Q&A du C-U: R. Murray on EVFF

“Five for Filmmaking,” Part 4
A short interview with Robin L. Murray of the Embarras Valley Film Festival

by Jason Pankoke

Due to production delays on our end, C-U Confidential #7 will street a little too late to give our dearest readers the advance scoop on a grouping of fall season film festivals taking place within close proximity on the calendar and geographically to Champaign-Urbana. Therefore, we counter with companion coverage to achieve the same goal, presenting exclusively on C-U Blogfidential the full conversations we had with festival representatives for the article. This is the fourth of five entries.

Owning this weekend is the 9th annual Embarras Valley Film Festival, activities of which are split between the Tarble Arts Center and Doudna Fine Arts Center on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in nearby Charleston. English faculty Robin L. Murray and her contributors select programs each year which creatively fulfill a goal of highlighting individuals, works, and topics relevant to the eponymous Illinois region. Connecting threads in prior EVFF editions include the Hollywood actors Gene Hackman, Joan Allen, and Burl Ives, the cinematographer Gregg Toland, and depictions of Abraham Lincoln as well as children on film.

For 2013, the documentary form is the common denominator with a bonus tie amongst several entries involving music as art, language, and cultural force. The formal sequence began last night, Thursday, November 7, featuring previous New Art Film Festival picks 778 BULLETS and WALLS OF SOUND along with an episode of the experimental series EXPEDITION NATURE’S REALM and the full-length portrait of the southern Illinois town Cairo, BETWEEN TWO RIVERS. Tonight, Friday, November 8, EVFF will play at 7 p.m. a rock festival doc set in Chile and made by EIU instructor Gary Fritz called PIEDRA ROJA, to be followed by several pieces and a concluding music performance tomorrow, Saturday, November 9, beginning at 2 p.m. All shows are free admission.

Murray, an accomplished author of books and articles examining cinema and ecology, also supervises Eastern’s springtime Central Illinois Feminist Film Festival and oversees the university’s Film Studies minor. For now, she describes to CUBlog the impetus behind all things Embarras Valley…

Read on, Ph.MacDuff …

C-U Blogfidential: We’re grateful you could take some time to fill us in about this month’s Embarras Valley Film Festival, Professor Murray! Overall, what qualities of the event do you believe make it unique and attractive in the eyes of festival-goers time after time?

Robin L. Murray: Our tagline highlights what makes this festival unique and attractive – “Great films. Homegrown movie stars. Not such an unlikely combination.” The Embarras Valley Film Festival is a yearly event honoring a person or theme relevant to the Embarras Valley, which encompasses much of east central Illinois. The festival also reaches out to broad audiences, connecting Eastern Illinois University students and faculty with the community and the region.

CUBlog: How did you arrive at the theme of “documentaries” for this year’s fest?

RLM: During the past year or two, several of our talented faculty and their colleagues in the region produced award-winning documentaries, and we wanted to spotlight their work. We also wanted to provide a venue in which filmmakers could respond to audience members, many of whom will be acquainted with the filmmakers as faculty and community members.

The focus on contemporary documentaries from the region responds explicitly to our tagline, demonstrating well that great films and great filmmakers can be homegrown in central Illinois.

CUBlog: In what ways do the departments at EIU contribute to putting together EVFF?

RLM: We have an active committee for EVFF that consists of faculty and staff from various departments around the university. Several of our committee members are library staff. They create exhibits for each year’s EVFF, but they also keep the Web site updated and coordinate children’s programming at the public library. In the English department, we help with programming and are coordinating the student film contest. Faculty from Communication Studies, Biological Sciences, and Geology/Geography are judging film submissions this year. The college of Arts and Humanities also contributes both time and funding.

The associate dean and assistant deans are active members of the committee, and the college includes EVFF in its budget each year, providing funds for film rights and speakers. With [additional] help from the Coles County Arts Council and the Charleston Tourism Council, EVFF fulfills its mission each year.

CUBlog: Will there be special guests speaking or presenting this year?

RLM: This year, we have multiple presenters and musical guests. Cameron Douglas Craig will be introducing his film, EXPEDITION NATURE’S REALM: THE ANTHROPOCENE ERA (2007), David Gracon will be introducing his documentary, WALLS OF SOUND: A LOOK INSIDE THE HOUSE OF RECORDS (2012), and Gary Fritz will be introducing his film, PIEDRA ROJA (2011). After the screenings, Chuck Koplinski will lead a discussion.

The festival will conclude with a preview performance of “America, Illinois” by Stace England & the Salt Kings, followed by a screening of CONFIDENCE MAN (2012) with an introduction by director Bob Streit and producer England, and a discussion led by Dann Gire, founding director of the Chicago Film Critics Association and film critic for the Arlington Heights (IL) Daily Herald.

CUBlog: Finally, given the track record that the Embarras Valley Film Festival has built during the past decade, in which directions would you like to see the endeavor grow or explore in the coming years?

RLM: I am pleased that we are including a film contest this year and hope we can continue this, perhaps opening it up to other genres in the future. I also hope we can showcase the Van Dykes [from Danville, including famous acting brothers Dick of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and Jerry of COACH] in the future, as well as some of the great artists who performed at the Little Theatre on the Square in [nearby] Sullivan.

• Schedule:

Click here for the complete 2013 EVFF schedule!

:: Part 3 | Part 5 ::


Interview conducted October 15, 2013, via e-mail.

CUBlog EXTRA! Interview No.9 © 2013 Jason Pankoke

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