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Big Ears Festival named among ‘25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World’ by MovieMaker Magazine

July 11, 2018

Big Ears Festival has been named to MovieMaker Magazine’s 2018 list of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” MovieMaker slotted the music, art and film event held annually in Knoxville, Tennessee, alongside renowned festivals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Rotterdam and Zurich.

The list was compiled by the magazine’s editors, in collaboration with a panel of industry professionals, including filmmakers, critics, programmers, publicists and producers. Describing Big Ears as “the best music festival in the United States, bar none,” one voter calls the film program “the experimental answer to SXSW. It’s not hard to imagine it soon becoming an essential stop on the spring circuit.”

A 3D screening at Big Ears Film Festival.

Film programming was introduced at Big Ears Festival in 2014 and has since grown under the direction of Public Cinema, which took the film curation and development reins in 2016. Co-founded by Darren Hughes, a critic with nearly two decades of experience reporting from American and international festivals, and Paul Harrill, an award-winning filmmaker, Public Cinema is a pop-up microcinema that brings year-round programming of contemporary and repertory films to Knoxville.

“This recognition confirms that we’ve made great progress toward our original goal, which was to create film experiences that are in tune with the Big Ears audience and that meet the unparalleled, ambitiously high standard set by the music programmers,” Hughes said.

Planning for 2019 film programming at Big Ears is under way, and festival organizers are exploring the possibility of expanding the film presentations further. More details about the film program will be released this fall. Access to the full film program is included with 2019 weekend festival passes, which are on sale currently.

Taking their cue from past music lineups, which featured boundary-pushing icons such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Cale and Terry Riley, Hughes and Harrill have focused Big Ears’ eclectic programming on experimental and independent film, presenting retrospectives of the distributor Factory 25, Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, American regional filmmaking (1960-1989) and 3D cinema. Big Ears also has hosted and presented screenings and installations by acclaimed film artists Bill Morrison, Laurie Anderson, Jodie Mack, Shambhavi Kaul, Kevin Jerome Everson, Jem Cohen, Janie Geiser, Roger Beebe, Blake Williams and Lewis Klahr.

Multimedia performances have been a staple of Big Ears programming since the festival’s debut in 2009. Highlights include Dean & Britta’s performance of “13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests,” as well as the U.S. premiere of Gavin Bryars’ latest reimagining of The Sinking of the Titanic with his own ensemble, joined by turntablist Philip Jeck and archival footage assembled by Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder. Big Ears also regularly presents live scores, including Marc Ribot’s for Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid”; Dave Harrington Group’s for Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men”; Demdike Stare’s for Benjamin Christensen’s “Häxan”; and Bill Frissell’s for Morrison’s “The Great Flood.”

In 2015, Big Ears film programming included a selection curated by filmmaker/musician Jim Jarmusch and Michael Gira, whose respective bands SQURL and Swans were already on the lineup.

The 2018 Big Ears film program screened more than 80 features and shorts, spanning from 1935 to world premieres, ranging from one minute to two hours, made in nearly a dozen countries and requiring five different pairs of 3D glasses. One featured event was a free outdoor screening of Vincent Moon & Priscilla Telmon’s “Hibridos: The Spirits of Brazil,” which was open to the public in Knoxville’s Market Square.

“This is the kind of programming Paul and I most enjoy personally and is increasingly rare at American festivals,” Hughes said. “Next year, we plan to show more new films, but they will always be presented in conversation with curated programs of older work.”

One film event already has been confirmed for Big Ears 2019: Nashville-based electronic/ambient outfit Coupler will perform an original score for Yasujiro Ozu’s 1933 film, “Dragnet Girl.”

The nod from MovieMaker is just the latest mention of Big Ears in the film press. Reporting from the 2017 festival, Filmmaker Magazine shared high praise for Big Ears and Knoxville: “Taking over cozy nightclubs, state-of-the-art concert halls, a centuries-old cathedral, the city’s modern art museum, and a recently renovated 90-year-old movie palace, Big Ears casts Knoxville as a world-class entertainment town — accommodating to any and every scale of performance or projection, as well as our demands that art be challenging and immersive. In only its second year, the film line-up already feels like a vital complement to the tenor of the festival as a whole.”

The film program also has been covered by The Globe and Mail,, The Notebook, The Brooklyn Rail, Bomb Magazine and Brooklyn Magazine.

The 2019 Big Ears Festival will be held March 21-24, 2019. For more information, and to see the list of artists who are already confirmed, visit

MovieMaker Magazine
MovieMaker Magazine is the nation’s leading resource on the art and business of making movies and the world’s most widely read independent film magazine. MovieMaker’s content is directed at the audience as well as the artist, and its lively mix of interviews, trend-setting criticism, DIY techniques, festival coverage, distribution and financing tips, behind-the-scenes indie “war stories,” and appreciations of classic Hollywood actors, directors, cinematographers, producers, screenwriters, and editors makes MovieMaker Magazine a perennial favorite and trusted brand with cinema artists and discriminating film fans everywhere.

Currently based in Burbank, CA, MovieMaker Magazine has an international four-times yearly distribution of 35,000, a readership of more than 105,000, and a direct print subscribership of more than 10,000. The magazine’s award-winning website,, is one of the most popular sites on the web and receives more than one million visitors per year. MovieMaker TV, a spinoff of the magazine, is currently in preproduction.

The Public Cinema
Co-founded in 2015 by Darren Hughes and Paul Harrill, The Public Cinema exists to share vital works of contemporary international and American cinema that might otherwise be unseen or overlooked by Knoxville audiences. Often playing host to Tennessee, regional, and even North American premieres, The Public Cinema aims to create a space for cinema as an art form, to promote discussion among discerning moviegoers, and to advocate for alternative models of film production, distribution, and exhibition. For more information, visit

Big Ears Festival
The mission of the Big Ears Festival, a 501(c)(3), is to create, nurture, and support artistic expression and cultural education that transcends traditional boundaries, strengthens and builds relationships, and connects across communities through genre-defying music, film and arts programming, and interactive experiences.

Described as “one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over” by the Oxford American, Big Ears Festival has established itself as one of the most exciting and imaginative cultural gatherings in the world, bringing together a virtual who’s who of established and acclaimed iconoclasts, innovators and influencers with younger artists who are synthesizing their own experiences into fresh, new creative work. Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville – and taking place in its world-class historic theaters, excellent clubs, and unique alternative performance spaces – all within easy walking distance of one another and intermingled with superb restaurants, bars, and shops – Big Ears offers an unparalleled experience for adventurous artists and audiences alike. While primarily focused on music, Big Ears is also developing a strong independent/experimental film component while also presenting installations, exhibitions and interactive experiences.

Big Ears is created and produced by AC Entertainment, recognized as one of the foremost independent promoters in the United States. Founded in 1991 by Ashley Capps, the company books, markets and presents over 1,000 events per year. In addition to Big Ears, AC Entertainment is the force behind internationally renowned events including Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival®, Forecastle Festival, and many more.  For more information on AC Entertainment, visit

The 2019 Big Ears Festival is made possible by the generous support of The Aslan Foundation, ArtWorks/National Endowment for the Arts, Visit Knoxville, Tennessee Department of Tourism, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, Red Bull Music Academy, SouthArts and Tennessee Arts Commission.

All this and more information, including lineup, ticketing, and other details can be found at, by “liking” Big Ears Festival on Facebook, by following @BigEarsFestival on Twitter, and by joining the newsletter.