The Big Muddy Film Festival, based at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has become one of the best-respected, wholly independent, community-focused film festivals. In its 42nd year, Big Muddy is one of the oldest student-organized film festivals in the United States.

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. For over four decades, Big Muddy has served as a platform to celebrate and showcase innovative, diverse, and culturally important independent cinema in the Southern Illinois region.

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

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
  • 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
  • Chris Graybill


    August 2018
  • I was not able to attend, but really appreciate the diversity of categories for film and video work and a venue for all of this work in Southern Illinois. The line-up of work being shown was impressive.

    July 2018
  • Alec Gutherz

    Although no one from my film could make it to the festival, we deeply appreciated the opportunity to screen GOD'S COUNTRY at the Big Muddy Film Festival. The communication throughout the process was great and I very much look forward to submitting my next film there and hopefully having the chance to attend. Thank you!

    April 2018
  • Asuka Lin

    I had such a great time in Southern Illinois!!! Thank you to the organizers for being amazing hosts that fed us and drove us around town. Loved every minute of attending and can't wait to submit next year :))

    March 2018