Meander beyond moviedom's mainstream this weekend for a watch on the wild side. Or the mild side. Or the kids' side. Or the tuneful or the truthful side. Or more.
Crossroads Film Festival's 140-plus independent films, including shorts and music videos, share the sort of personal, creative passions and threads that many big-screen staples can't.
Many of them are our stories. Crossroads Film Festival hit a record in its 13th year, with about 70 of its film having a connection to the state, and more than 20 being shot here.
"Oh my gosh, it's amazing," said festival co-director Nina Parikh, who's also with the Mississippi Film Office. "I couldn't believe it. And when we started the festival? We were probably showing about a total of 70 films, and trying to turn over every rock we could to find some Mississippian with a film.
"And now we have 70 films with a Mississippi connection, and twice as many films as when we started."
Those films will spread over three screens and three days at Malco Grandview in Madison.
They tackle a wide range of subjects and styles, ranging from as far afield as sci-fi to as close to home as issues of tolerance in documentaries about Mississippi subjects.
Crossroads Film Festival serves as not only a showcase for films, but also a nurturing education resource and a networking opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers.
"It's the best way to get your film seen by an audience - a very willing audience," said West Point filmmaker Michael Williams, who'll show his fifth film, the short sci-fi drama Illumination, in this year's fest. It's also a prime way to network with fellow filmmakers and get feedback from your audience. That pays off in future film crew jobs, friendships, collaborations and more.
Seeing a personal project on the big screen can be "nerve-wracking, but it's also a lot of fun. That's what you want of your movie," he said. "It's kind of the reward for all your hard work."
Festival workshops for adults include a table reading of scripts by Mississippians, 6-9 p.m. today at New Stage Theatre, and Saturday workshops at Malco led by Mississippi-born actor Gary Grubbs (Will & Grace, Quentin Tarantino's new Django Unchained), award-winning filmmaker (Buck) and Jackson native Cindy Meehl and scriptwriter (Coming to America, The Nutty Professor) and Ocean Springs native David Sheffield, plus workshops focusing on the legal end of filmmaking, and on a motion-tracked virtual camera.
About 3,200 attended Crossroads last year; attendance is projected to hit 3,500 this year.
The goal is to become a strong regional festival within the next five years, Parikh said, luring attendance from neighboring states and perhaps film projects, too.
Already, that count is impressive - of the films with a state connection, more than 21 were made here. More than 20 Southeastern films were made outside of Mississippi. The festival culled just over 20 foreign films from the 70-plus submitted.
The festival is "99 percent volunteer-run," Parikh said. They're at a good spot, but "we still want to grow."
Any film fans intimidated by the abundance of choices can wait for Sunday's Best of the Fest blocks, at 1 p.m. (documentary), 5:30 p.m. (short films) and 7:30 p.m. (feature narrative).
"There's a shoe-in way of making sure you see something good. ... three different blocks, and they're the winners, so you don't have to think. You just buy a ticket and go and you know you'll get to see something good," Parikh said.
AMONG THE FILMS
•Searching for Sonny, 7:45 p.m. Friday block - mystery comedy involving clueless pizza guy, high school reunion, missing pal and a wild ride.
•The Queens of Country, 7:15 p.m. Saturday block - kitschy music comedy with doppelgangers and time machines to boot.
•6 Month Rule, 1:10 p.m. Sunday block - A bachelor with rules to avoid entanglement meets a girl who changes everything.
•Return, 5:15 p.m. Sunday block - Returning soldier must find a new way forward in her old life in the Rust Belt town she's always known.
•Sad (Films) Say So Much, 12:30 p.m. Saturday block of provocative short films connect with feelings of loneliness, loss, blame and estrangement.
•Beauty Is Embarrassing, 7:15 p.m. Friday block - Irreverent biopic of artist Wayne White's career from puppeteer to Pee-wee's Playhouse to art world darling.
•Echotone, 9:15 p.m. Friday block - Telescopic view of Austin's vibrant young musicians grappling with artistic integrity, commercialism and the city's future.
•Mississippi I Am, 3:45 p.m. Sunday block - LGBT Mississippians' shifting struggle for civil rights, from 'NSync's Lance Bass to Constance McMillen.
•Unfinished Spaces, 6 p.m. Sunday block - In 1961, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara commissioned Cuba's National Art Schools; 40 years later, the three architects return to finish the futuristic schools - still in use but still unfinished.
•Rites of Spring, 6:45 pm. Friday block - Kidnappers fall prey to a recurring terror in the abandoned school where they've chosen to hide.
Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 9:35 p.m. Friday block of short films with science fiction and supernatural elements.
•Dick Night, 9:35 p.m. Saturday block - After a jilt, Rachel opts for rebound recreation ... if she can just deal with the vampires.
•Funny in Any Language, 3:30 p.m. Sunday block of short films includes options from Germany, Italy, Canada, Spain as well as several U.S. cities.
•Shorts: Cartoons for Grownups, 1 p.m. Saturday block of animated shorts includes music videos, stop-motion and more.
•Music Video Showcase, 5 p.m. Saturday block of music videos from Mississippi and th e South with Southern musicians and/or filmmakers.
•Shorts: Films 4 Kids, 5:30 p.. Friday block of stories by filmmakers age 18 and younger, at Malco Grandview
•Saturday workshops at the Mississippi Museum of Art in conjunction with exhibit Curious George Saves the Day:
9:15-10:30 a.m. Animals in Art
10:45 a.m.-noon Acting Like an Animal
Noon-1 p.m. Lunch (available for purchase) and movie ArtPrize Experience
1:15-2 p.m. Motion Capture: Film & Animation
2:15-3:30 p.m. ZIP POW MEOW! An Intro to Sound Effects
•What: Crossroads Film Festival
•Where: Films at Malco Grandview in Madison Friday-Sunday; Workshops Saturday at Malco Grandview; Youth programs Saturday at Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson
•Cost: $8 per film block or workshop/$6 for Crossroads members; $20/$15 day pass; $59/$49 all-access pass; $5 youth programs
Crossroads memberships start at $35 individual, $25 student