Five years ago, one of my first films “Basted” was accepted as an official selection at the Milledgeville Film Festival. Being a first year festival, I wasn’t sure what to expect, one of my actresses, Angelica Alejandro, insisted we take a flight down from Toronto to Atlanta together and check it out. Oh how close it was to a missed opportunity. The festival ended up being the best experience I could ever imagine. I watched some wonderful films, was welcomed by a festival team headed by Jeremiah Bennett, was pampered with the warmest southern hospitality, met some amazing fellow filmmakers, and took home the award for Best International Film, along with loads of fond memories.
The following year, there was no doubt in my mind that I would return to Milledgeville should we be honoured with another official selection. And we were! This time the word of mouth about Milledgeville spread like wildfire, and I brought 10 of my cast and crew from Canada who had the time of their lives. The festival has grown immensely every year, with filmmaker events, panels, activities, and quality of films surpassing the previous years. The introduction of the kayaking adventure, mansion tour, bike tour, masquerade ball, FX makeup demonstration, live script reading competition, outdoor screening of horror films, and endless sweet tea, are just some of things that have made the festival a stand-out on the festival circuit over the years. But my personal highlight was when I received the Best Director Award in 2016 from an actual Canadian Mountie. This festival knows how to do awards ceremonies right.
Although the films and screenplays are in competition, it isn’t just about accolades. The connections and experiences that are made go beyond the filmmaking world. Some of the amazing people I have met at this festival from all over the globe have become my closest friends.
So this year when Jeremiah asked me to join the Board as the Director of Shorts and Special Programming, there was no hesitation. It has been an exciting challenge being part of the team. Now in it’s 5th year, the festival has expanded to neighbouring Eatonton, and is now The Milledgeville-Eatonton Film Festival. I had the pleasure of curating a wonderful selection of Short Films, with the assistance of a dedicated selection committee.
I am very much looking forward to meeting some talented new faces, and reuniting with some familiar ones. The ME Festival is only getting bigger and we are all growing together.
Mark Datuin is an award-winning writer/director/producer. He is also the founder of MAD Resilience Films where he has written, directed, and produced 28 short films and theatre productions. His films have received over 130 official selections on the festival circuit globally, and have won a multitude of accolades, led by his short films “Still Closed” and “White Lock”. He has been a featured panellist in Atlanta and Toronto, where he discussed the art of Writing a Short Film, and Diversity in the Film Industry. In 2016 Mark made his French-language directorial debut with the dysfunctional family drama “Pardonnez-Moi Mon Père” (Forgive Me Father). Future productions include “The Women of Alpine Road”, an exploration of despondency and regret, and “Partition”, and experimental short film touching on the subject of cross-generational purgatory.