Mâcon Film Festival in full swing; documentary on Macon’s conductor scheduled for Sunday


Roderick Cox of Macon’s journey to becoming a famous conductor is featured in a documentary titled “Conducting Life” during the Macon Film Festival. Cox will be on hand for a Q&A after its screening at the Grand Opera House at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Special for the telegraph

The Macon Film Festival kicked off on Thursday and is in full swing throughout the weekend. For the 17th year, MFF is bringing more quality indie films to town than one person can schedule to watch – it’s party movie weekend, not famine – so enjoy one of the main Macon’s cultural offerings and see all the student and professional, local and international films you can.

Tabitha Lynne Walker, a local filmmaker and producer who is one of the festival’s founders and a key scout for potential festival films, said from the outset that incorporating a local element was a priority. In this regard, 2022 is a banner year. Natives, locals and nearby residents are featured in films, as filmmakers and as industry professionals with many top festival workshops. Workshops are free this year and are held at Visit Macon, 450 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Even with only a few workshops and film screenings that it is possible to mention here, it is impossible to list the details of each, so head to the festival website for details. It’s on www.maconfilmfestival.com and there’s a handy scheduling feature there. Keep in mind that the ticket office is available throughout the weekend.

But let’s get back to what’s happening this year and a hint at some local aspects.

“The festival has always been about giving people the opportunity to see independent films here that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see,” Walker said. “It’s also about giving filmmakers around the world an outlet to showcase their films to audiences. Plus, we’re thinking of local filmmakers and people interested in careers in the industry.

“We want to help them hear from directors, producers and others who bring their films and allow them to get in front of people who work in film. I think we’ve done a great job this year and a lot of the attendees are festival alumni or locals who have gone on to strong careers in the industry.

I had the pleasure of screening “Conducting Life” a few months ago, a documentary directed by Diane Moore on Roderick Cox. It’s a special screening on Sunday. Cox is a Macon native who grew up in a single parent home under difficult circumstances, but had a caring and hardworking mother, Brenda Cox. Another local note: Several weeks ago, Brenda Cox said she had never seen the film, so its showing in Macon will be a very special occasion for her.

Through his determination and considerable musical gifts – and with the help of Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Georgia and the Otis Redding Foundation – Cox achieved his dream of becoming a bandleader and, at just 34 years old, has worked full time with the United States. orchestras. He is now based in Germany and performs as a guest conductor with leading orchestras worldwide.

No spoilers, but it’s as heartwarming as it is illuminating and entertaining. For Macon, there is pride in knowing that another country son’s name can be listed alongside any other great Macon musician.

Moore spent seven years with Cox making the film, though that’s not long. She’s met him at music festivals in Aspen where he’s become an audience favorite and, it just so happens, where the film is screening and which he’s also directing this month.

Moore said she was drawn to Cox’s talent but won over by his life story.

“He told me he didn’t want to be ordinary but extraordinary,” she said in phone interviews. “I said to myself, ‘He’s going to be okay. He has immense intensity and commitment, but he’s also very funny and laid back. He is certainly an intellectual but also a very nice person.

Although working in a refined atmosphere as a conductor and being one of the few conductors of color, Moore said she found in Cox a remarkable humility towards life, work and her past. .

Cox told me that, contrary to the stereotype of the crazy, self-absorbed conductor, keeping a learner’s attitude is an essential part of creating great work.

“You always have to grow,” he said. “All the time. When you think you know a piece, there’s always something to learn. It’s interesting to write down a score that I’ve been studying for years, then go back and find new answers to questions about how it should sound. That’s part of what makes it exciting.

Another local appearance, student musicians from Cox’s former high school, Central High, will perform two tracks before the film screens, according to Walker. In October, Cox will be in Macon again to conduct the opening concert for the second season of the Macon-Mercer Symphony Orchestra (www.mcduffie.mercer.edu/symphony).

After the festival, Cox is expected to speak with students from the Central and Boys and Girls clubs.

More remarks:

  • For several years I have met groups of Jasper County high school film students at the festival and have been impressed with their instructors’ commitment to making MFF a field trip. Now, in 2022, Jasper students have actual entry into the block of student shorts called “Boxy”. Congratulations – that’s the way to do it.
  • Today at 5 p.m., Margaret South, who Walker says has just moved to Houston County, will lead a free workshop called “The Art of History.” South co-founded the film company All Girl Productions with Bette Midler and Bonnie Bruckheimer which, among other successes, produced the classic film “Beaches.”
  • Speaking of classic films, “Still Working 9 to 5” will screen on Saturday and then its creators will conduct a Q&A. The film is a documentary about the 80s comedy classic “9 to 5” starring Dolly Parton, Lilly Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman and examining why the film is still relevant. Walker said she found the behind-the-scenes look and star interviews fascinating and expects the Q&A with its creators to be eye-opening for film lovers, would-be filmmakers and anyone interested in movies.
  • A former Macon Camera Shop employee turned award-winning filmmaker and director for HBO, ABC, STARZ and others will lead a free workshop on Saturday. Crystle Robertson flew in from California to attend the festival and talk about “Directing Television: Maintaining a Creative Vision”.

And then there are all the arts, education, travel, and fulldome entertainment films screened at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. In total, nearly 90 films are screened this weekend, according to festival president Justin Andrews. Many have local connections – too many to catalog here – and some are unreleased films like “Unspoken”.

Overall, MFF offers something for everyone in its various full-length, short, story, documentary, music, student, LGTBQ, made in Georgia, and other movie blocks.

With something as monumental as MFF underway, it’s easy to overlook the many other newsworthy events in Central Georgia, but to name just one, Macon Pops’ season opener will have taking place tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Hawkins Arena at Mercer University. There’s still time to find out more at www.maconpops.com.

Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at [email protected]

Gerald R. Schneider