Big Muddy Film Festival celebrates 40th anniversary

By Kitt Fresa, Staff Writer

For the 40th year, the Big Muddy Film Festival will showcase films from all over the world for the public to enjoy for free.

From Feb. 19 until Feb. 25, the festival will show 73 films throughout the campus and Carbondale community with genre specific venues located across Carbondale.

Some of the categories being shown are “Saturday Morning Cartoons”, “Female Empowerment Showcase”, and “It Came From The Big Muddy”, which is part of the horror genre.


Viewers can attend the different venues depending on what genre of movies they would like to see, said Big Muddy Vice President Kennedy Joseph. 

“It’s kind of just determinate on what you want to see and where you want to go because we have something for everyone,” Joseph said.

Big Muddy has 18 members who are split up into three committees. The Big Muddy film crew said anyone is welcome to join the organization whether enrolled at SIU or not.

“We encourage everyone from every major to come because you play a big part in just helping out,” President of Big Muddy, Kelechi Agwuncha said. “It’s a collective thing where we decide and critique. You learn so much just from how the process works and seeing it all come through with the festival is just incredible.”

For it’s 40th anniversary, Big Muddy will be celebrating all the past films and filmmakers featured in the festival.

A big part of the festival is the John Michaels award. John Michaels was a Big Muddy crew member and SIU alumnus.

After Michael’s death, the Big Muddy Festival added an award category in his name to memorialize Michael’s cinema style that focuses on creating inspiring stories about struggles for social justice, locally and in the world, Agwuncha said.


A special committee decides what film receives the award along with the runners-up.

The Personal Relations Chair of Big Muddy, Aster Arseneau, said her favorite part of the process is selecting the films for the film festival.

“We all come together as this super passionate group of cinema students and we get to watch all these films and debate the cinematics and decide what we want to present at our festival,” Arseneau said. “This is all about our choices, the power is for us.”

The festival has three guests called jurors who were selected to give talks and judge the winners of the experimental, documentary, animation and narrative categories.

The jurors this year are Tom Ludwig, Ben Kalina and Akosua Adoma Owusu.

Tom Ludwig is an award-winning filmmaker and arts educator from Kalamazoo, Mich. according to the film festival’s website. He has taught film interpretation at Western Michigan University and film and video production for Education for the Arts.

Ludwig is an SIU alumnus who graduated in 1981 with an masters in film production.

He’s worked on feature films, commercials, and promotional videos as a director of photography, editor, screenwriter, director and producer in cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Hollywood, according to the film festival’s website.

Ben Kalina is probably best known right now for overseeing production on Netflix’s new comedy series, “Big Mouth”.

According to the film festival’s website, Kalina is also the Chief Operating Officer and Supervising Producer of Titmouse Animation where he is in charge of overseeing production and development across its three studios.

Before Titmouse, Kaline worked in production at Warner Bros. Animation & VFX. There he helped the studio transition from traditional paper animation to a digital workflow.

Akosua Adoma Owusu has been working as a filmmaker, producer and cinematographer since 2005. Her films have screened worldwide from outstanding film festivals to museums, galleries, universities and micro-cinemas.

A few of the exhibitions Owusu has been featured in include New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hammer Museum and Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

A schedule for the entire festival can be found at

Big Muddy is currently looking for volunteers to help run the festival this week. If you would like to volunteer go to to the festival’s website for more information.

Staff writer Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected]

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