Oxford Film Festival Announces Dates and Plans For 2021

Filmmaker Sunita Deshpande


The Oxford Film Festival announced the dates for next year’s edition of the popular and critically-acclaimed film festival, which will take place March 24-28, 2021. The current plans for that upcoming edition of the film festival will feature a hybrid approach including virtual and drive-in presentations, as well as the prospect of returning to theaters. The call for entries on Film Freeway is open with the early bird deadline set for September 30.

The organization also announced that while it will continue to bring more films to audiences throughout the rest of the 2020 calendar year, that those screenings will be done virtually and via drive-in presentations, and will not include any in-theater events.

The first half of 2020 has been a startlingly innovative year for the film festival, which was one of the first film festivals to postpone its planned physical presentation in March, pivoting first to virtual screenings and then adding a drive-in component as the organization, under the leadership of Executive Director Melanie Addington and the Oxford Film Festival’s board of directors dealt with health considerations and restrictions for public events due to the COVID-19 pandemic in a creative and aggressive manner.

Today’s announcement follows 10 successful weeks of Oxford Film Festival’s original Weekly Virtual Film Fests, partnering with various film distribution companies to present anticipated indie titles as part of a Virtual Art House network, taking part in three popular Film Festival Days to date with film festivals all across the country, and then launching OFF to the DRIVE IN, to bring back the retro feel of seeing popular classics as well as top fest titles on outdoor screens.

Addington said, “Since the moment the stark reality of what needed to be done to prioritize everyone’s health, including our filmmakers, our audiences, and our staff, became apparent, we immediately looked for alternative ways to not just bring our films to people, but ensure they still connected, even if that connection needed to come via a video screen. And we didn’t stop there. Our staff, supported by our board, have continued to explore new ways to benefit our filmmakers and to reach out to our traditionally loyal audiences here in Oxford, but to reach out to new audiences as well. We quickly turned the corner from being reactive to the pandemic to being proactive in what we could do differently – and better. In many ways, it has been very exciting.”

New Oxford Film Festival Board President Steven Case agreed, adding, “It has been invigorating seeing how everyone associated with the Oxford Film Festival embraced the idea of leading this community, the city, our surrounding area, even the State of Mississippi itself. We seriously addressed safety protocols and were prepared to take steps far beyond what was required of us. We then made the correct judgment calls to first – postpone, and then, to not do any in-theater events throughout the rest of this year, all while Melanie, the programmers, and the staff were rebuilding and introducing new ways for people to see and enjoy movies.”

While the effort to simply figure out ways to screen and present movies this year was laudable itself, the Oxford Film Festival also did not miss a step when it came to two key elements it has built its reputation on: Benefitting filmmakers in tangible ways and curating socially relevant and forward-thinking programming.

On the first front, Oxford FF joined a number of regional film festivals introducing revenue sharing with its filmmakers on a much grander scale than had ever been done before. Previously, screening fees would be paid for “bigger” more well-known and coveted titles, but Oxford FF began the process of bringing that concept to many more films it screened virtually and at the OFF to the DRIVE IN presentations. It also made a point to produce a virtual version of the festival’s awards ceremony, to not simply announce the juried winners, but to duplicate the moment and attention those filmmakers would normally receive as much as they could.

On the second front, with Mississippi, as is often the case, being the focus of social issues on both a national and local front, the Oxford Film Festival has continued to present films that both reflected its taste and also underlined its support for the LGBTQIA+ community, women, people with disabilities, and notably (led by the presentation of the this year’s Best Narrative winner THE KILLING OF KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN), the continuing struggle of people of color and the nationwide protests on their behalf demanding police reform.

“The Oxford Film Festival feels a great sense of responsibility when it comes to seeking, presenting, and celebrating more diverse stories on screen. We are very aware of the difference we can make with this organization to push for better inclusive efforts behind the camera and giving our audiences stories that reflect their experience and reality. We embrace that leadership role at every level of our organization and will continue to do so for the 2021 festival,” Addington said. “We can always do more and strive to do more.”


The 2021 festival call for entries includes these discounts from previous years:

  • Films created by people with disabilities, and/or featuring performers with disabilities receive a 50% discount using code ReelOXFF2
  • Films directed by women-identified also get 50% discount using code BlacheOXFF
  • Films directed by BIPOC filmmakers also get 50% discount using code: ZeitgeistOXFF


For more information on the Oxford Film Festival, the Weekly Virtual Film Fests, the Oxford Virtual Art House, and OFF to the DRIVE IN, among other film presentations, screenings, events, initiatives, and news, please go to: https://www.oxfordfilmfest.com.

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