Published on February 10th, 2016 | by Alex Thiel0
13th Annual Oxford Film Festival Bigger Than Ever: A conversation with New Director Melanie Addington
The Oxford Film Festival, gearing up for its thirteenth year, has already established itself as one of the most high-profile weekends on Oxford’s entertainment calendar. But starting this year, the festival will expand beyond the confines of one movie theater and out into the Oxford community.
Festival Director Melanie Addington, in her first year as the festival’s full-time director, has been visiting film festivals around the country in search of ideas to snowball the festival’s current footprint into something bigger.
“The idea is that we would start small and expand a little bit this year,” says Addington, “but that we would eventually have a festival that’s everywhere in Oxford.”
This year’s festival boasts 144 total films – sixty more than 2015’s fest – including twenty-one world-premiere short films and twenty-one works from returning filmmakers. Over fifty festival screeners have been watching submissions over the past year.
“It’s the most [films] we’ve ever had, for sure,” Addington laughs. “We’ve been watching a lot of movies.”
The selection process ensures that both newcomers and regulars alike can find something to enjoy over the weekend. The lineup for the festival includes everything from midnight B-movies (Dude Bro Party Massacre 3) to faith-based narratives (Joey Lawrence’s Saved By Grace).
“There are certain stories that work really well in Oxford, and our emphasis is not really on the flashy technology as much as it’s on the story itself,” Addington says. “We try to pick things that will challenge the Oxford audience, [but] also the feel-good, fun films that we know they’ll enjoy.”
To help accommodate the festival’s scope (and, as Addington explains, “so people can see more of Oxford than just the Malco”), the festival will be screening music videos at The Round Table, as well as free screenings of experimental and animation blocks at Shelter on Van Buren.
The Powerhouse will also be featured prominently, housing screenings, art exhibits, and Mississippi’s first-ever virtual reality screening.
The virtual reality exhibit, a multimedia documentary entitled Searching For Hell, is one aspect of the festival that Addington has been planning out for some time as she’s been visiting festivals around the country.
“I went to New Orleans Film Festival and saw the virtual reality stuff that they’re doing,” Addington explains. “A lot of why I went [to Sundance] was to see more virtual reality, because they’ve been doing New Frontier stuff for ten years, sort of expanding the concept of storytelling outside of 2-and-3-D models.”
“So I wanted to bring that to Oxford, and I found out in doing so that we’re the first in the state to show any virtual reality. So I’m very excited.”
Other highlights include a panel on animation featuring Adventure Time’s head writer Kent Osborne (who works on the show alongside Oxford’s very own Jack Pendarvis), Greg Sestero of The Room fame signing his book The Disaster Artist at Off Square Books, and a Friday evening conversation panel featuring Joey Lawrence and moderator John Widman of NPR’s The Daily Buzz.
Events at The Lyric will include the opening night’s Thacker Mountain Radio show, as well as the Hoka Awards presentations on Saturday, Feb. 20.
Even though this year’s festival is already a highly involved undertaking, Addington says that she’s looking to expand the presence of arthouse film in Oxford beyond just one weekend a year.
“Five years out, I don’t know how many more changes we’ll be making beyond even better programming, more special guests,” she says. “We’re beginning this year to bring more distributors out to see films they might purchase.”
Addington adds that, though the festival will curate monthly screenings from this point forward, the ultimate goal is to show arthouse cinema in Oxford on a daily, year-round basis.
“If somebody out there wants to give me a lot of money,” she laughs, “we can get that started!”
The Oxford Film Festival will run from Feb. 17-21 at various locations throughout Oxford. For a full schedule, ticket pricing, and updates, visit oxfordfilmfest.com and follow the Oxford Film Festival (@oxfordfilmfest) on social media.