Sept. 12 kicks off a weekend of film excitement, boasting not only the fifth year of the South Alabama Film Festival, but also a premier screening of “The Passion of Miss Augusta,” a film about Augusta Evans Wilson and her 1866 blockbuster novel “St. Elmo.”

“The Passion of Miss Augusta” will have its world premiere at Bernheim Hall in Mobile on Thurs., Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. The film, directed by Alabama filmmaker Robert Clem (“Eugene Walter: Last of the Bohemians,” “William March’s Company K”) will be accompanied by an “online museum” examining the life and legacy of the iconic Mobile author.

Wilson was among the two or three most successful American novelists of the nineteenth century. St. Elmo achieved phenomenal success in its own time and was made into several films after her death. Lacking visual material for the current project (only a handful of photos of Wilson are known to exist), Clem has dramatized sections of “St. Elmo,” a novel clearly based on Wilson’s own life. In “St. Elmo,” a young woman of high morals and limited means follows her ambition to become a writer and to inspire young women by her own example.

The same actress (Yale-educated Marnye Young) plays both Augusta and the heroine of “St. Elmo,” Edna Earl. The role of the book’s hero, St. Elmo Murray, is played by actor Jason Downs. Downs also plays James Spaulding, the New York publisher whose engagement to Augusta ended in 1860 and who is thought to have been the inspiration for the character of St. Elmo Murray.

Prominent literary scholar Nina Baym believes that Wilson’s books, however dated they may seem today, are the forerunner of Southern Gothic literature. “The Passion of Miss Augusta” imagines “St. Elmo” as both the silent movie it actually became and a Hollywood movie created in the Southern gothic style of the 1950s, when many adaptations of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams were made. The film’s director Robert Clem has explained his rationale for this unusual approach as a way of testing Baym’s thesis and as a way of asking the question: how much had the restricted role of women changed from 1866 to the 1950s?

The online museum, which will also launch on Sept. 12, provides in-depth video interviews with Baym, John Sledge, and other scholars examining Wilson’s life and legacy. The screening at Bernheim Hall, 701 Government St., will be preceded by a reception at 6 p.m. sponsored by the Ben May Charitable Trust.

Admission to both events is free. Following the film will be a discussion with director Robert Clem and Victorian scholar Susan Reynolds. For further information contact Nancy Anlage, Special Events Coordinator at the Mobile Public Library, (251) 208-7097;

SoAl Film Festival Turns Five

Surely you’ve been voting at for your favorite music video in the first ever SoAL/SouthSounds Southern Video Music Block. The top 10 vote-getters will be presented to a live audience during the 2013 SoAL Film Fest who will then determine their favorites. Here is a taste of what else festival attendees can look forward to.

Check out their website for screening locations and times.

“Muscle Shoals”

Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Ala., is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the “Singing River”’ as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals changed the world and sold millions upon millions of copies. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios.

Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the “Muscle Shoals Sound” and “The Swampers.” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism, mystery, and why it remains influential today.

“Who Are You People?”

This documentary explores the making of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in Mobile, Alabama from May 31 to Sept. 2, 1976, as told by the locals that experienced this sci-fi classic.

“The Phoenix Rises”

Worlds collide when a team of brilliant scientists are recruited to work with a secretive government run project called the Phoenix Program to develop counter measures for climate-based weaponry. A newly formed terrorist group is using climate-based weapons to hold the US and its allies hostage. Using extremely low frequency delivery methods, the terrorists can cause earthquakes, alter rain patterns, cause droughts, and create deadly storms seeming out of thin air; but the terrorist threat is not the only challenge for the team.


“Congratulations!” is an absurdist comedy about Detective Dan Skok of the Missing Persons Bureau and the unusual case of Paul Ryan Gray, a boy who goes missing in his own house.


Stale sounds of the suburbs send a teenager out with a recorder in search of better ones. Listening with this device he begins to build his own soundscape and drift away from his surroundings. His dependence on the recorder affects his relationship with a charismatic girl and he struggles to re-engage with the world around him.

Visit to buy your weekend pass, which gains you entry to all festival events and screenings.