This past weekend Oxford welcomed everyone in the film business to come experience the 10th annual Oxford Film Festival.
Filmmakers from all over the country gathered in Oxford to honor independent filmmaking at the 10th annual Oxford Film Festival this past weekend. The four-day fest is known for its intimate setting and the attendance of high-profile filmmakers, but this year it went above and beyond to celebrate a decade of festival excellence.
The festival kicked off Thursday night at The Lyric with a weekend preview and the community film premiere of “Ten” by Joe York.
A 15-minute documentary, “Ten” is a hilarious and heartwarming discussion with 10-year-olds from the Oxford-Lafayette County communities about what it means to finally hit the double digits.
“There (were) a few who had their parents in the room with them when they answered, but most of them didn’t,” York explained after the screening.
“I was amazed that the parents were so trusting to be like, ‘Just ask them whatever you want.’”
The festival continued on Friday with films playing all day at the Oxford Malco theater until 10 p.m. Roger Avary, best known for his work with Quentin Tarantino writing “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” appeared before a packed audience for an in-depth conversation moderated by screenwriter and Ole Miss assistant professor of English Chris Offutt.
Saturday was another movie-filled day, but for those without passes, film panels open to the public took place throughout the day at The Lyric.
Avary made another appearance at the Screenwriting as Storytelling panel moderated by film critic and screenwriter Coop Cooper and featuring Offutt, Gerald Peary, a film critic for the Boston Phoenix, and Kim Voynar, a film critic for Movie City News.
The panel discussed everything from how to get started in the filmmaking business to the good and bad things that screenwriters can do. The differences between Hollywood and independent films, the importance of subtext and how to make it in the business were also discussed.
“I don’t know that you actually ever arrive because the way Hollywood is, or the way I’ve discovered the business is, you have to be constantly arriving because the memory there is so very short,” Avary said.
“You have to approach every project as if it’s your first project.”
Peary, a self-proclaimed failed filmmaker, had words of caution for the audience.
“For all the people I know in the world, the little people, it’s really, really hard to get anything done with a screenplay,” Peary said. “Hollywood is full of psychopaths, even more than prisons or any place else.”
But no amount of warning from outside influences had stopped the filmmakers with films in the festival.
Saturday evening’s Spirit of the Hoka awards ceremony was a lively affair, although most of the winning filmmakers were not in attendance. Ole Miss student Jordan Berger won best Mississippi narrative for his short, “Tube,” featuring Rebecca Jernigan, who won a special jury mention for acting and the Lisa Blount Memorial Acting Award.
The winner for best Mississippi documentary was Candace Harrelson for her short, “April’s Way,” the story of her sister who has defied odds by living.
In addition, a special jury mention for human rights was given to “Growing Our Own,” a thought-provoking and moving documentary by Philip Scarborough and Tom Beck about the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation’s Summer Youth Institute.
Taking the top prize for narrative feature was “The Discoverers” by Justin Schwarz, which tells the story of a history professor, his kids and a family vacation detour to search for his lost father.
The festival wrapped up on Sunday with more screenings. If 10 years is any indication of what’s to come, then Oxford and its film community have a lot to live up to for the 11th birthday, and they undoubtedly will.