The Local Voice

11th Annual Clarksdale Film & Music Festival Puts Safety First


Lights, camera… masks… action! Clarksdale, Mississippi, readies its first-ever “pandemic edition” of the annual Clarksdale Film & Music Festival — January 29–31, 2021.

Since the pandemic shutdowns began last March, festivals around the world have either cancelled or gotten creative in order to keep attendees safe.

This month’s Clarksdale Film & Music Festival in historic Clarksdale, Mississippi, has paid attention and incorporated health and safety measures into its planning every step of the way. The festival is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, January 29–31—indoors, outdoors, and online. 

“We’ve been working for months planning our most thoughtful film festival ever,” explained co-organizer Nan Hughes. “With the help of our friends and fans, our aim is to make this year’s nonprofit event both fun and safe.” 


This year’s indoor venue, The Bank event space at E. 2nd & Yazoo Ave., will feature everything from temperature checks and hand sanitizing at the door to properly-worn face masks and less than 25 percent seating capacity inside. All health and safety protocols are posted at For nighttime, health and safety conversations led to an exciting new festival addition: A “pop-up” drive-in theater at 3rd & Issaquena Ave., downtown. 

“We’re only putting on our festival if we can make it as safe as possible, so a nighttime drive-in seemed like the perfect solution,” said Roger Stolle, co-founder of the event. “Like with our indoor venue, we’ve hired professionals to stage the outdoor screen and projection. The drive-in audio will be broadcast through viewers’ car radios. Pretty cool.” 


The Bank indoor venue runs Saturday, January 30, from 11 am–6 pm with doors opening at 10:30 am. The outdoor drive-in theater runs Friday and Saturday with parking starting at 5 pm and the films at 6 pm. Pre-sale tickets and details are at

“For obvious reasons, we need to limit ticket availability this year, so we strongly recommend that attendees buy pre-sale tickets online now,” said Hughes. “Pre-sale ticket buyers will save money and know that they can get in for our full roster of films. For fans who can’t attend, we also have a donation button online.” 

Daytime documentaries explore blues, jazz, vinyl records, and more. The nighttime drive-in films are Finding Nemo (which has Clarksdale connections) for Family Night and Blues Trail Revisited I&II (partly filmed in Clarksdale) for Blues Night. 


In addition to celluloid favorites, the weekend includes History Walking Tours with Robert Birdsong, Virtual Panel Discussions moderated by Clay Motley, and plenty of live blues music. 

“Well, it is a film and music festival,” said Stolle, emphasizing “music.” “Folks can go to for a full schedule of music performances, movie schedules, walking tours, and panel discussion info.” Music performers include Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Sean “Bad” Apple, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Watermelon Slim, and more at venues like Bluesberry Cafe, Bad Apple Blues Club, and Hambone Gallery

As with the film screenings, festival organizers ask attendees to come prepared with face masks, etc. Each music venue will have a small cover charge at its door and be limiting attendance for social-distancing purposes. Festival organizers wish to thank the filmmakers, musicians, and volunteers as well as event supporters including Visit Clarksdale Tourism, The Walton Family Foundation, and others. 

“See y’all at the movies!”, Hughes said in closing.

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