When asked, “What is the best way to learn about filmmaking and cinematic storytelling?” the faculty in SIU’s Department of Cinema and Photography will tell you that one of the best ways to do this is to watch a lot of films — long, short, documentary, experimental, and narrative, watching in classrooms, in theaters or streaming online.

In fact, one of the best ways to see a lot of different kinds of films, in a short amount of time, is a film festival. In fact, every February for the past 39 years, students have given themselves this opportunity through the The Big Muddy Film Festival. This is the oldest student-run film festival in the United States and in 2018, The Big Muddy Film Festival, known also as “The Big Muddy,” will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Kelechi Agwuncha, a junior from Chicago, is directing the 2018 festival, and has already been working with her peers on The Big Muddy Crew (the registered student organization that runs the festival) to make this year’s events more special than ever.

“We’re hoping to get alums of the cinema program back to help us celebrate,” Agwuncha said. “And we’re inviting filmmakers to the party, too. Not just the filmmakers in this year’s festival, but artists who have screened their work in any of the previous festivals.”

“The Big Muddy has a great reputation among film and video makers,” said H.D. Motyl, interim chair of the department. “When you look at the entries, you’ll find artists from around the country, and around the globe. It’s a truly international film festival, and we’re very proud that it’s still run by students, who are filmmakers themselves, with only a little departmental oversight.”

That departmental oversight is done by The Big Muddy Executive Director Hassan Pitts, who doubles as the technology coordinator for the college.

“The festival is a great experience for the students, not just in terms of running it and seeing so many good films, but also in meeting the makers of those films when they come to present their work," Pitts said. "It fosters a community of mediamakers.”

The first Big Muddy Film Festival was in 1978, founded by Professor Emeritus Mike Covell and his students. It is wonderful to have Covell attending this year’s festival and helping to welcome former students and filmmakers, as well as the community.

“This is an event on campus, but we really want the Carbondale and Southern Illinois communities to come celebrate with us, and to see some great film by emerging artists,” Agwuncha said. The festival is Feb. 19-25 in various locations on campus and in Carbondale. Check the website for more information: http://bigmuddyfilm.com

We look forward to sharing this wonderful campus event with all of you in the larger Southern Illinois community, and we hope you can attend.

Meera Komarraju is dean of the College of Liberal Arts at SIU.

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