Coming soon:Big Muddy film festival

By Gus Bode

The Big Muddy Film Festival is coming Feb 25. It may be a bit early to start plugging it, but it’s not too early to talk about some of the films that may be on their way to town. This weekend provided the first taste of films for those of us lucky enough to be on the pre-screening committee. After three years of working with the festival, I am still amazed by the dedication of independent filmmakers.

Independent documentaries have been getting a lot of attention over the past year or so with the success of films like “Super Size Me” and “Control Room”. These two films represent growth in the genre, but there are also thousands of other documentaries that go unnoticed.

The equipment needed to make your own documentary is getting cheaper. For about $5,000 anyone can buy a professional level camera, a computer, some editing software, and start their own production company. After that, all you need is a story to tell.


Why is it that documentaries have been such a common outlet for political thought? Both the films mentioned above reflect a general distrust of mass media as a source of information. The granddaddy of docs this year, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, also reflects that distrust. The ever-expanding business interests of media corporations have infected the product, so people are picking up their own cameras and trying to tell stories the way they see them.

Two films seen at this weekend’s pre-screening offer an amazing example of how a documentary can give a side of the story we haven’t seen.

“Anaconda Targets” is made up entirely of targeting footage and sound recorded during a bombing mission in Afghanistan. The filmmaker did nothing to change the order or appearance of the video. The final product is a stunning look at the videogame-like nature of modern warfare. Seeing the event as the fighter pilot saw and heard it is amazing. The cold-blooded efficiency of American weapons is almost unbelievable as we see ten or fifteen nameless figures completely wiped out.

“Off to War” is a chronicle of a National Guard unit from Arkansas, and some of the soldiers’ experiences going to, and in, Iraq. The filmmaker does very little to direct the action, allowing the soldiers to speak for themselves. Their attitudes shift dramatically from the days leading up to their deployment to the dog days of their two years of duty overseas. This film is unique in that it does not take a stance on the war, it just shows the real-life effect war has on families and small towns in America.

Keep an eye on the Big Muddy Film Festival for documentaries that will show you something new.