From Thursday to Sunday I’ll be visiting the Oxford Film Festival, most of which takes place on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Mississippi. I was invited down with a few other film journalists (James Rocchi, Kim Voynar, etc.) to watch films and stroll around and take part in some kind of panel discussion.
They told me to fly to Memphis. Shuttles will drive us to Oxford from there. I had to buy my own ticket but they’ll reimburse upon arrival. That way they’re not stuck if you don’t show.
I haven’t been to a deep-south burgh since I attended the Savannah Film Festival in ’01 or thereabouts. But Savannah’s not an expression of the red-state south as much as a kind of spooky old ghost town. Ole Miss is a highly respected university, of course. The resistance to James Meredith‘s enrollment happened close to 50 years ago. Nonetheless the daughter of a screenwriting acquaintance told me that a conservative good-old-boy group on campus vented their anger over Barack Obama‘s election on the night of 11.4, and in a rather ugly way.
I’ll be looking for stuff like that when I’m down there. Local color, aromas, attitudes. Maybe I’ll get into a Josh Brolin-style redneck altercation in a bar. Nature smells a bit different down there — agreeably so. I know I’d like to find at least one mom ‘n’ pop eatin’ place that serves local cuisine. A friend tells me “the best fried chicken in America” is served at a joint called Gus’s. Two of ’em, actually — one in Memphis, another in Southhaven, Mississippi.
“I love Oxford,” a filmmaker friend wrote today. “I used to be friends with writer Larry Brown who passed away a few years ago. While you are there you should eat at one of the best restaurants in the country. It’s called the Grocery and it’s directly on the square just down from Larry’s favorite bookstore.”
Voynar told me that we’ll be stopping for a brief tour of Graceland on the way down. Good God. Not the home itself (I’m an Elvis fan as far as it goes) as much as the rancid commercial crap that has built up around it since the King’s death.