by Coop Cooper
Why should you check out the 2nd Annual Clarksdale Film Festival? I can think of a few reasons…
1. Memphis wrestling idols “Superstar” Bill Dundee and Buddy Wayne will be on hand Thursday night for a Q&A following the documentary “Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’.” Anyone who grew up in the area remembers seeing these guys performing on live TV or at the Clarksdale Civic Auditorium. If you missed this event by the time you read this article, pay close attention. There is much more to look forward to the rest of the weekend…
2. Live music by Sean “Bad” Apple (and Johnnie Billington on Friday night) in the lobby at 6pm before the main shows. Sean’s “Hill Country” blues style has made him a local juke joint favorite.
3. $5 per day or $10 for the entire event ticket price. You can’t beat that at any other film festival in the state. Also, the prices at the concession stand are a steal!
4. The Delta Cinema: Also known as the old “Tyson” theater, the Delta Cinema holds special memories for nearly every resident who grew up in Clarksdale and the Delta. Come back to re-experience this classic venue.
5. Documentaries about “Clarksdale Celebrities”: Within the small confines of Clarksdale, we have musicians and personalities who are world famous. Documentarians come from all over the world to feature them in movies. Come see films about Watermelon Slim, James “T-Model” Ford, Big Jack Johnson, Terry “Big T” Williams, “Honeyboy” Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, Muddy Waters and many more.
6. Veteran Mississippi actor and Tennessee Williams Festival participant Johnny McPhail has no less than three films (“25K,” “Where I Begin,” and “Gypsy Heart”) playing at the festival. Johnny’s next acting project will be in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming “Django Unchained.” Come to the festival Saturday to meet this prolific, one-of-a-kind actor.
7. Network with the up-and-coming filmmakers/actors of Mississippi: The most hard working and dedicated film talent in the state make the “circuit” and attend nearly every film festival their film is accepted into. Many of them now include Clarksdale in that list and this new generation will be on hand to mingle and present their films to the public. Ignore the velvet ropes and meet as many as you can because one day we could be bragging about how these future stars are fellow Mississippians.
8. A very special screening of “The Help” on Saturday at 7pm will feature a Q&A panel of Mississippi residents who helped in making the film possible. Come hear their stories! The film features several scenes shot in and around Clarksdale, using many local resources and extras.
9. An unprecedented two fictional films (“Land” by Will Goss and “The Best Day” Coop Cooper) and numerous documentaries made by Clarksdale residents will screen at the festival. Some of the notable local documentarians include Roger Stolle, Leonette Henderson, Conor Coughlin, John Rusky, Vincent Productions (Gary Vincent) and selections from the Barefoot Workshop program which uses Clarksdale as a bi-annual location for filmmaking. This confirms the momentous fact that Clarksdale does indeed have an active and growing filmmaking community.
10. The honor of having a film festival in Mississippi: In 1996 there were no film festivals in the state. Now there are over a dozen with at least two more starting up this year. Clarksdale has joined the ranks of larger cities to include filmmaking and celebration of movies into its culture. I’d say that’s a very large source of pride for Clarksdale, one that could reap many future rewards.