By MATT CRANE
Offering selections from local, state, national and international film makers, the Magnolia Film Festival is once again set to expose visitors and residents to the diverse world of the cinematic community.
Beginning at 7:30 p.m. today at Hollywood Premiere Cinemas, first-year festival director and Creative Director of Starkville’s Broadcast Media Group Laura Dixon said she was excited about the 15 entries for this year’s festival.
“I am excited for the great movies we have this year coming in from Mississippi, across the United States and all over the world,” she said. “We have some great films and it is exciting to see them all come together.”
Dixon said 47 films were entered into this year’s festival with a committee narrowing the field based on criteria like creativity, production value and storyline, to name a few.
“We have a solid 15 films that are entertaining and span a wide range of subjects,” she said. “It is a good mixture of submissions from first-time film makers, some who have entered here in recent years and those familiar to the festival circuit.”
As Mississippi’s first film festival — founded by the late film maker Ron Tibbett in 1997 — Dixon said the passion of organizers and participants alike for the love of film helped make each festival a wonderful learning and viewing experience for all involved.
“We have a love of film and we love to help film makers grow, and festivals are a great way to get your name out there,” she said. “For those coming to view our selections, audiences can expect a relaxed atmosphere with great, entertaining and powerful films.”
Mississippi State University alum, Starkville resident and president of Broadcast Media Group Robbie Coblentz said he would present an updated version of his documentary “One Night in March” which premiered at the Magnolia Film Festival in 2002 focusing on the 1963 basketball game between MSU and Loyola.
“In 1996 when MSU made a great run to the Final Four, the media was talking about this story from 1963 and it was a story I had never heard, so I wanted to do a documentary about that time,” he said. “As I got into it, there was a tremendous story there.”
Coblentz said 60-70 percent of the story had been significantly updated since its 2002 premiere, and was protective of the the personal story he had followed for years.
“It is a fabulous story for the MSU family and, being an alum and Starkville resident, it is great to show something positive about our race relations during that time,” he said. “This allows for a different perspective for people to see who might have some stereotype about what we do here in Mississippi.”
Viewing selections from Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, California, New York, Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom, judges Van Roberts, Teresa Gawrych and Marcus Vowell will judge entries for consideration in the Best Comedy, Best Drama and Best in Show categories. Dixon said audience members would be able to vote after each screening for a People’s Choice award to be given at the festival’s end.
Gawrych — a photographic journalist and instructor with MSUs Department of Communication — said the 2013 festival marked her second appearance as a judge and she once again looked forward to the culture and learning experience the festival brought to Starkville.
“I enjoy the Magnolia Film Festival because it lets me see what other film makers and students are doing around the world,” she said. “It brings different culture, ideas and stories to Starkville that we would not see otherwise.”
In her capacity as a judge, Gawrych said her training and experience at MSU guided her eye when judging this year’s selections.
“In our department I am known as being tough and fair,” she said. “I like looking at major things in each piece as well as minor technical and creative aspects.”
Gawrych said the films and lessons available through festivals like this were key in fostering creativity and culture throughout Starkville and Mississippi.
“It is important to keep the Magnolia Film Festival going because it provides students and film makers an outlet to get their videos out there,” she said. “The variety and the culture you experience enhances the creative culture we have in Mississippi.”
For more information about the Magnolia Film Festival, visit http://www.magnoliafilmfest.com  or call 662-324-2489.