For one weekend each year, downtown Muscatine transforms into a film lover’s dream during the Muscatine Independent Film Festival (MIFF). For two days, independent film makers from across the country and even the world, along with local residents, gather to view some of the best new films of the year. On November 8th and 9th, the MIFF will return for its sixth year, featuring art and entertainment for all who attend at the Merrill Hotel.
A popular event in the film making community, Chad Bishop, one of the MIFF’s organizers, shared that the forty films selected for this year’s festival represent only ten to twenty percent of the films entered. Divided into various blocks for judging, attendees may come and view comedies, micro-short films (films four minutes and under), sci-fi/experimental films, short films, student films, films featuring murder, mayhem, and more, and films made right here in Iowa, depending on what suits their taste.
Two films in particular will appeal to Muscatine residents. 72 Seconds, written and directed by Muscatine resident Jeremy Ferguson and filmed by Bishop, will debut during the Sci-Fi/Experimental Film Block on Friday evening. 72 Seconds tells the story of Jim, a man studying the M55 star cluster, who receives a seventy-two second transmission from the region that may hold the key to him making important discoveries while confronting difficult truths from his past.
The feature length documentary, The Baker Institute, directed by Bishop, explores the life of Norman Baker, a notorious Muscatine resident best known for his fraudulent cure for cancer. The Baker Institute combines interviews with Muscatine residents, including former Mayor Evelyn Schauland and Marvin Krieger, who witnessed his public “healing’ demonstrations in Weed Park firsthand, along with local photos and documents to piece together the history of this larger than life figure from Muscatine’s history. A groundbreaking production, researchers from the Smithsonian have contacted the creators of this film to request access to some of the source material they used.
Along with film screenings, the MIFF also includes a Grand Jury Film Block where industry experts from across the country view and vote for their favorite films live (something rarely seen at film festivals) as well as an awards ceremony and after party where winning films receive “MIFFys” to celebrate their achievements. A smaller version of award shows like the Oscars, Bishop reports the people enjoy the networking and celebrating that take place during this part of the event nearly as much as they enjoy the films.
With this year’s MIFF nearly here, Bishop looks forward to welcoming many visitors to Muscatine eager both to see some good films and enjoy everything the city has to offer. “The success of the film festival revolves around the success of the town,” he asserted, as many guests find themselves swept up in enjoying the sights of Muscatine while staying here.
Equally important, Bishop encourages local residents to come too to build a sense of community and participate in an unforgettable shared experience. “What I like best about [the MIFF] is getting people out of the house and connecting and enjoying films on a shared screen,” he added.
To learn more about the MIFF, Bishop encourages you to visit the MIFF website at https://muscatinefilmfest.com/.”