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Red Dirt International Film Festival seeks to bolster the state’s connection to cinema by presenting Oklahoma-made shorts and feature-length productions alongside international ones.

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Hyena’s Blood gets its Oklahoma premiere at Red Dirt International Film Festival. (Provided)
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  • Hyena’s Blood gets its Oklahoma premiere at Red Dirt International Film Festival.

Oklahoma might not yet be an epicenter of blockbuster movie production, but Red Dirt International Film Festival seeks to bolster the state’s connection to cinema by presenting Oklahoma-made shorts and feature-length productions alongside international ones.

About 90 films will be shown Oct. 8-10 in Stillwater, up substantially since the festival’s start three years ago. Marisa Ferrell, programming director, said the increase is due to the event’s rising popularity.

Ferrell works with Damon Blalack, the event’s executive director, and an international cadre of screeners, reviewers and artists who view and rate a roster of submitted films before they’re passed along to the festival directors.

“Out of the hundreds of submissions that we receive, there’s a very large [group] of them that make the cut that are Oklahoma-based,” Blalack said.

In fact, more than a quarter of this year’s selections were made within this state.

Organizers also strengthen the state’s filmmaking industry through other initiatives. Twice a year, they visit Stillwater High School to teach students about the business and related jobs that are available. Students also submit their work to the festival.

Red Dirt International Film Festival also serves as a state and world premiere venue for short films such as Hyena’s Blood, a thriller by European director and writer Nicolas Caicoya, which celebrates its Oklahoma debut at the Stillwater event.

The gloriously bloody Hyena’s Blood trailer depicts a project firmly grounded in 1970s Americana camp as it tells the story of the DEA’s efforts to crack down on Mexican poppy production.

Caicoya, who has worked in more than 40 countries, said he shot on location in Mexico.

“Instead of making an easy [movie] near my house with some friends in Europe, I decided to go to Mexico, to the drug lords’ jungle,” he said.

The effort paid off in everything from its noir-esque aesthetic to stylized moments of ultraviolence and unchained sexuality.

Caicoya said he sees the film’s core issue — the drug war — as a hopeless human endeavor.

“A war against drugs, by virtue of its nature, cannot have an end,” he said. “It cannot and will not have winners and losers. That’s why this critical situation needs a completely new and much more mindful approach.”

Most of the festival’s roster focuses on shorts, making it an “enthusiastic ally” for Caicoya in a format that can be especially challenging to find distribution support for.

“They are the future watchers,” Caicoya said. “Having them support new directors is very important. A director’s life can change in hours when their work gets major attention.”

For more information, visit reddirtfilmfestival.org.

Print headline: Growth industry, Red Dirt International Film Festival offers a slew of movies made in Oklahoma and abroad.

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