In The Golf War, a recent, locally directed documentary, a small fishing and farming community in the Philippines struggles not to lose its land to luxury golf resorts. While the setting is distant, the issues are near, and when the movies' co-creator Matt DeVries showed the finished film around, he discovered that sprawl-beset North Carolinians responded eagerly to this story of sudden land development. "One of the most engaged audiences for The Golf War was in Southern Pines," he says. "They identified with the struggle of Philippine peasants because of their own proximity to sprawling golf resorts [in Pinehurst] and their traditional reliance on farming."
Citizens all over the state will have a chance to see The Golf War when it airs Oct. 21 as part of the sixth season of WUNC's North Carolina Visions, which offers a free venue for North Carolina's budding film scene on Saturday nights at 11 p.m. The series includes a wide range of films, ranging from clean-cut documentaries to experimental shorts. The voices of 21 North Carolina filmmakers resonate in their original films. Although some are more lighthearted than others, none should be taken lightly.
North Carolina Visions is an opportunity for filmmakers like Matt DeVries to remain independent, encouraging them to create fresh films without the burden of commercialism. When I began interviewing the filmmakers I expected to hear stories of the obstacles they face while working with limited resources and tight budgets. On the contrary, they have only positive comments about their filmmaking experiences in our state. Many independent filmmakers say that North Carolina has a mild climate that facilitates shooting on location in a variety of scenic areas. Also important is the state's open attitude towards the arts, which, despite Jesse Helms' efforts, allows for the provocative films people are making throughout North Carolina.
These independents also have something else to their advantage: a large community of people willing to help them. Many volunteers just want the experience of working on a film, others want to build their resumes, but all are enthusiastic about taking part in the resourceful type of filmmaking that's flourishing throughout North Carolina. Crews of dozens survive on rice and beans, photographers rig makeshift tripods out of old lamp bases, and makeup artists concoct fake blood out of steak sauce. Everyone scrounges up what they can for the sake of the film at hand.
"Although it's not glamorous, it does allow you to say whatever you want in your film, which is a luxury that gets taken away from you as the budget gets higher," says Jim Haverkamp, who made Courtesy Call, airing Nov. 4. Haverkamp's short black-and-white film reflects his initial reaction to a "strong religious vibe in the air" upon his arrival to North Carolina. Such a sensitive subject could not have been addressed so sincerely had it been a bigger, sponsor-injected project.
"What's amazing to me is the support a filmmaker finds here. I mean, we have a public TV system that will show a film you shot in your kitchen," cheers Haverkamp. "I've also found in the Triangle that there's a good-sized audience who are interested in seeing local and independently made films, and that's something that's more valuable to a filmmaker than gold."
Visions encourages filmmakers to speak from their hearts by offering an open forum for creative storytelling. These films weren't made for corporations to advertise their products. There won't be any previews and viewers won't be bombarded with offers of action figures or soundtracks. Instead, they'll be introduced to people living in our state, various methods of filmmaking, and even new twists on existing classics.
Joyce Ventimiglia, who created Lena, a short documentary that aired Oct. 7, sums up the impact such a series can have: "It really emphasizes how many different kinds of filmmaking exist in our own backyard--outside the realm of the corporate-controlled media monopoly that dominates most forms of expression in our culture. Many of these films were not made for mass consumption, but as a labor of love."