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Now in its 36th year, the longest-running student film festival in the country begins this week at SIU.

The Big Muddy Film Festival starts Tuesday with an opening night reception at 5 p.m. in the International Lounge, followed by a free screening of the romantic comedy "Drinking Buddies" at 6 p.m. in the Student Center Auditorium.

Drinking Buddies is directed by SIU alumnus Joe Swanberg and stars Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnston and Anna Kendrick.

"(Swanberg's) new film 'Happy Christmas' premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, so he's doing really well," said Elisa Herrmann, director of the Big Muddy Film Festival and faculty advisor of the Film Alternatives Department of Cinema and Photography at SIU. "We're very proud of him, so we decided to show his film at our opening night."

The festival runs through Sunday, with both foreign and domestic independent films featured in the categories of narrative, experimental, documentary and animation.

Films from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, South Korea, Canada and Germany are among the selections that will be judged by jurors Eliza Hittman, Michael Robinson and Julie Perini.

A collection of short films by SIU faculty members will also be presented.

"It's a really broad selection," Herrmann said. "I think it gives people in Carbondale an opportunity to see films they wouldn't usually see because they don't really come to our theaters here."

All three jurors will have their own workshops as part of the festival. Robinson, who was listed as one of the "50 Best Filmmakers under 50" by Cinema Scope magazine in 2012, will be critiquing student work from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Hittman has a workshop on how to put together a micro-budget film on Thursday, while Perini's Friday workshop will involve using the video diary genre to increase awareness of oneself as a complex being and expressing that to others.

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Hittman's independent drama film "It Felt Like Love" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and is expected to get a theatrical release this year.

"I am very excited to have Eliza Hittman come over," said Mickey Everett, co-organizer of Film Festival. "She originally submitted that film to be judged and it was in the (Big Muddy) Festival last year."

There will also be a special free screening of the 1978 film "Animal House" on Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Pagliai's Pizza.

Both Everett and Herrmann are in their first year of running the festival, which will have its Best of the Fest showcase and awards ceremony on Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Student Center Auditorium.

"They are free movies for SIU students, staff and faculty, open to the public and there's nothing to stop people from coming here," Everett said. "It's just getting people to come here who are interested in more than just the next Hollywood blockbuster."

For a full schedule of the week's film screenings, go to www.bigmuddyfilm.com.

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