12th annual Oxford Film Festival kicks off tomorrow

Posted on Feb 25 2015 - 11:03am by Mary Moses Hitt


Over 70 films are set to showcase and compete in the 12th Annual Oxford Film Festival. Ten previous Oxford Film Festival filmmakers are returning to the festival, and many of the films’ directors are traveling from all over the country to host Q&A’s at their films’ screenings.

This is the last year that the Oxford Film Festival will be maintained by an unpaid, volunteer staff.

“Most of us on staff will still be a part of the festival next year,” Michelle Emanuel, operations director, said. “The structure is just changing to having a board who will fundraise for the event and hire a director to run the festival.”

This direction is beneficial to the ever-growing Oxford Film Festival, which earned recognition this past year as one of “MovieMaker” magazine’s Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.

“It’s a huge honor to be on the same list as film festivals with million dollar budgets and full time staffs,” Emanuel said. “I think it shows how we are known and respected on the film festival circuit.”

The festival will take place at the Malco Oxford Commons, and the film genres include animated, documentary, narrative and experimental, with some categories having both short and feature lengths. Emanuel said that there will definitely be a film for everyone.

The festival kicks off Thursday night with a sold out showing of James Franco’s “The Sound and the Fury” which will be followed by a Q&A with members of the cast and crew. Based on William Faulkner’s acclaimed novel, the film follows the decline of a Southern aristocrat family, the Compsons, and stars actors James Franco, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and Tim Blake Nelson, who will all be present at the Q&A. There will be a second showing of “The Sound and the Fury” on Sunday at 1 p.m.

For the first time since the 2012 festival, the Oxford Film Festival has Mississippi feature lengths to screen in the competition, which is a huge accomplishment for both the filmmakers and the state of Mississippi. These two films are “OzLand” and “Yazoo Revisited: Integration and Segregation in a Deep Southern Town.”

“OzLand,” showing Friday at 2:55 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m., tells the story of two men in a post apocalyptic world who discover a copy of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Emanuel said “Ozland” marks the graduation from shorts to features for Oxford Film Festival veteran and West Point native Michael Williams and remarked on this impressive directorial accomplishment for Williams. The film will be competing in the narrative feature category.

“Yazoo Revisited: Integration and Segregation in a Deep Southern Town,” showing Friday at 7:20 p.m. and Saturday at 12:10 p.m., takes a look at the history of race relations in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and focuses on the integration of the school systems in 1970. “Yazoo Revisited” is directed by David Rae Morris, son of acclaimed Yazoo City writer Willie Morris, and will be competing in the documentary feature category.

Competing in the narrative short category, “The Gunfighter” has generated a lot of interest because the film’s narrator is “Parks and Recreation” actor Nick Offerman. This western short is about a gunslinger in a saloon, where all the characters can hear the voice of the narrator, who can be a bit of a jerk. This film will be screened at 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

One feature being showcased but not competing is “The Last Time You Had Fun,” starring Laurel native Mary Elizabeth Ellis (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “New Girl”), Demetri Martin (“Taking Woodstock,” “In a World”), Eliza Coupe (“Happy Endings”) and Kyle Bornheimer (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Bachelorette”).

In the movie, their four dysfunctional characters meet at a wine bar and decide to leave their responsibilities behind and have a fun, all-night adventure. Before the film’s screening at 7 p.m. Friday, there is a panel discussion with Mary Elizabeth Ellis and director Mo Perkins at 6 p.m. There will be a second screening of the film at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets for the Oxford Film Festival are available for purchase before the festival online at oxfordfilmfest.com and at the festival in the Malco Oxford Commons’ lobby. Ticket prices vary depending on the type of ticket bought. Prices start at $8.

Mary Moses Hitt