Crossroads Film Festival celebrates diversity in 20th year: ‘We’ve been doing this the whole time’

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Featuring 102 films from across the globe and the U.S., the 20th annual Crossroads Film Festival will spotlight creatives from groups that have struggled to receive due credit and notable roles in the industry.

“Crossroads Film Festival is celebrating 20 years of bringing Mississippi-made films to the big screen,” said Philip Scarborough, a founding member of Crossroads Film Society and current Society Board President. “This year we’ve taken special care to select films made in Mississippi or by Mississippi filmmakers, and films by youth, LGBTQ, female, and filmmakers of color. We’re also very excited about the five master classes – all presented by seasoned professionals – including screenwriting, set design, cinematography, production, and casting.”

Founded in 1999, the Crossroads Film Society celebrates the art of filmmaking in all of its diversity and depth with film screenings year-round and with its annual film festival each spring. This year’s festival begins at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Malco Grandview Cinema in Madison.

Three of the theater’s screens — known as A, B and C during the festival — are reserved for four days of movie screenings (some followed by discussion panels) and workshops that have matured into “master classes.”

“We have made a commitment this year to the educational aspects of the festival,” said  Michele Baker, festival coordinator. “In the past, we’ve done workshops, but these are going to be on a whole different level. We call them master classes, and we’re going to have really top notch folks come and talk to us about these topics.”

In addition to promoting dialogue through educational opportunities for audiences and filmmakers, the Society also had made it their mission to be inclusive of all types of films and filmmakers, especially those from underrepresented communities.

“Most filmmakers in Hollywood are still white males, Baker said. “They still have absolutely valid stories to tell. But there are other folks who have other ideas of what the world looks like. We want those films to be heard and seen. People need to see different representations of what’s happening in the world. It’s important to see films made by kids or films made by women or films made by transgender people or films made by African American cast and crews. It’s important for everyone to have a seat at the table.”

Crossroads Film Society

Directed by Jackson native Jaclyn Bethany, The Delta Girl takes place in 1964 in Mississippi during the height of the Civil Rights movement. The movie is part of the “Her Body and Other Shorts by Female Filmmakers” theme block during the 2019 Crossroads Film Festival.

This year’s festival is divided into nineteen themed blocks, including “A Son Inherit & Other LGBTQ Stories from Near and Far;” “Her Body and Other Shorts by Female Filmmakers;” and “Freedom Stories by Young Filmmakers,” a collection of short stories by Mississippi youth exploring the civil rights era.

Most blocks include short films or documentaries — some just three minutes at length.

“The whole point to me in going to the movies is to be challenged by some new idea,” said Baker. “The strength of film festivals is that we are able to show films that are in such a short format, because it’s really hard to go to the regular theater and see something that’s nine minutes long. (The festival) is a vehicle to show amazing stuff that doesn’t require an hour and forty minutes to tell a story. It’s the best way I’ve seen to get those up and coming filmmakers an opportunity to show what they got.”

Even though they may not be “good at tooting our own horn about it,” the Crossroads Film Society notes that they are “pretty good at being inclusive.” If people did not recognize that the previous nineteen years, they are in for an intentional lineup of diverse films.

To see that lineup and learn more about the Crossroads Film Festival click here.