Announcing The Winners of The 39th Annual Big Muddy Film Festival


In its 39th year, The Big Muddy Film Festival has accomplished many, many feats. Centralized on showcasing unique and independent work from a variety of filmmakers all over the world, this local film festival has managed to be an example of how important diversity is in every region. Despite the lack of thematic criteria, several of this year’s submissions dealt with different perspectives on the concept of peace, executive director, Hassan Pitts said. “They tackle the topic in their own individual ways.

Another focus of the festival this year was expansion. The President of the Big Muddy Crew, the organization formerly known as Film Alternatives, stated that, “one thing we’re doing differently this year is expanding where you can see the films,” Bunn said. “We are reaching further out into the community and hosting screenings with Longbranch Café, Carbondale Community Arts, and many more great local venues. The community has given so much to us that we want to continue to give back to them.”

This year’s jurors panel consisted of insightful filmmakers: Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat, Alrick Brown, and Ines Sommer. From over a pool of 170 submissions, we then narrowed it down to 80 to showcase during the six-day festival run and now here are the best of the best. 

This year’s Best of the Fest Showcase will take place at Longbranch Cafe & Bakery during the festival on Sunday, February 26 from 3-6 pm. The event is free and all are welcome to join us as we celebrate this year’s winning films.

The 39th 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 (Under 10 mins): Sweet Sweet Gravy (Directed by Cody Huff) | Three conversations with artists…

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 (Under 40 mins): Aluminum (Directed by Frank Ladner) | A man with uncanny telekinetic abilities is approached by a young woman with a bizarre request.

Best Narrative Short (Under 10 mins): End of Earth (Directed by Caleb Johnson) | A small kid goes looking for his astronaut father.

Best Animation: Shmevolution (Directed by Nolan Downs) | The evolutionary life of an organism unfolds in a bizarre landscape.

Honorable Mention: The Itching (Directed by Diane Bellino) | In this handmade collaboration, a shy wolf tries to connect with a group of hip, party-loving bunnies, but finds her body in revolt.

Best Documentary Feature: Disturbing the Peace (Directed by Stephen Apkon, Andrew Young) | A group of former soldiers, who fought for opposite sides in the Middle East, embark on a transformational journey from combatants to non-violent peace activists.

Best Documentary Short (Under 40 mins): Smoke That Travels (Directed by Kayla Briët) | What happens when a story is forgotten? This is a personal documentary that explores preservation and loss of Native American culture and her own identity as Prairie Band Potawatomi.\

Best Documentary Short (Under 10 mins): Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration (Directed by Vivienne Schiffe) | An exploration of the effect of the Japanese-American incarceration experience in Arkansas during World War II on the generation that was born after the camps closed.

John Michaels Award: The Peace Agency (Directed by Sue Useem) | Lian Gogali and her 500 female students are a force to be reckoned with the conflict torn area of Poso, Indonesia. They are part of a powerful and successful movement for peace and justice in an area that has been racked by inter-religious violence for over a decade.

But five years ago, Lian was just a single mother living in rural Poso with a broken leg and a big dream to educate marginalized women. The Peace Agency follows her remarkable journey from her village to New York City to create The Women’s School, an institution that transforms its all-female class into agents of peace and non-violence grassroots activism that has altered the course of the conflict in Poso, and possibly the future of Indonesia.