Oxford Film Festival

Published on February 22nd, 2023 | by TLV News


Oxford Film Festival: 20th Anniversary Events Will Take Place March 1–5, 2023

The 2023 Oxford Film Festival (March 1–5, 2023) announced the lineup of official selections and events for the 20th Anniversary annual edition of the popular film festival. Lisa Cortes’ documentary Little Richard: I am Everything is the opening night selection, and Michael Stevantoni and Strack Azar’s The Banality is the Closing Night selection. Special screenings and presentations include a restored print of Colin Campbell’s silent historical drama The Crisis (1916), and a presentation of Greg Brownderville and Bart Weiss’s groundbreaking multi-media project Fire Bones.

The dynamic schedule will showcase 143 films and media projects, including 32 features (15 narrative and 18 documentary), 93 short films (narrative, documentary, LGBTQIA+, ambition and experimental, student, and Mississippi-based productions), 18 music videos, and 1 multi-media project. 
Executive Director Matt Wymer, who will be overseeing his first Oxford Film Festival as Executive Director, said, “This is our 20th Anniversary edition, and we’re celebrating the audiences that allowed the Oxford Film Festival to inspire and entertain our community for the past two decades. To show our appreciation, we are providing more free screenings, more panels, and bigger parties than ever before.“ 
On Thursday, March 2 at 8 pm, Lisa Cortes Little Richard: I am Everything officially opens the Oxford Film Festival. The film comes to Oxford following its debut at Sundance last month. The entertaining (and how could it not be, considering its subject) documentary gives a startlingly frank look at the life and career of the rock n’ roll icon who still influences music artists today as it shines a light on the Black, queer origins of rock ’n’ roll, and profiles the man behind the music. 

Michael Stevantoni and Strack Azar’s Mississippi-shot and -produced thriller The Banality takes the closing night slot at 7:30 pm on Saturday, March 4. Adapted from their short film of the same title, the film follows the harrowing journey of a priest as he investigates the mysterious death of “Feral Boy,” a local legend. As he gets closer to the truth,  he finds parallels between this grisly incident and his own recurring nightmares.

A special screening of Colin Campbell’s silent classic The Crisis (1916), which is the earliest surviving film to have been shot in Mississippi, will mark the film’s first onscreen presentation in 100 years in Northern Mississippi. The film’s story centers on a love triangle during the Civil War between a woman and her suitors—one commited to the North and the other to the South. When one of the suitors is captured and charged with spying, the other must decide whether or not to intercede in his rival’s behalf. The screening will have live accompaniment with a special new score created specifically for the event which will be part of the Mississippi Film Commission’s 50th Anniversary celebration this year. Produced by William N. Selig, founder of the Selig Polyscope Company, the oldest film production company in the United States. Some of the Selig family members plan to be on hand for the event.

Noted for its embrace of VR and experimental films and programming during its history, the Oxford Film Festival will offer a special presentation led by Greg Brownderville and Bart Weiss as they introduce audiences to their one-of-a-kind multi-media creation, Fire Bones. A whimsical Southern Gothic shaggy dog story told in ten chapters via multiple mediums including podcasts, short films, music videos, poems, and still images, Fire Bones follows a poet and filmmaker who meet one crazy character after another as they investigate the mystery of a missing pilot and Pentecostal preacher who vanished on a transatlantic flight.

Faulkner: The Past Is Never Dead

Another theme running throughout this year’s edition of the film festival is the commitment to local filmmakers, films shot and produced locally, and films with strong Mississippi themes. On that front, two screenings will top that effort including Merrick McCool’s Belief: The Season Ole Miss Baseball which traces the journey the Ole Miss baseball team’s recent last-to-first championship run. Michael Modak-Truran’s Faulkner: The Past Is Never Dead looks at the Nobel Prize-winning author who will be forever associated with Oxford and Mississippi.

Additional highlights among the narrative features include Mike Cheslik’s Hundreds of Beavers, an epic tale set in the 19th Century where a drunken applejack salesman must face off against hundreds of marauding beavers. Johanna Putnam’s award-winning Shudderbugs stars Putnam as a young woman who returns to her childhood home when her mother suddenly passes. In place of familiar spaces and memories, Sam finds herself isolated with the mystery of her mom’s death and a scavenger hunt her mom had prepared for her upcoming birthday. The film won the Indie Spirit Award and Rising Star Award at the Naples International Film Festival. Marvin Samel’s iMordecai stars Sean Astin as an ambitious cigar maker trying to support his own family while still being there for his aging parents, played by Academy Award-nominee Judd Hirsch and the beloved film icon, Carol Kane. When Mordecai’s ancient flip phone breaks, he starts to take lessons on his new iPhone, opening him up to all kinds of novel experiences and adventures, making him feel like a kid again. Scout Durwood’s Youtopia focuses on a woman who inadvertently forms a hipster cult after going though a devastating breakup. When members start to disappear, she realizes that she may be the trigger the end of civilization as we know it.

Among the particularly strong documentary selections are Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s Body Parts which traces the evolution of “sex” on-screen from a woman’s perspective, uncovering the uncomfortable realities behind some of the most iconic scenes in cinema history and celebrating the bold creators leading the way for change. Dawn Mikkelson and Keri Pickett’s Finding Her Beat is a certified hit on the regional festival circuit. The film follows the efforts of two women to assemble the world’s best female Taiko drummers in a bold effort to claim a cultural spotlight that has historically been reserved only for men. As the clock ticks toward their first performance, it becomes clear that their story has become much larger than Taiko. Christopher Fitzpatrick’s Oklahoma Breakdown has also won many fans across the country as well as awards leading to the film’s screening at Oxford. The film profiles Mike Hosty, a one-man band freak of nature who also tells jokes and happens to be responsible for the song “Oklahoma Breakdown”, which became the #1 hit of 2007. G.B. Shannon’s Show Business Is My Life (But I Can’t Prove It) A Film about Gary Mule Deer puts the focus on comedy in his film looking at the unlikely career of comedian Gary Mule Deer’s career who started performing Johnny Cash covers at a South Dakota brothel to being a regular presence on The Tonight Show among over 350 televised performances in his career. Linda Goldstein Knowlton’s Split At The Root looks at what transpired when a Guatemalan mother seeking asylum was separated from her kids under Zero Tolerance Policy. A Facebook post by a mom in Queens coalesced into a movement as thousands of like-minded women across the US refused to stand by quietly, eventually reuniting  more than 130 families.

Highlights among the creatively themed and musically infused parties and special events include a 20th Birthday Party with kids’ party games, balloon animals, and a birthday cake contest on Wednesday, March 1, which will also include a free screening of Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s festival hit, Butterfly in the Sky. Thursday, March 2 will have a Music Video Block Party and some of Oxford’s best night spots will feature live music performances from bands whose music videos are screening at the film festival. Friday, March 3, the party’s theme is “Faulking Around Friday,” which will include books and whiskey at the historic Ceder Oaks. Saturday, March 4 will be highlighted by the BLOXbuster Video Party. The days of enjoying films on VHS will be celebrated along with Laser Tag, music, and more. 
The Oxford Film Festival will also offer free Science on Screen events which are an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as well as free sensory screenings sponsored by the Mississippi Commission of Developmental Disability.
The Oxford Film Festival would not be possible without the generous support from the following grants: Mississippi Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, South Arts, Visit Mississippi, and Visit Oxford.
To buy passes or tickets or find more information, please go to: www.ox-film.com.

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The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.

One Response to Oxford Film Festival: 20th Anniversary Events Will Take Place March 1–5, 2023

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