OXFORD • The Aug. 7 arrest of 680 immigrant workers at Mississippi chicken processing plants led one film fellowship to dedicate this cycle of submissions specifically to immigrant stories.
The Oxford Film Festival announced its 2020 Magnifying Glass Fellowship has opened, and submissions will be accepted until Sept. 30.
This is the fourth year that the fellowship has been offered. The fellowship helps fund short films that explore social inequalities. Most projects tend to be two to five minutes in length, and the budget limit is $2,500.
“We had sort of left it open in general for the past couple of years, but this year, with recent events, we decided to focus the grant down to anything having to deal with immigrant issues in our state,” said Melanie Addington, the executive director of the Oxford Film Festival.
Partners for the project include the Atlanta Film Society, Indie Memphis, the Center for Documentary Research and Practice at Indiana University, Cucalorus, New Orleans Film Festival, and Artless Media.
The Magnifying Glass Fellowship is open to projects made by and about people living or working in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana or North Carolina with preference being given to filmmakers who are documenting communities they belong to, according to the Artless Media website. The Oxford Film Festival crew will specifically be looking for stories central to Mississippi.
Addington said that while previous years were left open in terms of film ideas, they are prioritizing films that look at issues related to immigrant rights in Mississippi this grant cycle.
Previous awardees include Louis Bourgeois’s “No Where To Go,” about affordable housing; Robbie Fisher’s “Dear Mr. Bryant,” about HB 1523, which would create legal protections for business owners with “sincerely held” religious beliefs to refuse service to gays; and Jonathan Smith’s “Remembering Elwood Higginbottom,” which documented a plaque being created in remembrance of the last recorded person to be lynched in Lafayette County in 1935.
Addington said she spoke with Russell Sheaffer, who helps provide the grants for the Magnifying Glass fellowship, about focusing specifically on immigration rights.
“We’re trying something new. With what’s happened, the largest federal raid in our state, we feel like somebody needs to make sure that information is documented and those stories are told,” Addington said.
From the time she first became executive director, Addington said she wanted the festival to become a resource that helped filmmakers year-round, and was glad to see this grant is consistent.
The Oxford Film Festival will provide one fellowship this year. They will play the recipient’s film at the Oxford Film Festival in March. Addington said that she has received anywhere from five to 25 applicants in a year, but hopes that this year more people will be interested in sharing their stories. While previous years have seen applicants from northern portions of Mississippi, she would love to see some submissions from south Mississippi in order to tell the whole state’s story.
The festival shows stories from all over the world, Addington said, and felt it is vital Mississippi filmmakers have grants that allow them to produce their films.
“For us, the grant is twofold: one, to support Mississippi film and two, to have Mississippi films told not just to show locally here at our festival, which it does, but then for them to go on and play that anywhere else at any other festival so that people can learn about Mississippi,” Addington said.