The Oxford Film Festival added three new categories for films this year – LGBTQ, New Media and Music Documentary.
After the religious freedom bill in Mississippi, the Oxford Film Festival board and staff took a stand against HB 1523 publicly. Some of its monthly programming included films with LGBTQ themes, but festival director Melanie Addington wanted to do more to have a diverse range of voices heard during the festival. Meanwhile, the board received backlash online for taking a stand against the bill. This prompted Addington to add an LGBTQ category to the film festival. 2017 will be the second year pride is celebrated in Oxford, so it’s only fitting a category devoted to the LGBTQ community will make its debut at the festival. A number of the films in the category are also premiering in Oxford regionally and worldwide. There is also a special screening of “Small Town Gay Bar” and a corresponding panel Friday evening.
Films from this category will screen at 11 a.m. Friday at Malco Commons, starting at noon Saturday at Malco Commons and at 12:45 p.m. Sunday at Malco.
Juried films in this category: “A Doll’s Eyes,” “All Are Welcome Here,” “Breakfast,” “Chance,” “Dawn,” “Friday the 14th,” “Horizon,” “How Love Won: The Fight for Marriage Equality,” “My Big Fat Lesbian Bat Mitzvah,” “Swirl,” “The Happys,” “The Yoga Bridge,” “Woman on Fire” and “You Deserve Everything.”
New Media encapsulates two growing trends in the world of filmmaking: virtual reality and episodic content. There are 10 virtual reality films screening at the Powerhouse. Virtual reality makes the film experience immersive, and one in particular, “Escape From Calypso Island,” actually lets the viewer participate in a chase. There are six films in the juried New Media competition from places like Japan, Canada and, of course, Mississippi. Their subjects range from feminism to the marijuana industry, to self-imposed surveillance and to Paco, a boy who just “wants you to bounce on his lap.”
The New Media block plays at 11 a.m. Friday at the Powerhouse and at 5:30 p.m. at Malco Commons.
Juried films in this category: “East Coast Grow,” “Gunner Jackson,” “My Mechanical Friend,” “Paco,” “Petrol,” “The Other Kids” and “Welcome to the Theater Company.”
Oxford is situated in the Mississippi Hill Country – a place whose musical style has earned worldwide acclaim and interest. Drive west of Oxford, and you’ll end up in the Mississippi Delta – the birthplace of the blues and the namesake of the “Delta blues,” a style created by Mississippian Robert Johnson, that started it all. That being said, in some way, all of the Music Documentary entries have some kind of tie to Oxford, whether it’s a musician who performed here or one who recorded famous songs with Fat Possum records, located right down the road from the Square on North Lamar. After receiving too many music documentaries to consider for other categories, Addington decided to devote an entire category to music. That has led to a screening of “The Arkansas Wild Man” and a corresponding performance at Proud Larry’s by the subject of the documentary, Sonny Burgess, and his band, Sonny Burgess and The Pacers. It’s the band’s first performance in Oxford since the 1940s, according the Addington. While a handful of the festival’s music documentaries feature blues music, “Stronger than Bullets” focuses on the rise of a music scene amid the 2011 revolution in Libya.
The Music Documentaries show at 11:15 a.m. Saturday at Malco Commons. The winner will screen with the winning music video at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Malco Commons.
Juried films in this category: “Acoustic Ninja,” “The Arkansas Wild Man,” “Shake Em On Down,” “Stronger Than Bullets” and “Two Trains Runnin.”
“Spirit of the Hoka” award
- The Hoka Theater, created by Ron Shapiro in the 1970s, was one of the first (and most beloved) outlets for independent films and performances in Oxford. It closed in the 1990s but was immortalized by the documentary “Sorry, We’re Open.” The theater was named after Princess Hoka, a Chickasaw woman who is legendary for having deeded much of Mississippi, including Oxford, to white settlers.
- Local sculptor Bill Beckwith created the “Spirit of the Hoka” award for Oxford Film Festival.
- The “Spirit of the Hoka” has been awarded every year of the festival since its inception in 2003.
- The “Spirit of the Hoka” is awarded to films in the narrative feature, narrative short, animation, experimental, Mississippi narrative, documentary and music video categories.