CARBONDALE — Two award-winning filmmakers and graduates of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s cinema and photography program return to campus next month as jurors for the 40th annual Big Muddy Film Festival.
Alumni Tom Ludwig and Ben Kalina, along with filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu, are the judges for this year’s festival, which runs from Feb. 19 to 25 at various locations the SIU campus and in Carbondale. The event is one of the oldest film festivals affiliated with a university in the nation and will feature 72 competition and noncompetition films in four categories: animation, documentary, experimental and narrative. Each of the jurors will have individual workshops and show their work during the festival.
“The interesting thing about the juror lineup is in their overlapping interests and backgrounds in the ways they create across various genres — sometimes contrasting, sometimes similar yet not,” Hassan Pitts, the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts’ technology coordinator and festival director, said.
Pitts said in addition to Ludwig and Kalina, Owusu’s “educational and artistic energies” will round out a juror lineup that “embodies the history and soul of the festival quite nicely.”
Ludwig, an award-winning filmmaker and arts educator, earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in film production from SIU in 1981.
His career includes work as an editor, screenwriter and director of photography on feature films and commercials in Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles, and as a fine arts film/video production and film studies teacher for the Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency’s Education for the Arts program and Western Michigan University.
Kalina, a 2003 graduate, is the chief operating officer for Titmouse Inc., a full-service animation production company, where he oversees production and development across the company’s three studios in Los Angeles, New York City and Vancouver.
Prior to working at Titmouse, Kalina worked in production at Warner Bros. Animation and VFX, helping to develop a digital pipeline and transitioning the studio from traditional paper animation to digital. In 2016, while serving as producer, Kalina shared a Daytime Emmy in the Outstanding Children’s Animated Program category for Amazon’s series “Niko and the Sword of Light.”
Owusu is a Ghanian-American filmmaker, producer and cinematographer who has been named by “Indiewire” as one of the “Six Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema” and one of The Huffington Post’s “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know.” Her company, Obibini Pictures LLC, produces films about multicultural experiences. Her film, “KwakuAnanse,” received the 2013 African Movie Academy Award for Best Short Film and her company’s 2017 production “On Monday of Last Week,” was nominated at the 2017 African Movie Academy Awards.
Owusu is also a visiting assistant professor in the film and video department at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She earned MFA degrees in film and video, and in fine arts from the California Institute of the Arts and her bachelor’s degree in media studies and studio art from the University of Virginia.
Festival organizers are still working on the lineup, schedule and screening times, but venues will include Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium, the Student Center Auditorium and the sound stage in the Communications Building on campus. Venues in Carbondale include Carbondale Community Arts' Artspace 304, 304 W. Walnut St.; the African-American Museum of Southern Illinois, University Mall; Flyover Social Center, 214 N. Washington St.; and the Longbranch Café, 100 E. Jackson, St.
This year’s celebration will include a look back at prior festivals and the filmmakers who screened their films, in addition to the people whose contributions through the years made the festival a recognizable vehicle to showcase independent films.
The opening reception is Feb. 19 in the Student Center Auditorium. A closing reception celebrating the festival’s 40th anniversary and featuring Big Muddy Film Festival alumni will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 24, in Guyon Auditorium. The “Best of the Fest,” a showing of the event’s top films, is Feb. 25 at the Longbranch Café.