Expect a slew of unique motion pictures, incredible popcorn and an endless amount of creativity to be on display at the Magnolia Film Festival this weekend. Held at the Hollywood Premiere Cinema, multiple nights of intimate film will be showcased throughout the event.
The Magnolia Independent Film Festival is a non-profit organization that brings quality independent cinema to the Golden Triangle. Mississippi’s first and longest running film festival has supported the state's growing film industry by offering a platform to home-grown filmmakers and storytellers. This year marks the festival’s 22nd year, continuing the tradition of showcasing a carefully curated lineup of films.
Started in 1997 by Ron Tibbett, "The Mag" gave an outlet to inspire and encourage independent filmmakers within Mississippi. Beginning in a cold auditorium in West Point, The Mag quickly grew in popularity and wound up being permanently fixed in Starkville after its third year.
Thanks to Tibbet, other prominent film festivals were created within Mississippi, including the Oxford Film Festival, Crossroads Film Festival and the Tupelo Film Festival.
Many films, both short and theatrical, will be on display at this year’s festival. One of the films featured Saturday is "Nathan’s Kingdom," a unique vision that will enthrall the audience with intense curiosity.
"Nathan’s Kingdom" is a road trip film with fantasy elements, and also stars an actor on the autism spectrum. Directed by Olicer Muñoz, this film acts as a directorial debut and a first-time feature for the cast.
Jacob Lince, the young actor with autism playing Nathan, exposes the audience to his fantastical coping mechanism. He and his teenage opiate-addict sister, played by Madison Ford, escape social services into the wilderness in search of his kingdom. On the way, the two battle monsters, and endure a treacherous journey in hope of finding a fictitious kingdom with the power to improve their lives.
The film worked to push boundaries of the roles actors on the autism spectrum can play in cinema. The film’s writer and director Muñoz shared his passion about achieving his vision and the obstacles overcome by creating this film.
"This is a personal journey for our cast and crew," Muñoz said. "We deeply believe actors on the autism spectrum are extraordinary and deserve a spotlight on the big screen."
Muñoz collaborated with the Performing Arts Studio West (PASW), a nonprofit actors’ studio dedicated to talent with disabilities. Through this organization, Muñoz discovered Lince as his lead actor.
"I believe full-heartedly that ‘Nathan's Kingdom’ is a story that will inspire the minds and touch the hearts of everyone in attendance at the Magnolia Film Festival," Muñoz said.
"Nathan’s Kingdom" has multiple strengths and weaknesses. While constant exposition and narration plague the film, there is a surprising level of talent on display.
The cinematography and directing are breathtaking at times, providing a stable foundation for its bizarre storyline. The acting is not anything spectacular, but Lince’s performance carries the film effortlessly.
The animations, energy and ridiculous interactions make this film charming and a genuine joy to watch, even if occasionally awkward. It is certainly worth the effort to see, as few films ever match this level of creativity.
Multiple awards will be given out during the festival. The categories include Best Feature, Best Short and a slue of others. The audience also picks their favorites for the Audience Choice award.
For more information on The Magnolia Independent Film Festival, visit the festival's web site at magfilmfest.com. Tickets go fast, as cascading amounts of imagination and innovation are available for those in attendance.