The Big Muddy Film Festival, based at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has become one of the longest running student organized film festivals in the world. The festivals is focused on community, accessability, social justice, and the environment.

The festival takes place annually at the end of February or beginning of March in the community of Carbondale, Illinois, situated within the watershed of the Big Muddy River and a region known for the beautiful Shawnee National Forest. Films featured represent all genres and lengths and are submitted from all corners of the globe.

The Festival provides cash awards to the best works in competition in the categories of experimental, documentary, narrative, animation, and smart phone film.

The program is juried by three artists or critics of national and international recognition. Past Jurors have included Barbara Hammer, Naomi Uman, Jim Jarmusch, Kerry Laitala, James Benning, Tomonari Nishikawa, Anna Margarita Albelo, Ben Kalina and Alrick Brown.

A panel of local activists awards The John Michaels Memorial Film Award, which honors films as activism that address themes of peace, justice, community action, human rights, and environmental conservation.

Also awarded is the Mike Covell Award, named after the man who helped found The Big Muddy Film Festival. This award honors filmmakers who have roots in Southern Illinois and is given to an alumni of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. If a notable alumni work is not selected into the festival, then it will be awarded to an alumni of any Southern Illinois region college or university.

The Big Muddy Film Festival is looking for films of any style, length, content, and genre. The Festival is organized into the categories of experimental, narrative, documentary, animation, and new to the 2021 fest, smart phone film.

Works must be in English or with English subtitles. All films should have been completed within two years from the date when submissions open for the current festival. Works that have been previously submitted to the Festival are not eligible.

Accepted formats for submission include online screeners or .MOV Quicktime.
.MOV Quicktime will be required for screening in the Festival.

Each work submitted should be accompanied by an entry form and fee. Multiple submissions are welcome. If you wish to submit more than one film, please use separate entry forms.

Submission fee waivers may be offered in certain limited circumstances where paying the submission fee is of significant difficulty. In order to be considered for a waiver, send a screener of your full film as well as your reasons for needing a waiver to

Overall Rating
  • Valerie Soe

    So happy to be selected for this festival! It's a gem and I'm honored that LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN was a part of it. It's definitely on my list when I'm choosing which festivals to apply for. Great, innovative programming!

    March 2020
  • Carla Forte

    Amazing Film Festival and People!!!!!

    March 2020
  • Kate Haug

    Great festival! I loved how they programmed my work; it was innovative, insightful and relevant. This is a wonderful festival that supports non-genre conforming work and truly independent vision. Don't be afraid to apply if your work does not fit into traditional categories. These programmers are open to work that crosses boundaries and expands form. My film is an essay film that explores political art making. It is not a traditional documentary nor is it a fiction film. Big Muddy understood my work and included it in a great program!

    March 2020
  • The Big Muddy is little jewel of a festival! I sorry I wasn't able to attend in person this year. Having screened in the past and lived in Southern Illinois I know that the audience is both eager and thoughtful, and it's a major event in the community.

    March 2020
  • Irina Patkanian

    One of rare film festivals that shows complex and original films. Thank you for believing in film as art and act of resistance.

    March 2019