The Big Muddy Film Festival has always been about showcasing independent storytelling. Its purpose is to provide thought-provoking and unique content for the region of Southern Illinois that most of its residents would not be able to see elsewhere, if not for the festival. As we move into Big Muddy’s 40th year, today’s announcement marks a new era for the festival. However, we cannot truly move forward without taking a look back at just how far we’ve come. This year’s festival is one of nostalgia. It is one that involves the celebration of not just the festival and the past filmmakers who have screened their films with us, but of the people that have helped create, transform and maintain Big Muddy’s image over the years and as well as the community of people that have supported it throughout its many transitions. Of the 289 films that were submitted to the festival, 72 films were selected to screen at the 40th Annual Big Muddy Film Festival. The festival will take place from February 19 – 25, 2018 and a lineup/schedule will be announced shortly.
So, without further adieu, here are the films:
Ryan Griffis | A Great Green Desert (of surpluses and embargoes) – This documentary short juxtaposes two stories. At the site where much of these soybeans will leave the US through ports in the Gulf of Mexico, a hulking machine moves four million pounds of soybeans per hour, from river barges to sea-going Panamax ships. An agricultural economist in Illinois recounts the impact of an unexpected embargo by the US on exports of soybeans to Japan in 1973.
DaCosta Bayley | Sunny and Gerd in Spring Cleaning – A whistle blows, signalling break time. Gerd sits in his favourite spot to enjoy his break and catch up on some reading. Unbeknownst to Gerd, his best friend Sunny is about to deny him any respite from the day’s grind. Things go from zero to “wha’-tha’?!” when Sunny finds himself in a tight spot and Gerd has to rescue his little buddy. Some quick thinking and a little hacking just might save the day.
Ben Lenzner | The Valley Rebels – Cédric Herrou is a farmer who supports and houses African refugees in the alpine village of Breil-Sur-Roya in southern France. Some regard him as a heroic good samaritan, but others – including the French border police and state prosecutor – denounce him as the leader of a band of smugglers, bringing migrants from Italy into France while flouting official border controls. As Cedric moves from one prosecution to another, why do he and his fellow activists feel compelled to defy the authorities?
Ruth Goldman | Bending the Line – Bending the Line is an experimental documentary that aids to combine a simple and playful visual aesthetic with a complex sound design in order to challenge and queer assumptions about gender: bending the frame and pushing the sound wave.
Cameo Wood | Real Artists – Against all odds, Sophia Baker just scored her dream interview at the world-famous Semaphore Animation Studios — who’d have thought a fan edit of one of their hit films could land her a shot at a job? But when she meets arch, mysterious executive Anne Palladon, she soon learns all is not as she expects behind the curtain. Every instinct Sophia has ever had about art in filmmaking is about to be challenged.
Andrew Morgan & Nick Nummerdor | Hill Climb – Hill Climb offers a candid look into the nearly 100 year tradition of the Mt. Garfield All Pro Motorcycle Hillclimb.
Jackie Stone | Burning Angel Dust – A Nigérienne immigrant struggles to adapt to American life while preserving cultural customs for her westernized children. Mimi’s 10-year-old daughter Violet is excited about her coming of age celebration, but it turns out to be far more life-altering than she could ever imagine. There’s a price to keep traditions alive.
Alexander Johnston – Evidence of the Evidence – A work of “archival vérité“ and a meta-reflection on the role of the camera as both a weapon and a maker of history, Evidence of the Evidence chronicles the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising.
Bernd Lützeler | Camera Threat – Seated on a casting couch, two actors are getting stuck in impromptu conversations on the side effects of a world that no longer bothers to tell facts from fiction.
Maia Altenried – 1000 Smiles Per Hour – Drifting across the outer edges of a concrete landscape, a twilight meeting engenders a precious moment of connection for the melancholy performer, amid the coldly apathetic city limits.
Andrea Luka Zimmerman – Erase and Forget – Erase and Forget asks that we do exactly the opposite of what the film’s title proposes; and it makes its case, crucially, through those representations of violence – individually and collectively – in popular culture, as well as never before seen archive footage showing US government involvement in both the drugs trade and early Taliban training.
Devin Vaughn | Uptown – A young woman on the North Side of Chicago reacts to an act of street violence.
Holly Hey | Flint Michigan The United States of America 2017 – A short documentary about Vanessa, a grandmother in Flint, Michigan who shares her stories about the daily struggles she faces while living through the city’s water crisis.
Maple Razsa & Milton Guillén | The Maribor Uprisings: A Live Participatory Film – This live participatory documentary invites audiences to grapple with the intimate as well as the public meanings of protest through reflection on the choices of actual participants in the uprising—as well as the choices they themselves make during the screening. How are citizens’ senses of themselves changed by experiences of state force: tear gas, stun grenades, armored vehicles, water cannons, and helicopters? Is this what one protester described as “feeling the state on your own skin?” In these violent encounters, why do so many protesters feel “love at the barricades?” What are the perils—and the possibilities—of these increasingly common eruptions in urban life?
Mark Freeman | dancedance/Re♦Volution – Rooted in both tradition and the idioms of modern movement, this half-hour documentary introduces new audiences to work ranging from site-specific solos to multi-media physical theater, while depicting the struggle for freedom is ongoing in post-apartheid South Africa.
Temple Caché | Be Able – A bitter sweet paper-cut delirium about medias and consumer-driven society.
Thomas Nicol | The Puppy Trails – The Puppy Trials is the story of an old abandoned German Shepherd teaching a group of puppies how to behave, so they can get adopted.
Fredrick Johnson | After Hours Trading – A shiftless malcontent teams up with a shady Eastern European con artist to make some quick cash, but ends up becoming an unlikely, and reluctant, Robin Hood when he discovers his new partner-in-crime has traveled halfway around the world to free a victim of human trafficking.
Diana Galimzyanova | The Lightest Darkness – When a neurotic private eye who struggles to finish the case takes a train voyage, his own dark secrets begin to reveal themselves.
Russell Konzelmann | FireFire – A happy normal day takes a turn for the worse when an outside force tampers with the balance.
Thomas Galassi | The KNOW – A compulsive eater/cleaning man tries to keep his spirit in tact in a world where all media is owned by one company with an agenda of mind control.
Alec Gutherz | God’s Country – Living on acres of isolated farmland, a young housewife is pushed to the brink with no way out.
Kyja K-Nelson | House – On the surface, a study in form, rhythm and architecture in Iceland and North Dakota. Scratch the surface and find a meditation on emigration and immigration.
Alexander Wilson-Flynn | Unforgotten – An elderly man near the end of his life passes lonely days in an old folk’s home writing letters to an old friend. But the arrival of a new occupant in the home reopens doors to the past and changes everything.
Michael Lyons | Nonoko / Kaos No Ma – Nonoko Sato is a member of Kiraza Butoh Company and is also active as an independent artist.
Michael Lyons | Katagami – A joyful play with optical illusions, small variations in the repeating pattern elements generate apparent motion.
Mike Olenick | The Cure – A mom cries, photos fly, cats spy, and bodies collide in this sci-fi soap opera that unravels the secret dreams of people who are desperately searching for ways to cure their fears of loneliness.
Jennifer Stachovic | Next Time You’ll Know Better – In the darkness of his room, a boy falls victim to a vile creature with a voracious appetite. He isn’t the only one though, its probably happened to you too. Don’t you remember?
Sasha Leigh Henry | Bitches Love Brunch – 4 girls, 1 brunch date, 0 dollars. When all seems lost in love and the job market, Chantelle and her three friends show each other how to get by.
Cait Davis | Little Big Sky – From the inside of a fabricated miniature honky tonk bar, each character shares a story of their rural American home-town; examining small-town lore and the importance of embracing humanity’s rich and textured history viewed through the lens of Kingsbury, Texas.
Ulla Nagy | Just Be There – B’s relationship with his over-controlling box trainer father suddenly appears in a different light when B gets to know about the father’s serious illness.
Mika Orr | Professional Cuddler – A young Israeli man is about to meet his long-distance lover for the first time– while pursuing his dreams in NYC playing the trumpet by day and working as a Professional Cuddler by night.
Carmelo Zucco | Isolamento – A mother who feels like she’s enabling her son’s mental illness with any action she takes, driving him further into darkness. A father who grinds away at a life that has him on his knees. He yearns for the way out, wishing to return to a more natural way of life. A son who’s so fed up with the world he wants to simply end it all in flames, regardless of the pain it would cause those closest to him. This absurd reality is cradled by the plights of other people, caught in their own struggles, both aware and oblivious to the bubble they’ve put themselves in.
Jason Britski | Circles of Confusion – A formal experiment that combines underwater photography and archival “home movie” footage.
Ty Primosch | Corky – A corkscrew with a screw loose battles a giant glass bottle to uncork seven magical lightning bugs trapped inside.
Mohammad Reza Jafari | Pale White – A girl helps her brother build a kite, but boy…
Marc Ribaudo | Breakdown – Michel is desperate. He’s just been fired. He decides to rob the bar he goes to every day. But nothing is going to happen as planned.
Fredric Lehne | Shy Guys – Two strangers bring the laughs as they confront and resolve one of the most insidious scourges afflicting mankind – while standing at public urinals with their willies out.
John Sayage | It’s Just a Gun – When a young boy named Gabe finds a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, it will set in motion a series of events that will change him forever.
David Moya | WHITE – White Man arrives to the Transition Centre Plus after dying of food poisoning in a cruise. There he is informed that he cannot be white in his next life.
Gregg Biermann | Scenes from the Anthropocene – Paleontologist Peter Ward warns of the probability that we are experiencing the beginning of a sixth mass extinction over material shot at The Bronx Zoo and The Museum of Natural History.
Tony Grady Carter-Hill | Wearing the Big Heart – A personal film that magnifies a series of peculiar moments from the initial Women’s March in Los Angeles, California.
Scott Ballard | North & Nowhere – A girl, a gun and a last chance.
Andrew Rudd | Safety Net – Jerry Harris, a 35 year old black man, tries to save his home from foreclosure just before his wife gives birth to their first child.
Laura Iancu | Minerals and Buttercups – A film about viewing, vision and preservation made around unceremoniously manipulated diary entries of John Ruskin.
Vicky Lee | How To Be Bad – An elderly free-spirit with a stubborn anti-work philosophy reflects on his life.
Alyssa Michener | Here Still – A short documentary film about surviving intimate partner violence.
Asuka Lin | sakanatama – A recollection and improvisation of an enchanting childhood tale, interwoven with meditative images of the Japanese fishing industry.
Shayna Connelly | Every Ghost Has An Orchestra – Truth hides in the margins and the artist’s role is to point to it. The question of what happens after we die is a universal question explored by paranormal researcher and experimental composer Michael Esposito. He straddles the line between spiritual and material and asks the audience to reflect on our purpose, legacy and what our actions say about who we are.
James Siewert | The Past Inside the Present – An allegorical tale of a couple who attempt to renew their dying relationship by plugging directly into recordings of their memories.
Justinsuperstar Johnson | Abby the Spoon Lady – You’ve never seen anyone play the spoons like this! Asheville-based Abby Roach is one of a few in the world who makes a living clacking a pair of flatware together. Often underestimated, Abby’s incredible life story is anything but dull.
Mike Rollo | Farewell Transmission – Farewell Transmission is equal parts indexical record of the demolition of CBK in 2015 and subjective response to the residual media documenting the event.
Jennifer Proctor | Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix – In films, as in life, the bathtub is often considered a private space for women – a place not only to groom, but to relax, to think, to grieve, to be alone, to find sanctuary. For Hollywood, though, it’s also a place of naked vulnerability, where women narratively placed in harm’s way have no escape.
Shane Beam | Conditioner – An audition for a conditioner commercial becomes an otherworldly psychogenic experience.
Amanda Larsh | Dancing in Limbo – When dance becomes the only way to express yourself and forget your troubles, true passion emerges. It’s this passion to overcome, to prove themselves and to show the world that they’re people too that drives a group of young dancers inside the Dzaleka Refugee Camp to prove they’re just as good as their American idols.
Susan Rivo | Left on Pearl – In 1971 classified ads for employment were still segregated by gender, battered women’s shelters did not exist, abortion was illegal, and married women couldn’t open a bank account without their husbands’ permission. Left on Pearl is about the movement that changed all that
Auden Lincoln-Vogel | Some Things I Can’t – An experimental animated documentary based on an anonymous interview with a US Army veteran who served in Afghanistan.
Ann Oren | THE WORLD IS MINE – The film examines the performative nature of cosplaying – dressing up and playing the role of fictional characters – as a hybrid space where reality blurs into fetishistic fantasies and pop culture clichés. Combining fan-made lyrics and songs, Oren’s trials and tribulations in the fictional Miku world unfolds through vague erotic episodes and encounters with characters whose ontological status remains mysterious, bringing to mind the adventures of a modern Alice in a virtual Wonderland.
Timothy David Orme | The Three Siblings – The Three Siblings is an animated fairy tale that ultimately culminates as a myth of mortality. It’s a tale of the birth of knowledge (death) and overconsumption told via the antiquated and painstaking method of multi plane camera animation.
Benjamin Edelberg | Empty Nightclub – Are we looking for the party or are we desperately searching for the exit? Empty Nightclub is a maze of urban streets, dark corridors and dance floors.
Matt Meindl | Corridory – If these walls could talk they’d ramble.
Joshua Lee | A Desert Storm – Miles’ fascination with his favorite toy fighter jet becomes complicated after he encounters an exiled Vietnam veteran living alone in the desert
Han Zhang | Stars – Grandpa and grandson street sellers sell stars in a town near the shore. One night, they run out of the stars…
Shao-Chun Chung | BAUMU – A female killer, who desires to have a child and a cold-blooded male killer. They go to an apartment at night to assassinate a drug addict. Unfortunately, the drug addict’s wife is there as well.
Balint Mark Turi | No Place Like on the Road – Nándi, a wannabe music composer returns to his rural hometown in Hungary after 7 years of abortive wandering. His stay is temporary waiting for a work visa to New Zealand. Meanwhile he goes through a series of encounters that act as mirrors to him, forcing him to come to terms with his life.
Chris Graybill | In a World of Bad Breath – Somewhere along the way humans were eaten by their own creations. And now forgotten archetypes and obsolete specters dance in the corners of the new world of Bad Breath.
Sharon Mooney | The Story of Everything – Lorraine is on a lifelong search for her former foster brother. She has a tense encounter with a stranger named Marcus, who then joins her on a road trip. As they search for the past and future, time becomes fluid and dream-logic takes over.
Suresh Eriyat | The Art of Aping – The Art of Aping measures the ‘ape-ness’ in an Indian man using an ape-meter.
Ashley Seering | Sanctuary – An abandoned church gets an unexpected second chance.
Irving Gamboa | History of Fire Prayer of Death Genesis Creation and Destruction – A film that depicts the creation of the Earth and its simplicity without human movement: The beginning of time, the appearance of man and his cyclical eternity.
Dan Parris | Show Me Democracy – Amidst the uprising in Ferguson, 7 St. Louis college students evolve into advocates and activists as they demand change through policy and protest.
Jeremy Moss | Duet Tests 1, 7, 8, 10 – Can the camera act as a dynamic partner, more than simply a new “stage” or documenting device for the dancer? Can the dancer be more than a subject embedded within the frame and altered by the cut?