UM Students Make Contributions to Oxford Film Festival

Five have entered films for the Feb. 7-11 event; two are helping create Hoka award statues

Blake Horner, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, explains how he makes 3-D prints of the Hoka statue to be be presented at this year’s Oxford Film Festival. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Whether it’s on the screen or behind the scenes, University of Mississippi students are making significant contributions to 2018 Oxford Film Festival.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the event runs from Feb. 7 to 11. Opening night is at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, the festival’s inaugural site. Other screenings and event locations include the Malco Oxford Commons, Powerhouse Community Arts Center and the Oxford Conference Center.

“We are excited about this year and thrilled we’ve made it this far,” said Melanie Addington, executive director of the festival. “The university supports us in various ways and has been accommodating since the first film festival 15 years ago. The festival originated at the Ford Center, so it’s really special to be returning to it 15 years later.”

A highlight of the weekend is the Saturday night awards ceremony, where winners receive The Spirit of the Hoka Award statues. Originally made by retired Ole Miss art instructor Bill Beckwith, the awards are manufactured at the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence using a 3-D printer.

“This project has been a really great learning experience for two of our students, Blake Horner and Lauren Kiel,” said Tyler Biggs, CME admissions counselor. “They have been the driving force behind the project.”

Kiel is a junior mechanical engineering and business administration major from Bloomingdale, Illinois. Horner is a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Frankfort, Illinois.

The biggest challenge for the project was getting the Hoka into a usable file for the 3-D printer. The students did this by scanning the statue with one of CME’s 3-D scanners.

“This turned the Hoka into a 3-D digital image that was then converted to a file for the printers,” Biggs said. “Once scanned and uploaded, the 3-D printer superheats, then went layer-by-layer creating a replica of the Hoka statue with a high-grade plastic material.”

Each print could take upwards of 12 hours because of the size and detail of the statue, he added.

The university is a sponsor of the festival and several students and staff members have short film entries.

Christina Huff, of Oxford, a filmmaker and Ole Miss alumnus, has two films in this year’s festival. The first is a short film that commemorates the 20th anniversary of “Thacker Mountain Radio Hour,” and the second is titled “Birthing Video,” a study on color.

“Filmmaking has always been a passion of mine and it’s important to me to express myself through my work and to share it with others,” Huff said. “There’s so much support and community in OFF that I feel really lucky to be a part of, and I’m so glad other people around the world get to experience it, too.”

Other UM entrants include “Johnny’s Greek and Three,” directed by Ava Lowery, and “Randy Weeks: Mississippi Songwriter,” directed by Keerthi Chandrashekar, Je’Monda Roy and Jimmy Thomas.

The film festival’s schedule is inclusive of all ages and social groups. Film categories include animated short, documentary feature and short, experimental short, Mississippi narrative and documentary, and narrative feature and short.

The festival will open at the Ford Center with Adam Rifkin’s “The Last Movie Star,” formerly named “Dog Years.” Rifkin is best known for his work on the television series “Look,” as well as the movies “Detroit Rock City” and “Chase,” starring Charlie Sheen. “The Last Movie Star” has a star-studded cast, including Burt Reynolds and Ariel Winter.

The Oxford Film Festival was created in 2003 to bring exciting, new and unusual films, and the people who create them, to north Mississippi. The five-day film festival continues to attract quality films and highlight the talents of young filmmakers from all over the world.

It screens short and feature-length films in both showcase and competition settings, hosts panel discussions on issues in contemporary filmmaking and invites filmmakers to interact with audiences at a number of social events.

The festival is also bringing in members of the Oxford community, with more than 300 volunteers and several local filmmakers. Eighteen Oxford filmmakers are represented with 19 local films.

Besides the array of films, OFF includes several new panels, including a Seed and Spark workshop on crowdfunding films and discussions that educate attendees about the filmmaking process. The festival also will host a screening of the 1998 David Zucker film, “Baseketball,” as well as a “Baseketball” tournament.

For the younger crowd, OFF is adding a complete children’s festival at the Powerhouse, after last year’s trial run was deemed successful. Besides kid-friendly films, workshops for children will teach the basics of filmmaking, editing, costuming, writing and more.

Some 204 films – 35 features, 169 shorts and music videos – including 29 world premieres and six U.S. premieres, were selected for OFF’s 15th anniversary edition, marking an increase of more than 30 films from last year’s lineup.

Tickets are available online and student rates are available on day passes, multiday passes and single-film tickets. To purchase tickets and for a complete schedule, visit