North Carolina’s beautiful scenery, diverse geography, distinctive architectural treasures and talented work force lured so many film makers here that the state opened a film office in 1980. Popular movies like Nights in Rodanthe, The Color Purple, The Last of the Mohicans, Dirty Dancing, and The Fugitive have been filmed here.
Film festivals have also blossomed across North Carolina, providing the opportunity not only to see independent films, but also to interact with the filmmakers and network with others sharing an interest in all aspects of the craft.
The Carolina Film and Video Festival, the oldest continuously operating film festival in the Carolinas, grew out of the UNC-Greensboro Film Festival in 1978. And since 1994, other festivals have been born including Cucalorus in Wilmington, Durham’s Full Frame, RiverRun in Winston-Salem, the Asheville Film Festival, Charlotte Film Festival, Flicker in Chapel Hill and NoDa in Charlotte, each with its own niche and flavor.
|If you’re new to attending film festivals, Jeff Pettus, the Arts Council’s Senior Program Director for Artists and Organizations and Visual Arts Director, offers these tips:
Durham’s Full Frame grew out of the DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival, founded in 1998, which was unique in featuring only non-fiction, documentary films in an effort to create a community and a conversation around documentary cinema. Today Full Frame is an international event that presents more than 100 films, panel discussions, seminars and question and answer sessions. It holds all of its programming within one city block, creating an intimate community of film makers and members of the public across four days.
Sadie Tillery, Full Frame’s Director of Programming, says this year’s festival will open with a world premiere of Sons of Cuba (Hijos de Cuba), a behind-the-scenes look at the legendary Havana Boxing Academy directed and produced by Andrew Lang. Another of her personal favorites will be a screening of Hoop Dreams, the 1994 documentary following two African American high school students in Chicago as they pursue their dream of becoming professional basketball players. William Gates, one of the subjects of the film, will be at Full Frame, along with the film’s director Steve James and producer Peter Gilbert. Tillery also notes buzz around director Robert Brenner’s Food, Inc., which explores the food industry in the United States. Farmer Joe Salatin, featured in the film, will be on hand.
Full Frame’s schedule will include many other U.S., North American and world premieres of films as short as eight minutes in length. The subject matter—solely documentary—is eclectic and broad in scope, covering topics like Japanese reverence for insects, a competitive powerlifter who’s also a senior citizen, the life and times of peace activist Wavy Gravy, conflicts over oil in the Niger Delta, an Indian remake of Superman, the singing group Up With People, and rescue workers in the aftermath of the 2006 Beirut bombing.
While you’re in Durham for Full Frame, check out the art galleries in the historic Durham Arts Council building. Exhibitions include Peace Comes to Ajani, an exhibition of original watercolor illustrations for a new children’s book by Keith Kelly, and the Lakeview Arts Program, featuring works by Lakeview & Dearborn School Students. The nearby Manbites Dog Theater presents The Overwhelming, an original, cutting edge political thriller set in Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide. The intimate Durham Performing Arts Center, one of the state’s newest performing arts spaces located in the American Tobacco Historic District, will feature guitarist John Prine on April 4.
Now in its 11th year, the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem took its name from the French Broad River near Brevard where the festival was originally held. It includes feature length and short films in all genres, regional premieres of significant films, celebrity tributes, family matinees and classic retrospectives.
“We look at everything, and we’re able to pull from a broad range of languages, cultures and countries,” says Andrew Rodgers, RiverRun’s Executive Director. “Last year, ten percent of our audience was from outside North Carolina. That’s a remarkable feat for a festival that just a few years ago was a decidedly local event.” At most of the festival’s screenings, audience members have the opportunity to interact with actors and filmmakers who introduce the films and take questions after the screenings.
One of the highlights of this year’s RiverRun will be a showing of the critically-acclaimed Goodbye Solo, directed, produced and written by native son Ramin Bahrani, a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship Recipient. Filmed on location in Winston-Salem and Blowing Rock, the film explores the unlikely relationship that develops between Solo, an optimistic young Senegalese cab driver and William, a Southern good ol’ boy with a lifetime of regrets who requests a one-way drive to the top of the mountain.
RiverRun holds its events at three Winston Salem locations: the ACE Cinematheque Complex at the NC School of the Arts, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, and The Garage. During your travels about town, you might want to check out some of Winston-Salem’s other artful offerings. The city’s Downtown Arts District features 18 studios and galleries within walking distance of each other, including Piedmont Craftsmen, which will be featuring an exhibition entitled, Layers of Color: Woven & Engraved. Visit the Downtown Arts District Association Web site for a directory of galleries as well as neighborhood restaurants and entertainment venues.
During RiverRun, the Museum of Early Decorative Southern Art (MESDA) will be featuring Southern Seats: Turned Chairs in the American South, an exhibition of antique chairs from the MESDA collection. The Salem Fine Arts Center at Salem College is hosting a reception and showing selected works by visual artist Leo Morrissey on Friday April 24. While you’re screening a film at the Reynolda House, you can experience Chuck Close: The Keith Series, an exhibition of a series of large-scale portraits of sculptor Keith Hollingworth.
Local cinematic arts are the focus of the Chatham Arts Council’s 100-Mile Film Series: Sustainable Cinema featuring documentaries, narrative and independent films that involve producers, directors, subjects and/or locations within 100 miles of Pittsboro. Filmmakers normally make themselves available during engaging question and answer sessions following screenings of their work at the Fearrington Barn in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro. The screenings take place on the last Tuesday of each month throughout the year. Admission fees of $5 for adults and $3 for students benefit ChathamArts and its arts and education programs, as well as a future Youth Documentary Arts Program.
Jim Havercamp speaks at a Sustainable Cinema event.
A Sustainable Cinema Series special event, Race in NC: Looking Back, Moving Forward is a two-day documentary film festival on March 21 and 22. Explore race in North Carolina with panel discussions with filmmakers and African American community leaders, question and answer sessions with producers and directors, and musical performances by The Gospel Harmonaires and Moncure’s Liberty Chapel Reunion Choir. The festival takes place in downtown Pittsboro. Click here for film schedule and where to get tickets.
Other Sustainable Cinema showings include Fun and Folky Shorts (March 31) and Bending Space: George Rousse and the Durham Project (April 28) about a French artist’s grassroots art project in downtown Durham.
Stay tuned for the 14th annual Cucalorus Film Festival, “organized by filmmakers for filmmakers,” coming to Wilmington this November. Cucalorus places an emphasis on North Carolina filmmakers and southern stories and also presents international and experimental films. Its non-competitive format keeps the focus on collaboration and innovation.
Other opportunities for film fans include the Fourth annual Charlotte Film Festival this September, and the Seventh h annual Asheville Film Festival in November. And check out some of the smaller niche market festivals: Charlotte’s NoDa Film Festival highlights underappreciated movie classics from throughout international film history. Flicker Film Festival in Chapel Hill is one of about a dozen Flickers around the world that show 8mm, Super 8, 16mm or 35mm films of 15 minutes or less.
While you’re in town for a film festival, find more artful things to do in the area by visiting these Web sites: