a conversation with Baker on Crossroads Film Festival

By NIKKI ROWELL,

Crossroads Film Festival has brought a wide variety of films to the Jackson metro for 20 years. This year, the festival will kick off on April 11. Michele Baker, festival coordinator, spoke with Sun reporter Nikki Rowell all about Crossroads.

 

What is Crossroads?

“Crossroads Film Society was created 21 years ago, and the film festival is in its 20th year. The major thing we do is the film festival, but we also do Screen on the Green in partnership with the art museum. We do the screenings at the Eudora Welty house and garden. We do classes for lawyers and nurses that are film-related. We do all sorts of things. The biggest thing that we do is the annual festival.”

 

How did the film festival get started?

“The film festival got started by a group of Southern Miss film school grads, along with some other movie lovers in Jackson. They actually started doing screenings in 1998 before it was called Crossroads. We did the USM student film showcase at New Stage where a group of us who just graduated film school wanted to show off our student films. That did phenomenally well. And then we did another one called the Jackson Filmmakers Showcase, and then we did a third one at Hal and Mal’s called the Mississippi Filmmaker’s Showcase. Meanwhile, someone showing independent films at New Stage and another filmmaker was doing film reviews. Somehow we all got together. Some of us were putting our films in film festivals, so we were traveling all over the country, driving to different film festivals. Part of it, was us going to South by Southwest and seeing this amazing festival and thinking we need to have this in Jackson. That was part of the spark.”

 

How are films selected to be screened at Crossroads? How many are featured each year?

“Hundreds are submitted. Three to five hundred are submitted. We use an online film service called Film Freeway. Films come in from all over the globe, and they are submitted online. We watch and rate them online. A group of volunteers watch and rate them online. Usually, we get between 300 and 600. This year, I think we had 400. Once we have watched them in that first pass, then we take the top-rated ones and we see which of these can we fit into a festival. Because we can’t show everything that we want to show because it’s just too much. Those films are between two minutes and two or longer hours. So, there’s a lot of work to watch and rate those films and figure out which of those we might want to show. Then, we pick what works together. So, there are things that we want to show, but there just wasn’t enough space for it. This year, we are showing 108 films.”

 

You said what fits together, so you have a theme for each year?

“Yes.”

 

What is the theme for this year?

“It’s always some variation of ‘be a part of the story’ or ‘come be a part of the story’ or ‘everybody has a story,’ because Mississippians are storytellers. Film is another way that the story can be told. And it’s a very accessible way, because everybody goes to the movies. You probably don’t know a single person who has never been to the movies.”

“This is an easy way to get your story told. And if you do it well, we put it in Crossroads, and everyone can see it. These are films that you won’t see in other places, because it’s probably never going to happen that an eight-minute short from Starkville will get shown anywhere in Hollywood.”

 

When will the festival take place and where?

“April 11th through the 13th at Malco Grandview in Madison.”

 

Tell me about some of the filmmakers.

“We tend to gravitate toward women filmmakers and LGBTQ filmmakers and filmmakers of color. Diversity of the human story. And Mississippi filmmakers. Which is part of our mission too, to foster Mississippi filmmakers and storytelling.”

“Another group in that same kind of area is also young filmmakers, because we’re also trying to grow the next generation of Mississippi filmmakers. So, youth, female, LGBTQ, filmmakers of color. Groups that have been, in the past, perhaps less, given opportunities, we specifically target those groups.”

 

Are there any specific films that you guys are particularly excited about?

“One film is ‘Native Son.’ It’s an adaptation by a Mississippi author. Kind of a modern-day interpretation of that novel. So, we’re excited to get that. ‘Always in Season’ won at Sundance. It’s a documentary on modern day lynching. That’s why it’s called ‘Always in Season,’ because there is no deer season on people. People are always in season. We’re also showing ‘Coming to America.’ It’s the 25 or 30th anniversary of that film. Along with a workshop masterclass by the writer.”

 

How many people attend each year?

“Usually around 2,500 to 3,000. Around 3,200 is probably a good number.”

 

Where can you get tickets?

“Either online on our website, which is www.crossroadsfilmfestival.com. Or, you can buy tickets at Malco on the weekend of the festival. We have a box office.”

 

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