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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Movies and magnolias: Magnolia Film Festival brings independent films back to Starkville

Patricia Chica | Courtesy Photo
Patricia Chica, Director of “Ceramic Tango”

Starkville’s silver screen will change its reel from Hollywood blockbusters to independent films this weekend for the Magnolia Film Festival. Hollywood Premier Cinemas, located off of Stark Road, will host the festival, which runs from Thursday until Saturday. 

The festival’s origin dates back to 1997 when Chicago-native filmmaker Ron Tibbett moved to Mississippi only to discover there were no film festivals. Thus, he started Magnolia Film Festival, which has been held in Starkville every year since its inception. 

In 2004, Tibbett was killed in a car crash, but his influence has lasted a decade now and is felt locally and internationally. 

Melanie Addington, who directs the Oxford Film Festival, said Tibbett’s influence is felt even in Oxford. 

“Ron Tibbett led Mississippi into the state of the film industry it is today,” Addington said. “Our festival began after someone in Oxford attended Magnolia and thought it was such a great idea that we decided to try it as well. We still honor Ron Tibbett’s memory at our festival by providing an audience award in his name.”

Among the films screening at the festival is a short film, “Ceramic Tango,” directed by Canadia-native Patricia Chica. 

Chica said the film is a new type of horror story that subverts the genre’s traditional sensationalism.

“‘Ceramic Tango’ is a film without the gore and blood of typical horror films,” she said. “Violence happens within the character. The audiences of horror film festivals say this film is new and fresh.” 

The film has screened at 35 film festivals, including Cannes Film Festival, and has received seven international awards as well, including Best International Short Film at the Monteria Film Festival in Monteria, Columbia. 

Richard Cardinal, lead actor in the film, said the film is one not to be missed. Cardinal also warns the audience to watch out, as his character in the film, covered in gray body paint, lends a menacing edge to the story. 

“I am coming after you,” he said. 

Though “Ceramic Tango” intends to frighten its audiences, Cardinal said the film leaves its viewers with a clear meaning.

“The film has a potent, powerful message at the end,” he said. “The audience will be in awe of the message. Patricia Chica has a specialty to give powerful messages in film. That is what she is known for.”

In 2000, Chica traveled the film festival circuit with her first film out of school. After winning awards at the festival for her film “The Promise,” she crossed paths with Tibbett, who insisted she premier her film in Mississippi at his film festival. She took him up on the suggestion and won the Magnolia Film Festival’s highest award.

Following her first showing in Starkville, Chica said she committed to bringing her films back to the city at every available opportunity.  

“Since my film was titled ‘The Promise,’ I made a promise to return every year that I have a film to show at festivals,” Chica said.

Chica’s next film was not ready until 2008, four years after Tibbett’s death, but she contacted the festival’s administration because she wanted to fulfill her promise. 

That promise holds strong to this day. 

Chica has screened all of her films at the Magnolia Film Festival and has also served on the judging jury, but she said the people she meets in Mississippi comprise her meaningful relationship with the festival. 

“My favorite part of the Magnolia Film Festival is building friendships with Mississippi filmmakers and audience members,” Chica said. “In Mississippi, the community is so warm and eager to meet filmmakers, unlike in cities such as Los Angeles and New York.” 

Chica’s commitment is so strong that she will conduct a master class on film for free. Chica will dish all of her secrets to success in the filmmaking business. The master class, which will take place Saturday after the matinee screenings, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get candid, unfiltered advice from a well-respected filmmaker.

This year, 22 films were selected for the festival out of a large and growing number of entries. 

Angella Baker, director of the festival, said the festival’s lineup holds an array of films this year. 

“(The festival) offers a wide variety of films from animations, to suspense, historical documentaries, short comedies and even foreign films with subtitles,” she said. 

The festival is open to submissions by student filmmakers as well. This year, three student films were submitted and will screen at the festival, which Baker said has a series of awards dedicated to student films.

“The United Way of North Central Mississippi is sponsoring the student award this year,” Baker said. “Student involvement is very important, and we hope to have more entries next year.” 

The films are grouped together for periodical screenings throughout the day. Screenings run on Thursday and Friday from 7 – 10 p.m., Saturday 1 – 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. Admission to each screening costs $10. Attendees can also purchase an all-Saturday pass for $20 or an all-festival pass for $25. 

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Movies and magnolias: Magnolia Film Festival brings independent films back to Starkville