2nd Annual 573 Film Festival Explores “Film-Friendly” Nature Of Southeast Missouri, Picks Winners

Jun 11, 2019

Over the weekend, independent filmmakers, actors, and movie fanatics gathered in Perryville for the locally-operated 573 Film Festival. 60 films from across the globe were selected for showings across the city, six of which saw production right here in the heartland.

The event was better-organized this time around, according to its self-proclaimed “supreme leader,” Thomas Smugala. They hosted numerous speakers, kid’s filmmaking workshops, and even had access to Perry Park Center’s 350-seat Marcus theater, complete with a red carpet event.

“To see your film on a big screen, you can’t even explain it,” said Smugala.

And, that’s one of the main drivers behind having a film fest at all, he said, in addition to viewing unique films you couldn’t see elsewhere.

“Not even on YouTube or Facebook,” said Smugala. “And they’re about subjects that people would probably frown upon in different places.”

In regards to the festival’s selection process, it was simple: they wanted to see quality work.

“They don’t have to be about politics, they don’t have to be about the cause of the day or anything like that,” said Smugala. “[It’s] just based on good films.”

Winners were divided into categories: best short, best local film, and best kids production.

Izzy Foster's "Toxic Plains" follows the story of four friends dealing with a zombie apocalypse.
Credit 573 Film Festival

Best Short went to Tango Down by Roger Christiansen, which was about two Marines who have to reconcile their new distrust of each other after a botched mission to Afghanistan, or lose a brother that they once would have died for.

Yellow, by Cape Girardeau’s Scott Phegley, won Best Local Film. It tells the story of a man who sets out on a journey across America on a little yellow motorbike, hoping to find a new meaning.

Izzy Foster’s zombie apocalypse film, Toxic Plains, won in the Best Kids category, and featured cast and crew members all under the age of 12.

While 573 looks to build the “Sundance of southeast Missouri,” Smugala said they hope big-name directors may someday see rural Missouri as a hotspot for production, what with the low costs for permits, rich scenery, and local talent.

“If we can show that we have a film-friendly area, then we can attract a bunch of $5 million films, instead of waiting around and hoping that we’re going to get another $60 million film like Gone Girl,” said Smugala.