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17th annual Macon Film Festival to feature 80 films, diverse lineup

<p>Some of the featured films at the Macon Film Festival will be presented in the Museum of Arts and Sciences in the planetarium as &quot;Fulldome&quot; films. (Photo by Maryann Bates) </p>

Some of the featured films at the Macon Film Festival will be presented in the Museum of Arts and Sciences in the planetarium as "Fulldome" films. (Photo by Maryann Bates)

This weekend kicks off the 17th annual Macon Film Festival as Mercer students return to campus for the fall semester. The fest is scheduled to host events Aug. 18-21 with film screenings, special guest speakers, Q&A sessions and film workshops happening throughout the city. 

The festival spends months curating content for the weekend. This year, more than 80 films will be featured from worldwide submissions with 14 countries represented. 

Screenings take place at all hours of the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and some opening events happened Thursday night. The schedule and synopsis of each film can be found on the Macon Film Festival website. 

Those interested in attending the event have four ticket options. The All Access Pass gives access to every event, offers priority seating and gives access to special opportunity events and otherwise invite-only parties for $150. For $65, the Screening Pass gives access to all of the screenings and priority seating but does not give access to some of the special opportunities and parties. The Day Ticket gives access to all events for a given day for $25 and the Single Block Ticket can be purchased for $10. 

Organizers of the festival encourage students to check out as many of the film screenings as possible. Many of the screenings are "blocks" that showcase multiple films, which is an affordable option for single ticket holders to consider. 

One screening students may relate to is the “Student Shorts Block: the Feature of Film” on Friday at 11 a.m. It will be screened again Saturday at 10:30 a.m. These blocks feature short films tackling coming of age and young adult hardships. One titled "A Halloween to Forget" is a lighthearted story about a foiled first kiss. Other films approach darker topics, such as the German film "Nahrani" which is about a development aid worker who must survive the Taliban.

Macon Film Festival Board President Justin Andrews recommends the Friday night “Fulldome” screenings. There are multiple throughout the afternoon and evening and are specially tailored to be viewed in the planetarium at the Museum of Arts and Sciences which enables attendees to also see the museum itself. 

“You get to double dip,” Andrews said. 

The Fulldome at the Museum of Art and Sciences is a 44-foot dome screen with a digital system meant for immersive experiences. There are several films being screened that are themed for space and sensory. 

The Art Immersive Block is focused on sound compositions paired with visuals. The first premieres Friday at 9:30 p.m. and another is at 4:00 p.m. Saturday. 

The Fulldome is also scheduled to showcase several space documentaries, such as the “Space Explorers Block,” which includes four films about space exploration. For example, “Hello?” is a short about astronaut communication while “Space Oases” touches on the topic of water in space. This block is expected to last about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

Andrews finds it important that the festival be inclusive — the schedule includes a large number of African American, women-directed and LGBTQ films.

In addition to the inclusivity catering to a wide audience and bringing new people to Macon, the event also helps boost the local economy, as attendees experience the city and its culture.

“There is something for everybody here,” he said. “Filmmakers coming in, producers coming in — it's new life and people who have never experienced Macon.”

He said these are people that are also visiting Macon's local restaurants, stores and public spaces many of whom are experiencing Macon for the first time.

Mercer students have an avenue to be involved with the festival. The best way to get involved with the film fest is to go to the events, Andrews said, and students should especially take advantage of the educational panels and workshops that are offered. They are not only a great learning experience but also a good way to make connections. 

Mercer University is a presenting sponsor of the film fest. The University offers funding and access to resources, such as online systems for ticket distribution and spaces to rent. 

“Without Mercer, it wouldn’t be possible to do half the things we do,” Andrews said. 

Many of the films will be screened at the Douglass Theatre, but the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Museum of Arts and Sciences are also hosting events. Some workshops will be hosted virtually. 

Tickets can be purchased online and at the festival’s headquarters. For further information, head to their website to see the full schedule and ticket info.

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