Macon film fest returns


For years, Macon’s artistic legacy has been its music. Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers Band, Little Richard and more all emerged onto the world stage from their humble beginnings in Macon. For the past few years, however, a group of Macon artists have been giving Macon a name as a hub for independent film, as well.

The Macon Film Festival, created in part by Mercer professor Craig Coleman, wrapped up its seventh year this weekend with screenings of 125 films ranging from documentaries to animations to narrative shorts. MAGA, as the festival is known as, ran from February 16 to 19, played host to filmmakers from more than 15 countries and averaged about 500 viewers per day. Ticket sales were up 30% from previous years, making this the Macon Film Festival’s most successful year.

Offering screenings at three downtown venues — The Cox Capital Theatre, the Douglas Theatre and the 567 Center for Renewal — MAGA saw a wide variety of film genres being screened across the weekend, giving out awards and prize money to the best films in each genre.

Contestants entered their films in the categories of animation, experimental, student, documentary, narrative short and narrative feature. Additionally, the festival gave out a “best in show” prize. This year’s winner was the narrative feature A Wake, directed by Penelope Buitenhuis.

A Wake follows the reunion of a formerly successful theatre company at the wake of their murdered director. Reminiscent of other indie dramas such as The Royal Tenenbaums, the Canadian drama unravels years of secrets behind the band of thespians. In an interesting directorial move, all the film’s dialog was improvised rather than scripted.

A Wake also recieved best in show awards from the Southern Appalachian International Film Festival and the Toronto Women’s Eye Film Festival, as well as a best screenplay award from the Rhode Island Film Festival.

Other standout films at the festival included the documentary Grow!. Jointly directed by filmmakers Christine Anthony and Owen Masterton, Grow! explores the rising sustainable farming movement, fueled in large part by young, college-educated farmers that have left their cities in pursuit of an agrarian dream. The documentary was filmed in and around 12 Georgia farms.

The student category saw a wide range of talent and creativity on display, most notably in the category winner Missile Crisis. The short, directed by Jaye Davidson, follows a 13 year-old boy as he attempts to protect his little brother from the looming shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as problems within their own family.

In addition to the screenings, awards and after-parties, MAGA also hosted a wide variety of panels geared towards both aspiring filmmakers and fans. Special guest Joseph Uliano, himself a Dublin native, hosted a panel on his work in music videos. Currently based in Los Angeles, Uliano has produced videos for The Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, Bruno Mars and more.

Other featured filmmakers included Macon native Carrie Preston, whose debut film That’s What She Said was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival this past January. Her film closed out the festival and included a special question and answer session via Skype.