The 11th Annual Oxford Film Festival begins at 6 tonight at the Lyric.
A special edition of Thacker Mountain Radio will entertain moviegoers and independent film addicts, features house band The Yalobushwackers and is hosted by Jim Dees.
The festival’s lineup of 78 films begins at 7:30 p.m. with the premiere of “Killer Kudzu,” the festival’s fourth annual community film project.
The directors of the festival expect a total of 3,000-4,000 people to attend over the four-day period, with the crowd’s demographics varying as much as the film categories presented.
“It really is mixed,” said Molly Fergusson, executive director of the festival. “We get a fair amount of retirees; we get a lot of middle-aged moms; we get a lot of students. I mean, it really is completely just across the board.”
Development Director Melanie Addington said the increased flow of tourism is not the only benefit this celebration of fine arts brings to the area.
“I think (it benefits Oxford) on a lot of levels,” she said. “One, of course, is that we’re bringing in films that you otherwise wouldn’t see. In fact, our Friday night spotlight is a film called ‘Side Effects of Barry.’ They’re distributing it everywhere, except for Mississippi. So this is your chance to see it.”
According to the event directors, going to a film festival offers a different experience than simply sitting at home and watching movie.
“When you’re at a festival, you actually get to meet the (filmmakers) up close,” Operations Director Michelle Emanuel said. “You can ask them whatever question you had in your head while you were watching. You get immediate feedback, and it’s great for the filmmakers because they see their film in front of an audience who are not necessarily just their friends and family.”
Film festivals are also highly regarded as great places for local filmmakers to network with professionals in the industry. Filmmakers, distributors, producers, attorneys and others in the industry travel from places like L.A. and New York to attend events like this, according to Fergusson.
“It’s an opportunity for people in Mississippi who are interested in filmmaking to meet these people, and make connections to then go somewhere else,” she said.
Following the opening events tomorrow night, the scheduled panels and showings of the remaining 77 films will take place at the new Malco Oxford Commons and the Oxford Conference Center.
Saturday night at the Lyric, festival-goers have the opportunity to attend the awards ceremony. Hospitality Director Diala Chaney said it’s a ticketed event, and doors open at 8:30 p.m. Food and refreshments will be provided.
Emanuel advises those planning to attend not to wait until the last the last minute to arrive.
“We do have screenings that sell out,” she said. “We don’t show 20 minutes of previews, so if a film is starting at 6, it is starting at 6, and you may have to stand in line 30 minutes before you are able to get into the room because there will be another session already in that room.”
The directors say they have been planning and developing this year’s event since February 2013, the day after last year’s film festival ended. Though they have worked hard over the past 12 months, they admit that simply seeing the community come together is a reward in itself.
“It’s just nice to see people out,” Fergusson said. “You know everybody has their day jobs and whatever, but then people will go and they’ll park in there all weekend long, so you get to see everybody. It’s just a nice community event.”
Tickets for the festival can be purchased online at oxfordfilmfest.com or in person at festival venues today through Sunday.
For the latest news and an official schedule of events, the directors recommend that festival attendees check the Oxford Film Festival’s Facebook page.
— Lacey Russell