Announcing The Winners for The 38th Annual Big Muddy Film Festival


This year, The Big Muddy Crew (formerly known as Film Alternatives) put on the 38th Annual Big Muddy Film Festival. This annual Southern Illinois delight is marketed as an alternative, independent film festival solely run by students and it has definitely been one for the books.  

With over 300 submissions this year, 70 of which were included in the festival, this year’s jurors had a lot on their hands. This year’s festival jury panel featured three, powerful and talented female filmmakers, including Heather Elliott-Famularo, Rosalind Sibielski, and SIU alumna Kris Swanberg. Swanburg’s film, Unexpected, was also featured in the festival’s lineup, which ran from Feb 23 and runs all the way until tonight, where the organization will showcase the winners of this year’s festival. 

The 38th Annual Big Muddy Film Festival Winners

Best Experimental (Under 40 mins):  Emerald Ice (Directed by Jesseca Ynez Simmons) | A docu-fantasy short about the contemporary American poet, Diane Wakoski. Using only excerpts from her poetry, the docu-fantasy Emerald Ice takes the viewer on a journey of the imagination to explore Diane Wakoski’s fearless meditation on intimacy and mortality. Starting from Diane’s kitchen table, director Jesseca Simmons’ cinematic curation drops the audience in the middle of a California orange grove that leads to momentary glimpses of the expansive worlds existing inside this beloved poet, in hopes to give more power to our own multitudes.

Best Experimental Short: Swallowed Whole (Directed by Heidi Kumao) | A somber, animated, experimental film about surviving extreme isolation and physical limitations as a result of traumatic injury. The film weaves together photos, animations, videos and sound recordings and takes the viewer on an abbreviated jarring journey through physical and psychological landscapes of hospitalization and recovery. Some of the imagery and sounds were collected during The Arctic Circle 2013 Summer Solstice Expedition, an international research expedition for artists, writers, and scientists.

Best Narrative Feature: The Other Kids (Directed by Chris Brown) | A raw, intimate look into the struggles of six small-town teens on the verge of high school graduation. 

Best Narrative Short): Technical Difficulties of Intimacy (Directed by Joel Moffett) | A man and a woman try to salvage their romantic relationship by exploring new sexual horizons.

Best Animation: Hansel + Gretel (Directed by Soyeon Kim) | An abstract visualization of Brothers Grimm’s ‘Hansel & Gretel’

Best Documentary Feature: Dark Horse Candidate (Directed by Liss Platt) | The complexity of father-daughter relationships is explored in this quirky documentary about a queer filmmaker and her constitutionalist father. Using her father’s unofficial candidacy for President of the United States as a pretext for making a documentary about him, the filmmaker takes this opportunity to try to fill in the gaps of his life story as a way of making sense of, and coming to terms with, their tumultuous relationship. Humorous and heartfelt, the film unravels in unexpected ways, revealing legacies born of social class, mental illness, and parenting choices.

Best Documentary Short: Disambiguation (Directed by Phoebe Tooke) | An experimental documentary film based on actual events surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (BP oil spill) in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Juror’s Pick Award: still (Directed by Alvalia Pemberto) | An exploration of the politics amongst African American women and their choice to accept or reject the Eurocentric standard of beauty that surrounds them, in regards to hair and complexion.

John Michaels Award: The First Secret City (Directed by Allison Carrick, C.D Stelzer) | Past meets present as a group of seemingly unrelated people discover alarming connections in their backyards and reveal an unfolding environmental disaster in the St. Louis region and the West Lake Landfill.

John Michaels Award: Then Then Then (Directed by Daniel Schioler) | A hypnotic and unsettling blend of archival footage and music, offering a stark glimpse into the moral struggles of a generation coming to terms with its own inability to affect social change. Lesser-known acts of protest spotlight dissenters’ turn to more radicalized acts of protest against those in power and the machinery designed to stifle their opposition.