Ho-hum, you say.
Ha ha, I say. You have no idea.
Last week was the 37th annual Big Muddy Film Festival at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Tuesday to Sunday, day and night, films films films. Independent films from all over the world. Four dollars a day, fifteen dollars for the whole festival, several directors present for post-film Q and As, workshops.
We went Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. On Tuesday, we saw three short films and the feature, Little White Lies, by Lacey Schwartz. Raised in a Jewish household with parents who divorced when she was 18, Lacey and people around her are puzzled by her dark skin and hair. Lacey’s father explains it by recalling a Sicilian grandfather, but Lacey finally uncovers the real secret. This story was intense and heart-wrenching.
On Wednesday night we were back at 7, having gulped down quick dinners and rushed to campus. After a short film about Japan by director Wook Steven Heo, we watched Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall. This short documentary was directed by SIU alum Edgar Barens, and was nominated for a 2014 Oscar. What a moving story. A prison in Iowa has a beautiful hospice program for dying prisoners, with other prisoners trained to care for them. We see the loving attention they give to one dying criminal; they, too, have committed crimes that sentenced them for life. The movie is profoundly touching and human.
On Friday night we saw five short films:
My Kingdom (directed by Debra Solomon) is a witty animation about personal space, with people traveling around in little balls.
Henny’s Opus in B Minor (Andre Conte) is a sweet portrait of a musical woman in her nineties with great facial expressions.
In Myrna the Monster (Ian Samuels), a twenty-something space alien is trying to fit in in Los Angeles. Most of the audience could relate to this creature with a platypus face and chicken legs.
In The Night Guardian (Brian Ott), a dying man tells superhero stories to his grandson; in the process, his estranged son begins to heal.
Ham Over Rice (Ying Liu) illustrates a Chinese myth with colorful, abstract patterns.
The feature, Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? (Anna Margarita Albelo), was a hit. It’s a spoof of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with an all-lesbian cast. Albelo wears a vagina costume to her fortieth birthday party. When she falls in love with an exotic young intellectual, she decides to seduce her by making a film for her. She spends one intense week holed up in the garage where she is living, smoking cigarettes and typing the script. Then she gathers friends and her love object for the actors and advertises for volunteer crew members.
It’s very funny, and also very personal, about Albelo’s fear of getting close to another person. A few parts were in Spanish, but no subtitles were available, so Albelo (a Cuban-American), went to the podium and did a simultaneous translation.
After this lovely movie, the director answered questions.
Eat your heart out, city-dwellers. We’ve got so much culture here, we don’t know what to do with it.
Well, yes we do: Enjoy it!