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Oxford Film Festival postponed because of coronavirus health concerns

This is a photo of a Oxford Film Festival poster.
The official Oxford Film Festival 2020 poster.

Donnetta Johnson
Oxford Stories
dsjohns1@go.olemiss.edu

The Oxford Film Festival Board of Directors and staff announced Friday that because of public health concerns regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19), the 2020 Oxford Film Festival, scheduled for March 18 – 22, has been postponed.

“We have concluded that the only responsible decision is to postpone the 2020 festival until later in the year,” Sparky Reardon, chair of the Oxford Film Festival board, said on the Oxford Film Festival Blog. “While we are heart-broken to have to make this decision, our first priority must be the health and safety of our community, our attendees, our supporters, and our filmmakers.”

Tickets and passes will be honored at the rescheduled festival, the website reads.

“It is our intention to present the full slate of exceptional films, speakers and panels at a later date when the festival may be held under conditions deemed safe by governmental and health authorities,” Reardon said via the website.

No specific dates are currently announced for the rescheduled festival. Festival organizers will be in contact with all participants. Those with questions may contact Reardon at (877) 560-3456 or email info@oxfordfilmfest.com.

The festival is a labor of love for Director Melanie Addington, 41. The San Diego native lived many places, including Minnesota and Atlanta, before settling in Oxford.

In Atlanta, she met some of her favorite music stars at a young age. She was working at the local Waffle House when Left Eye and Chili of the band TLC entered to eat.

Growing up, many of her friends were filmmakers and she wanted to become a writer. The death of her brother later led to her love of film. While her parents dealt with the loss of a child, Addington turned to television.

“The TV was my babysitter for my parents,” she said. “I watched plenty of movies during that time.”

This is a photo of the executive director of the Oxford Film Festival.
Photo of the executive director of the Oxford Film Festival.

After viewing the first Marvel movie “Howard the Duck,” which “failed miserably,” she said, Addington wanted to learn more about film.

She said she didn’t know “Howard” was a bad movie at the time. She “just wanted to know how they made the movie.”

She later began to think about becoming a film critic, and she began studying movies.

Addington became the editor of her school newspaper, and she enrolled in California State-San Marco as an English major with thoughts of becoming a journalist. It was not until she moved to Oxford for graduate school that she fully immersed herself into the film world.

“My father would always say, ‘Oh, you’re doing that hobby again, huh?'” she said adding that, although she minored in film, she did not think of it as a hobby. 

She landed a job on campus while finishing her master’s degree at Ole Miss. She later worked at The Oxford Eagle as a reporter for three years before transitioning into film. This was significant because she had just met the love of her life, who is her husband now, and it led to many other things.

When the Oxford Film Festival launched after she moved here, she said she attended and felt at home.

“Okay, these are my people,” she said.

She volunteered at the film festival and began making movies. She continued to meet filmmakers. Her passion for volunteerism, sparked by her parents, led her to the job as director.

She had no intentions of staying in Mississippi, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to direct the film festival. Addington has been the executive director for the past five years, and she was the first paid employee. While many of her peers have vanished, Addington has remained with the festival.

“My personal goals are that I feel that everyone should see themselves on screen,” she said, “so I am all for inclusion representation.”

Kristin Rogers, assistant director of the festival, works to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“We both have a Type A personality,” she said, “and thankfully, the way we organize and look at information is the same. It makes working together on operational/planning details almost seamless.

“I have known Melanie for 13 years. She is able to work with pretty much anyone because she has the ability to put aside differences, respect others, and agree to disagree without it affecting the work or relationship.”

Some additions that have improved the festival are holding monthly events that support it. Addington said festival outreach includes bringing diverse filmmakers and volunteers to the festival.

The festival usually includes hundreds of films and many events within five days. Before the festival was postponed, they added a four-day female filmmaker retreat this year that pairs participants with a mentor.

Many panels, educational outreach programs, and workshops are annually offered free. The festival also usually offers a kids camp, which has become a fan favorite.

For more information and updates about the film festival, visit the Oxford Film Festival Blog by clicking this link.

Click this link if you’d like to learn how you can volunteer for future Oxford Film Festivals.

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