By Sheena Barnett
TUPELO – The Tupelo Film Festival is all grown up.
For its first 10 years, the festival was a production of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, under the direction of film commissioner Pat Rasberry. But now the festival can stand on its own, so the Tupelo Film Festival Society is rolling out the red carpet for the 11th annual festival.
The new direction also means many changes for the festival. It’s the first year, for example, that the festival will take place at the Malco instead of downtown at The Lyric. It’s also a few weeks earlier than usual so it won’t conflict with finals and graduations.
“We’re exposing the film festival to our target audience: film-goers,” said Carolyn Parson, who’s directing this year’s festival.
Another change is that the Mississippi High School Film Competition is added to this year’s Tupelo Film Festival.
Student films from across the world, as well as from Mississippi, will be screened throughout the festival.
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in Nashville will give scholarships to winners of this year’s high school film competition.
“We feel very honored that they chose our film festival,” said Roy Turner, president of the Tupelo Film Festival Society. “One of our missions is to foster young filmmakers.”
The festival will also include free workshops for young filmmakers.
The Japan-America Society of Mississippi has partnered with the festival to screen three children’s films on April 18.
“We’re trying to expand our cultural knowledge,” Turner said. “(Independent films) are entertainment, but they’re also educational and informative.”
That same day, the festival will remember Academy Award-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman with a screening of his film “Capote.” His friend and fellow actor Frank Vitolo will remember Hoffman at the screening.
Dim the lights
Despite the changes, one thing remains true about the festival: there will be plenty of films to see.
The Tupelo Film Festival offers a variety of narrative features, documentaries, short films and music videos. Many of the filmmakers will be on hand to discuss their films.
Some films that will screen at the festival include:
• “Life Liberty & Resilience,” a documentary about a Columbus man who traces his ancestors back to slavery and discusses his service in World War II.
• the Gary Busy narrative feature, “Confessions of a Womanizer.”
• “The Silent Epidemic: The Untold Story of Vaccines,” a documentary that will surely create debate.
• “Kane,” a superhero short by West Point director Michael Williams.
The festival wraps on April 19 with the awards ceremony, dinner and live music.
“If you love stories, indie film is another way to tell a story,” Parson said. “It’s like opening a book. Somebody takes you to another world and you experience a different part of the world.”
ON THE BIG SCREEN
• What: 11th annual Tupelo Film Festival
• When: April 17-19
• Where: Malco Theater, Tupelo
• Cost: $15/adult day pass, $7.50/student or senior day pass, $35/weekend pass, $10/awards dinner. Student film screenings and workshops are all free.
• Info: tupelofilmfestival.net