustrated sex researcher. The women embark on a local road trip through a place that has seen better days.
And, of course, as every day during the festival, you can go check out a curated selection of experimental and animated film at the University Museum.