Screen Dreams Student Film Makers, Professionals Converge on Carbondale, Ill

Article excerpt

The film studies program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale has been gaining increasing credibility over the years. The school seems to be turning out more and better students making their mark as professionals, most notably Steve James and Frederick Marx, who made the acclaimed documentary "Hoop Dreams."

As the school's reputation has grown, so has its annual showcase of films from around the country. The Big Muddy Film Festival, now in its 18th year, is a huge event with 70 films on the schedule, plus workshops, visiting filmmakers and one of the region's few screenings of contemporary animated films.

The festival is a mix of documentaries, narrative and experimental films. It offers a large-screen retrospective -- and often the first Sou thern Ill. showing -- of bigger titles, such as "Priest" and "Unzipped," which have already made it to video, as well unknown and less commercial works that don't get wide release.

The ten-day event began last Friday, but culminates this weekend when th e crowds get a bit larger. The highlights are Saturday afternoon's session of animated shorts and Sunday's Best of the Fest, which shows the top prize winners.

In all, the festival received about 200 entries this year from a variety of filmmakers. Committees of film professionals, with help from students, sorted through the films, paring them down to those being screened throughout the Carbondale community, on campus and in local restaurants and coffeehouse. …