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Wrapping up the Tupelo Film Festival

May 16, 2010

Winners of this year’s Tupelo Film Festival were mostly on hand to receive their awards, a change from previous years. The festival wisely reworked some of their funding to be able to pay for hotels and meals for filmmakers for the first time in its seven years. This brought 34 filmmakers out of 45 films to the festival, making for a much more lively event and more interactive for the audience to hear some great Q&A’s.

But more filmmakers was not the only exciting new addition this year. The festival has incorporated some great new ideas including a beer garden outside The Lyric theater, larger badges and block formatting of the films. The result was that the festival had its best year ever, both in a larger audience and in general enjoyment of attendees. While, like every festival, Tupelo could continue to tweak some things, the progress this year was tremendous. However, one important thing didn’t change: the hospitality. Pat Rasberry, Sean Johnson and all the other hard-working crew that run the fest are among some of the friendliest and most concerned about making sure people are having a good time.

Although I didn’t get to the opening night on Thursday, attendees said that over 400 people showed up for the fish fry and screening of Zack Godshall’s God’s Architects, as well as the opening concert, Jimbo Mathus. On Friday, I kicked off my film viewing with short documentary, Art Matters, which told the touching story of ArtBridge, a project that teaches homeless children various art projects and music. The filmmaker, Clare Casademont, shared with the crowd that she hopes the story shows that one person can make a difference.

The Mississippi Shorts block almost packed out the house with the screening of short films: Purdies Trouble With Pepper, The Big Hang Up and Zeitbombe.  Afterwards I caught Earthwork, a great narrative feature about real life artist Stan Herd. Actor Chris Bachand, who plays Ryan, did a Q&A afterwards and discussed how the crew built up the earthwork each day and then had to tear down at night – the film was shot in Kansas but was made to look like New York – really interesting to hear how they made the land look wildly different. To end the night we went to Main Street Bar and Grill (which is in the process of changing names) and watched music videos and then heard a blues band. The party was a bit confusing since there were no free drinks or food and only a cash bar with beer only. Despite the good blues band, most people stayed outside so they could talk.

On Saturday I was able to catch the animation block which is always one of my favorites at any festival. Oxford Film Fest alum, Skylight, played and it was my first chance to get to see it on the big screen. Next up was the Mississippi documentary block including When Cotton Blossoms, the touching story of Lawrence Jones and the Piney Woods Country School; Smokes and Ears, Joe York’s documentary on the Big Apple Inn and Paige Williams’ Mississippi Queen which played only miles from the Constance McMillen prom drama and yet did not seem to draw any ire from the crowd. Paige’s parents did a Q&A alongside the When Cotton Blossoms crew and star, Bello Lubin.

The last film I caught was Topeka, Eric Steele’s short film about religious intolerance, being different and small town life which had a creepy tone and some interesting performances with a clever ending.

Before the awards ceremony began, a dozen of us ducked out to try to get something to eat which resulted in a three car run around town as we tried to find a place that wasn’t a long wait. We finally settled on a mexican restaurant that overall was OK thanks to one in our crew knowing Spanish since Zack Godshall’s order seemed impossible to track down. The low-key atmosphere allowed quite a few of us to spend lots of time bonding outside the Lyric Theater and grab meals together.

Filmmakers are celebrated at the end of the 7th annual Tupelo Film Festival.

To end the fest, Tupelo’s own Roy Turner mc’d the awards at The Lyric Theater. Winners are:

Student Film: The Tragic Self Improvement of Ross Lawson, third place; Faded Away, second place; Down in Number 5, first place.

Animation: Sebastian’s Voodoo

Music Video: No More

Short Film: Under God, third place; Land Gewinnen, second place; True Beauty this Night, first place

Documentaries: Smokes and Ears, third place; Mississippi Queen, second place; When Cotton Blossoms, first place

Narrative Feature: I Heart Doomsday, third place; Jack Rabbit Sky, second place; Earthwork, first place.

Best in Show, the Ron Tibbett Award: True Beauty this Night

Screener’s Award: God’s Architects

Audience Choice Music Video: Vampyric

Audience Choice Best film: Purdies Trouble With Pepper

One Comment leave one →
  1. Michael Rose permalink
    May 16, 2010 7:32 pm

    almost as good as being there.

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