Twenty years ago, as Wilmington, North Carolina was establishing itself as a top U.S. filmmaking destination, a group of local independent filmmakers, known as Twinkle Doon, held a standing-room-only one-night screening of locally-made indie films. Dubbed as “An Evening of Celluloid Art: a film festival for open minds,” attendees at the inaugural festival included local indie filmmakers, artists, Wilmington residents and up-and-coming actors Anthony LaPaglia, Renee’ Zellweger and Liv Tyler—who were in Wilmington making Empire Records, one of hundreds of productions made in Wilmington over the past three decades. Wilmington’s film industry continued to thrive for the next 20 years and so did the Cucalorus Film Festival, which celebrates 20 years on November 12-16.
Each year since 1994 film buffs and independent filmmakers have made the mid-November pilgrimage to Wilmington, North Carolina for the Cucalorus Film Festival. On November 12-16, the 20th Annual Cucalorus Film Festival will celebrate the art of filmmaking with screenings of more than 240 independent films from around the world, workshops, panel discussions, master dance classes, and special events. What began as a one-night event has evolved into a five-day festival that’s garnered national recognition from the Brooks Institute, as well as Moviemakerand Time magazines. It was proclaimed as “one of the coolest film festivals in the world” by MovieMaker in 2013. This year the festival makes a repeat appearance on the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events list for November.
Cucalorus always delivers a diverse mix of documentary and narrative feature films, shorts, dance and music videos, and special events that make it a favorite with filmmakers and audiences. Of the 240-plus films (chosen from 1,752 submissions) from over 60 countries, the festival will include 43 narrative features, 21 documentary features, 147 shorts, 45 music videos and seven works-in-progress along with a schedule that includes multi-disciplinary performances ranging from dance to spoken word and beyond. Guest filmmakers will share insights during Q&A sessions at select screenings.
This year two features will have their world premiere at Cucalorus (Uncensored and Times Like Dying) and six films will have their Southern or Southeastern U.S. premiere (Labyrinthus; Hide and Seek; Felix and Meira; Spring; The Tribe; The Age of Love). Other award-winning and noteworthy films include: Force Majeure (directed by Ruben Ostlund, Sweden’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film for Oscars 2014; winner of Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2014); Wildlike (recently premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival); and The Hip-Hop Fellow (documentary by Raleigh filmmaker Kenneth Price about a Grammy award-winning producer’s studies of hip-hop).
Each year Cucalorus pays tribute to its North Carolina roots by screening at least 25 percent of films with connections to its home state. This year showcases four feature-length films and one work-in-progress (“Coal Ash Chronicles” by Rhiannon Fionn) that were made in North Carolina. N.C. Narrative Features include: “Children of Salt” by Caleb Andrew Ward and “Sunset Edge” by Daniel Peddle. N.C. Documentary Features include: “The Hip Hop Fellow” by Kenneth Price and “Private Violence” by Cynthia Hill. For details about each film, visit www.cucalorus.org.
Additionally, 48 short films and 14 music videos with Carolina ties will screen at Cucalorus 20, including films from Cucalorus alums, such as the world premiere of Wilmington filmmaker Jonathan Landau’s short “Pushing Buttons” (crewed by founding members Bo Webb, Craig Rogers and Dan Turek) which will screen in the Shorties block. And Wilmington-turned-L.A. filmmaker Norwood Cheek’s music video “Dog Day Joyride” will screen in the Visual/Sound/Walls block. Two features produced by Dino and Martha De Laurentiis and filmed in N.C. will also be showcased: “Crimes of the Heart” (1986, filmed in Southport) and “Hannibal” (2001, filmed in Asheville).
To commemorate the festival’s 20th anniversary, Cucalorus will honor the late maverick filmmaker Dino De Laurentiis—recognized as the “father of North Carolina’s film industry”—with a retrospective of his work. The Dino De Laurentiis Retrospective pays tribute to his lasting legacy on the state’s film culture. This survey of the legendary Italian producer’s work spans nearly eight decades and includes screenings of War & Peace, King Kong, Flash Gordon, Crimes of the Heart and Hannibal. Martha De Laurentiis, Dino’s wife and producing partner will make a special guest appearance following the screening of Crimes of the Heart.
This year’s festival kicks off on Wednesday, November 12, with the ever-popular Dance-a-lorus, a unique partnership between Cucalorus, the Dance Cooperative, and New York-based Dance Films Association. The event features excerpts from nine different choreographers and filmmakers in a variety of genres.
Screenings will take place at the following Downtown Wilmington venues: Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts (central Ticketbox & theatre, 310 Chestnut St.); Jengo’s Playhouse (815 Princess St.); City Stage Theatre (21 N. Front St., 5th floor); TheatreNOW (19 South 10th St.); Bourgie Nights (208 Market St.); and Bellamy Mansion (503 Market St.). For tickets, schedules, film descriptions, venue directions and other details, visit www.cucalorus.org.
Festival-goers often wonder how the Cucalorus Film Festival got its name. The dictionary defines cucalorus as “a film set apparatus placed in front of a light source to create a dappled lighting effect on a subject or background.” However, in the world of film festivals, Cucalorus is a multi-disciplinary arts organization supporting emerging and innovative creative professionals through its annual film festival, a residency program, a summer camp for teen filmmakers, a microcinema and an extensive community outreach program.
The annual Cucalorus Film Festival was established in 1994 and has since grown into one of the largest film festivals in the South. More than 200 films screen each year at venues all over downtown Wilmington, attracting a large number of participating artists (300+) and thousands of fans and industry professionals (accumulated attendance in 2013 was 14,784). Festival programs focus on dance, music videos, emerging artists. social justice, works-in-progress, and international cinema. Cucalorus education and outreach programs include Global Perspectives, Works-in-Progress, Latino Lens, Media Literacy, and Racial Rewind. Cucalorus is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that relies on funds from individuals, businesses, and grants to fund its annual celebration. For more information on the Cucalorus Film Festival visit www.cucalorus.org.
Wilmington, North Carolina—home to the Cucalorus Film Festival and EUE/Screen Gems Studios—is a top location for U.S. film production. Recent productions include “Max Steel,” “Tammy,” “The Conjuring,” “Iron Man 3” and the hit television series “Sleepy Hollow” and “Under the Dome,” as well as the upcoming new ABC series “Secrets & Lies” and Nicholas Sparks films “The Choice” and “The Longest Ride.”
Visitors can experience “Hollywood East” with Hollywood Location walking tours of downtown movie locations, weekend tours of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, and self-guided location tours using television FAQ sheets for “Sleepy Hollow,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill.” For links to FAQ Sheets, tours and more TV/film-related information, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/hollywood-east