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Fifth Annual Oxford Film Festival

The Fifth Annual Oxford Film Festival (OFF) will open Wednesday evening, February 6, in Oxford, Mississippi, with a documentary feature: Business of Being Born. For the next four days, an exciting array of films will be shown at various venues in the city. Andy Sacks, producer of 2004 Academy Award winner Two Soldiers, praises the Oxford Film Festival saying “I’ve been to a few film festivals and this is definitely one of the top ones.”

On Saturday night OFF will host an awards gala that will begin at 8:30 PM, and on Sunday the Festival will present a re-screening of the winning films and nominees. So plan to come early and stay late.

By using the website’s festival calendar, you can create your own personal schedule of films for viewing. I have already begun a list of films that include such documentary features as Mississippi Chicken, the documentary short Harry Crews: Survival is Triumph Enough, American Fork (a narrative feature), several music documentaries, and a number of narrative shorts.

OFF is fortunate to have three dedicated and talented directors, Molly Fergusson, Michelle Emanuel, and Micah Ginn, at its helm. Molly Fergusson says “ Every year we have tried to select films that will appeal to different audiences. This year we have close to 90 films in nine different categories. There is something for everyone.” Co-director Michelle Emanuel adds “We try to program a wide range of diverse films…from experimental shorts to thought-provoking documentaries such as The Listening Project and Moving Midway to "mockumentaries" and satire such as Blood Car.

“We work very hard to bring good films (and the people who make them) to Oxford,” continues Molly. “ We pride ourselves on keeping festival admission prices low so that students and members of the community can enjoy everything we have to offer. The filmmakers that come to the festival are so generous with their time and enjoy meeting and talking to everyone. It is a great opportunity for those who may not otherwise get a chance to meet producers, directors and actors to talk to them one on one in a relaxed environment. At OFF we have screened films that have later been broadcast on television and have hosted filmmakers that continue to be involved in big projects. The support we get from our sponsors and audiences and the spirit of Oxford during the festival continues to impress those that visit and they are happy to spread the word.”

Michelle celebrates the sheer pleasure of being associated with an independent film festival. “One of the great things about an independent film festival is to make connections with filmmakers early in their careers. Then when they become super-famous, you can impress your friends with how you saw them in their first feature way back when.”

This year the Festival will present Kabluey and American Fork both from first-time features screenwriters Scott Prendergast and Hubbel Palmer, respectively. Prendergast will be a guest at the festival. Furthermore, Oxford will host the southeastern premiere of The Listening Project. This will be the first time that any festival has seen the final cut.  Photo below is from American Fork.

Participants lavish praise on OFF. Here are just a few of the tributes.

“This was my first film festival to attend and I just wanted you and the crew to know that I was really impressed and super thankful for the hotel and the gift bag and the chance to finally get to hang out with people who love to do what I love to do: make films!” — J. Justin Pearce, Katrina Diary

“Thanks so much for a wonderful weekend. Good films, good people, and good vibes made for an excellent time. Can't wait ‘til next year!” — Andrew Delmastro, Star Wars, 7th Edition

“The Oxford Film Festival has been amazing. Really, really cool people running the show here. Lots of great parties. … Friday evening was our first showing. The theater was almost packed, and the audience was very enthusiastic. … Almost everyone stayed afterwards for the Q&A.” — Logan Smalley (winner 2007 for best documentary Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life ) Watch Swampland for an upcoming feature on Smalley and Darius Goes West.

“This is definitely the most original awards ceremony I’ve ever seen. You guys are building a great festival here. We look forward to coming back next year with more films.” — Darren Goldberg, producer of Blackballed: the Bobby Dukes Story, winner of the 2004 Audience Award at South by Southwest Festival.

“Oxford is a charming, kicked-back town with history oozing from it pores. The people have a knack for socializing and a respect for art. Its film festival sparkles with youthful vitality and ambition. It’s well organized and focused on quality, both in programming and presentation. While you're there, take time to visit William Faulkner's bucolic estate.” — Tom Huckabee, producer of Frailty

Prospective attendees can purchase tickets for OFF in advance or during the festival itself at the venue's box office. Online ticket sales will be available from Malco.com at the end of January 2008. A One Day Pass is $10  or $7 with a valid student I.D. The Festival Pass is $30 or $20 with a valid student I.D. 

-- Penne J. Laubenthal

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