EVFF 2008 fetes Joan Allen

I’ve written before that C-U Blogfidential may seem at times to ignore the “cities beyond,” such as Bloomington-Normal, but this is due to the sporadic manner in which qualifying news emerges from those locales. Charleston fares worse then B-N in this regard, but Eastern Illinois University temporarily fills that void each fall with the Embarras Valley Film Festival (EVFF). It recognizes the contribution of area natives and EIU alumni to the entertainment industry and touches upon contemporary topics inherent to their work.

Starting today, Tuesday, November 4, the fourth annual EVFF focuses on the work of Oscar-nominated actress Joan Allen. Featured films will include PLEASANTVILLE (1998) and THE CONTENDER (2000), both at Charleston’s Will Rogers Theatre on Saturday, November 8, along with THE CRUCIBLE (1996, Nov. 4), OFF THE MAP (2003, Nov. 5), and THE ICE STORM (1997, Nov. 6) at EIU’s Doudra Fine Arts Center. Numerous speakers, including C-U film critic Chuck Koplinski and Monticello film producer Robin Christian, will take turns discussing the art, craft, and themes of these movies.

“EVFF addresses, makes transparent, and lauds the cultural history of central Illinois by highlighting the work of area residents who have contributed to filmic history and the film industry,” says Robin L. Murray, an EVFF co-chair who also teaches English and advises the Film Studies minor at EIU. “Joan Allen was chosen because her film work highlighted both politics and feminism,” she continues, “[which are] two important issues during this election year.” The previous editions gave props to character actor William Phipps, actor/singer Burl Ives, and author James Jones.

While the EVFF itinerary is more academic in scope than what C-U filmgoers are accustomed to with Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, both crowd-pleasing affairs came about in similar fashion. “[EVFF] was the brainchild of Kit Morice and Joy Wohlman Boyce, two Coles County Arts Council members,” Murray explains to CUBlog. “They initiated our concentration on film industry participants from the region and alumni of Eastern Illinois,” beginning with a tribute to Charleston native and cinematography icon Gregg Toland that paved the way for EVFF. In minor contrast, “Ebertfest” famously spun off from the University of Illinois‘ one-shot “Cyberfest” event of 1997, which featured a popular big-screen revival of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

Murray points out that Eastern Illinois offers additional movie activity apart from EVFF. “We have an RSO [registered student organization] that shows films every Wednesday, an [electronic] newsletter, campus-wide film contests, and a Central Illinois Feminist Film Festival [scheduled for] the last week of March,” she continues, “[and] we have a state-of-the-art lecture room dedicated to film, as well as other classes and events, in the Doudna Fine Arts Center.” EIU also has production facilities available to students in Communication Studies and Journalism, although no film school is offered.

More information on the course work for the Film Studies minor can be found right here, while additional details about this year’s Embarras Valley Film Festival can be seen below.

~ Jason Pankoke


From October 23, 2008:


Embarras Valley Film Festival to spotlight EIU alumna Joan Allen

(Charleston, IL) The fourth annual Embarras Valley Film Festival (EVFF), honoring Eastern Illinois University alumna Joan Allen, will take place November 4-8, 2008, on the EIU campus and in downtown Charleston.

Throughout the week, there will be afternoon sessions and evening film screenings with discussions led by members of the EIU faculty, as well as film screenings at the Will Rogers Theatre and an afternoon reception at Miller’s Banquet Hall on Saturday.

Many of the EVFF presenters are area natives who have found major film-related success.

Craig Titley and Luke Ryan, both Mattoon natives and EIU alumni, will lead a screenwriting workshop at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, November 6, in Room 2690, Doudna Fine Arts Center. Titley was a screenwriter for SCOOBY DOO as well as CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN and its sequel. Ryan, screenwriter for the HAROLD AND KUMAR franchise, is now vice president of theatrical productions at MGM Studios.

A Charleston native and EIU alumnus, Dann Gire, will be the keynote speaker for the Friday evening session, with a presentation based on interviews with Joan Allen. Gire, a film critic for the Arlington Heights Daily Herald and president of the Chicago Film Critics Association, will speak in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall at 7:30 p.m. Gire has contributed to the EVFF each year with presentations and film introductions.

And EIU graduate Andrew Rodgers, executive director of the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, will be among speakers during the Friday afternoon symposium, also to be held in the Lecture Hall.

Other speakers during the week will include Julia Lesage, founder and publisher of Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media; Chuck Kleinhans, co-editor of Jump Cut; and Murray Pomerance, editor for several books on film, including SUNY Press’ Horizons of Cinema.

The EVFF will also feature activities for area youth. A stop-motion animation workshop for ages 11-18 will begin at 10 a.m. on November 1 at the Tarble Arts Center. A workshop for younger children, “Magic Picture Shows,” and a story hour will be held the morning of Saturday, November 8, in the Charleston Public Library, 712 Sixth St.

The festival will conclude Saturday, November 8, with showings of two critically acclaimed Joan Allen films at the Will Rogers Theatre, 705 Monroe Ave.PLEASANTVILLE at 2 p.m. and THE CONTENDER at 7 p.m. They will be introduced by Dann Gire and Chuck Koplinski, who reviews movies for WCIA-TV in Champaign and several newspapers, including the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and Springfield’s Illinois Times.

Between films, a reception with a 1950s flair will be held at Miller’s Banquet Facility, featuring period food and music. Student films created during the stop-motion workshop and by students in Effingham and Teutopolis high schools’ film production programs will be screened at the reception.

The festival is co-sponsored by the EIU College of Arts and Humanities Excellence in Fine Arts Fund; the Doudna Fine Arts Center; Booth Library, EIU; the Coles County Arts Council; and the Charleston Public Library.

A complete schedule, as well as information on Allen’s career, is available online at http://www.evff.net. All events are free and open to the public.


Michael Watts, assistant dean
EIU College of Arts and Humanities

mwatts [at] eiu [dot] edu

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