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Oxford Film Festival prepared for potential of coronavirus outbreak

The 2020 Oxford Film Festival is less than two weeks away, and will still go on as planned amidst the worldwide coronavirus threat.

To date, Mississippi has not had a confirmed case of novel coronavirus strand COVID-19, though festival organizers are monitoring the issue daily.

For those who wish to have one, masks will be provided at the festival as well as hand sanitizer for guests. Attendees are encouraged to wash their hands, cover their mouth when coughing and respect people’s desires to not hug or shake hands during this year’s festival to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

Festival staff and volunteers will be trained and prepared, and festival venue locations are working closely with organizers.

“As you may recall, in festivals past we had an ice storm, a tornado, a city-wide water boil notice and a major flu season, and through it all we persevered,” read a statement from executive director Melanie Addington. “Otherwise, with safety first, let’s enjoy the fest and watch some good movies in some deep-cleaned venues.”

The festival also announced a strong need for more volunteers ahead of this month’s events.

On Monday, March 9, the festival is holding a volunteer fair at the Oxford Activity Center beginning at 11:30 a.m. Addington said they are still looking to fill roughly 200 more volunteer slots, ranging from a variety of different jobs.

“This festival is a great opportunity to give back to our community while having fun volunteering,” Addington said. “We cannot be successful without our wonderful 300-plus volunteers.”

The Chucky Mullins film “It’s Time” is holding its screening and fundraiser gala as part of the kickoff to this year’s festival on March 18 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The film festival announced on Thursday the option of student tickets to attend the screening at $25 per ticket. The student tickets are limited at 100 and can be purchased at offyearly.eventive.org.

Due to extreme popularity, there will be a second McPhail Block. The block was added to the Friday, March 20 lineup, featuring only films which include Oxford’s Johnny and Susan McPhail. The new block will screen at the Powerhouse at 3 p.m.

Square Books and the Oxford Film Festival have partnered for a book signing by author Carter Sickels. Sickels is the author of the book “The Evening Hour” and will hold the signing ahead of the regional premiere of the film adaption of his book at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 22 at Malco Oxford Commons.

A unique screening added is something called a focus work-in-progress screening, which is when attendees provide feedback to the director to help assist them in finishing up their project. The movie showing is “Below the Belt” by Shannon Cohn, who will attend the screening, and is the first film to shine a light on endometriosis — the most common, devastating disease that most people have never heard of. The film follows four women who seek to find answers.

The work-in-progress screening will be held on Friday, March 20, at 5:30 p.m. at the Powerhouse.

Tickets for all events can be purchased at offyearly.eventive.org. The 17th Annual Oxford Film Festival takes place March 18 through 22. More information and the festival schedule can be found at oxfordfilmfest.com.

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