For a film festival big enough to be challenging, but small enough for you to go behind the scenes and talk to filmmakers, head east for the 21st annual Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington next week. Quite a few filmmakers from the Triangle—including Jim Haverkamp, Aaron Kutnick, Olympia Stone, Rob Underhill, Jacki Huntington and several more—are showing in the festival, so you won't be making the trek alone.
Like its namesake tool—a lighting device that creates shadows, silhouettes and patterned illumination—the noncompetitive festival looks at film from a range of perspectives. There are workshops about filmmaking and feedback sessions for works in progress in addition to screenings of about 200 films, more often than not with their creators present. For this breadth and energy, MovieMaker magazine named Cucalorus "One of the Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2015."
Opening night features a kickoff party at Ziggy's, a showing of the British horror film Nina Forever and "Dance-a-lorus," a Cucalorus tradition that pairs filmmakers with dancers and choreographers.
Throughout the festival's five-day run, the films run the gamut from serious to wacky, local to international. Danish-born Anders Thomas Jensen's madcap Men & Chicken finds two brothers meeting their biological family on a nearly uninhabited island. Russian-born Sasha Gordon offers It Had To Be You, a "raunchy yet gentle" romantic comedy about a jingle writer. That's an interesting topic for Gordon, who is best known for her film scores.
Cucalorus also hosts short film sets. The "Rocotillo Shorts" block of short documentaries includes a portrait by Durham's own Rodrigo Dorfman of third-generation weaver Susan Morgan Leveille. The Triangle's Martha J. Moore screens The Honorable Ellie Kinnaird, a celebration of the North Carolina state senator. And Durham's Leslie Cunningham brings her doc, Jig Show: Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana, to Cucalorus for in-progress feedback. Cunningham digs into issues of race, immigration and popular culture through the history of a band of traveling performers in the mid-20th century. Get on the filmmakers' email lists at these feedback sessions and you may see your comment turned into an editing choice in the final cut.
More personal than Full Frame, quirky like Strange Beauty, but larger, and a perfect appetizer for the Carrboro Film Festival later this month, Cucalorus is a great day-trip for local film fans. Maybe you can even catch a ride with a director.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Cinema by the sea"