Oxford Film Festival

Published on March 11th, 2020 | by Elizabeth Tettleton

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Press Play: Oxford Film Festival Is March 18–22: Start Dog-Earing Your Programs!

Oxford is home to many festivals each year, but there is one that brings people from not only around the country, but around the world, and is focused on one mission: to celebrate film.

The 17th Annual Oxford Film Festival (OFF) kicks off Wednesday, March 18 with with the world premier of It’s Time, which is the story of Ole Miss Rebel defensive back Chucky Mullins, and the Community Film Night featuring the “McPhail Block,” and continues with a packed schedule all weekend through Sunday, March 22. OFF features documentaries, music documentaries, narrative features, LGBTQIA films, Mississippi and narrative shorts, and even a premiere of a Netflix original.

A statement from the Mississippi Film Office reads: In addition to providing a venue for our Mississippi filmmakers and storyteller, OFF presents bold and engaging independent films from around the globe while introducing those visiting filmmakers to the beauty and mystique of Mississippi.

The bulk of the festival takes place at the Malco Oxford Commons Cinema Grill located at 206 Commonwealth Boulevard, with various festival events around town. On-campus venues will be Nutt Auditorium, University Museum, and The Ford Center. The Powerhouse and the Oxford Conference Center will host film screenings as well.

Tickets and passes to the festival may be purchased online at oxfordfilmfest.com, and will also be available at the physical box offices starting March 18. All panels and workshops are free to attend. Single movie tickets will be sold for specific films, and this year the festival is offering 5 or 10 packs for a discount. VIP & Student VIP Passes grant the holder priority entrance to all films as well as access to all parties and the catered VIP green room.

“This year’s VIP Lounge will be modeled after the Moonlight Cafe at The Hoka Theatre, in tribute to our longtime supporter, mentor, and friend, Ron Shapiro,” said Executive Director Melanie Addington. “Though we lost him in 2019, he is forever with us in spirit.”

OFF also recently announced special screening presentations and innovations, adding to what is already a film festival packed with highlights and must-see screenings. The special screenings include coveted films from Slamdance (Lynne Sachs Film About A Father Who) and SXSW (Kate McLean and Mario Furloni’s Freeland), the first look on the big screen of an exciting action thriller from Netflix (Peter Berg’s Spenser Confidential), a second beloved film with local ties from the Opening Night Gala’s celebrated director Allan Moyle (The Gun In Betty Lou’s Handbag), and a secret screening with an appearance by an award-winning filmmaker.

Addington said, “Each year, after we initially set our schedule, exciting films will pop up and potentially be available for us to show to our Oxford Film Festival audiences. This year, we were fortunate enough to grab a few great ones. And we’ll see everyone at our Secret Screening for the big reveal!”

I’ve had a chance to pre-screen some films, so here is my take on the ones I’ve watched so far. Watch for future issues for more pre-screening goodness right here in The Local Voice!

The ratings attached give my boiled down perspective on the piece as a whole based on content, filming, pacing, and acting/narration/profile choices.

Our Bodies Our Doctors

Documentary Feature
Director: Jan Haaken
Screens: Friday, 5:15 pm and Saturday, 4 pm
Oxford Conference Center
Rating: 6.5/10

Mississippi is not particularly known for a progressive perspective when it comes to abortions, and regardless of your religious, moral, or medical perspectives on the issue, this documentary hits the key points surrounding the realities of the procedure and the women and doctors involved. What the film does not do is tell you whether abortions are right or wrong. Instead, it postures to diffuse the hype and misguided perspectives that persuade individuals to judge the procedure, the women having it, and the doctors and medical assistants involved with it.

Our Bodies Our Doctors deftly handles the emotional aspects, the gruesome physicality, and the morbid reality when life is ended and a pregnancy is “removed,” while also acknowledging that the job isn’t for everyone. Whether it should be required of every family practice doctor isn’t even a question posed here. Instead the film suggests that doctors should be equipped to have a conversation with their patients, recommending them to a specialized physician most skilled at the procedures.

This is maybe not a film for the younger crowds, but still an important, relevant, and needed perspective that will be more influential and vital to young people’s growth and understanding of sexuality, pregnancy, and women’s medical health than any Mississippi pro-life rally.

A Stranger Among the Living

Mississippi Feature
Director: Christopher Wesley Moore
Screens: Friday, 10 pm
Malco Screen 1
Rating: 3/10

This category, the Mississippi Features, holds the longest list of films in my stack to pre-screen and see during the festival, but this one was not my cup of tea. The second longest film in the block (only 10:25 minutes shorter than The Dinner Party), I finished the film not completely sure what I was taking away from it. The description promised a man narrowly avoiding being present at a school shooting due to a premonition that warned him the day before, but the method for which all the elements necessary to depict, clarify, and explain the premonition and its subsequent events are not in line here. The classic adage of “show don’t tell” was unfortunately not well displayed, where every minutia is narrated by the cast and is fleshed out with cliches and overstatements that just muddy the message: are our characters grieving, surviving, discovering, mentally unhealthy, or on a drug trip? Please let me know when you find out. 

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain

Narrative Features
Director: David Midell
Screens: Friday, 7:15 pm and Saturday, 1 pm
Malco Screen 3
Rating: 8/10

David Midell and Enrico Natale have crafted a dramatization about a story I am sad to say I knew little about before watching this film. I am grateful for this duo bringing to our film festival this film that I hope will spark conversations on many elements. Since I was only eleven years old when Kenneth Chamberlain was brutally killed, I was unaware of his story. I don’t want to ruin those revelations for you if you are also unfamiliar with his story, but know these things: the racial tensions between the blue and the black must dissolve.The film also brings to the surface question such as: When can a law enforcement officer defy his superior if he feels he is committing a criminal act? Are there protections from retaliation? When action and investigation and prosecution is called for by hundreds of thousands of people, why are law enforcement officers immune to indictment or charges?

I wish every Ole Miss student would watch this film, or rather, every student in America. I ended this film appalled, outraged, disgusted, angry, and diffused, feeling that america’s racial tensions will never give slack.

Delta Blind Spot

Mississippi Narrative Short (6 minutes)
Director: John W. Bateman
Screens: Saturday, 5:15 pm
Malco Screen 1
Rating: 7/10

Post-segregation Mississippi is a time many of us have only heard about, but this poignant piece gives perspective to being perceived “to be who you spend you time with,” when three young students find themselves in a “white-only” cafe while their professor is identified by a white supremacist, known for having fatally shot Medgar Evers.

Go, Go Boy

LGBTQIA+ Short (6 minutes)
Director: Oriana Oppice
Screens: Friday, 2:30 pm with Queen of Lapa
Malco Screen 4
Rating: 8/10

This short features a young boy living out his fantasies of being a performer that he has only a small way to channel through wrestling practices each week. Marcus Owens is the young actor that renders fantastic dancing skills in this delightful short.

Singing Out

Mississippi Documentary Short
Director: Mary Stanton Knight
Screens: Friday, 7:15 pm
Malco Screen 1
Rating: 8.5/10

This short follows two LGBTQIA singers local to Mississippi: Mattie Thrasher and Morgan Pennington (And the Echo). Together and separately they have helped to shape the music landscape of the past give years in Oxford, while opening the conversation up to other identifying members of the gay community. They discuss their struggles with identity in an unwelcoming state and their struggles with their families and hometowns, and how creating music in Oxford has helped them to find a new sense of home and place.

The Oxford Film Festival is Postponed
The 2020 Oxford Film Festival Announces Preparations Due to Concerns Posed Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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