CARRBORO — Thanks to new technology – and some recent local construction – the eighth annual Carrboro Film Festival returns this weekend in a significantly expanded format.
Previously a one-day festival at the Carrboro Century Center that featured short films made in or about North Carolina, the festival is now a two-day, two-venue affair, with additional screenings at the ArtsCenter. The festival’s various events and screenings will run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 6:40 p.m. Sunday.
The scope of the festival’s offerings has expanded, too. For the first time, the festival will screen feature-length narrative and documentary movies, with submissions from across the country and overseas. The selected films cover a wide range of styles and genres: comedy, drama, animation, documentary, experimental and student films.
In total, 73 films will be shown on Saturday and Sunday, in 11 screening blocks of around two hours each. Organizers have also added two free workshops on visual effects and 3-D animation, and a free panel on screenwriting – all led by members of the filmmaking community. An after-party hosted at the Open Eye Cafe will close out the festival, starting at 6:45 p.m Sunday night.
Why the big upgrade this year?
Festival co-founder Nic Beery said the decision was actually sparked by a recent development in Carrboro’s commercial real estate market. The new Hampton Inn & Suites on East Main Street allowed the festival organizers to rethink the size and scope of the event.
“It’s been the dream of several people on the committee to expand the festival and go to two days,” Beery said. “It felt like the timing was right, quite bluntly, because there’s now a hotel in Carrboro where there’s never been one before. We’re able to invite in filmmakers from around the world and around the corner, and have a place for them to stay right in Carrboro.”
With the expanded lineup – this year’s 73 films almost triples the number exhibited last year – the 15-person selection committee had to rethink its process. In previous years, films were often submitted by way of DVD or the occasional reel of celluloid. That required a time-consuming system of sharing and handing off the submitted films among the committee members. But all that changed this year thanks to improved digital solicitation and submission methods on the festival circuit.
“We solicited through social media and online filmmaker groups,” Beery said. “But this year we only accepted films that were already available to be viewed online. They could be films that were open for anyone to watch, or they could be password-protected.”
The new process meant the committee could effectively assess more films. “We got hundreds of submissions, but it meant that everyone on the committee could watch the films at their leisure,” Beery said. “It was a really good experience but, no joke, we probably left 30 hours of films that we liked out of the festival.”
Retaining its local emphasis
While the films in this year’s festival are no longer required to have a North Carolina connection, Beery said the event still has a local focus, with about 60 percent of the films coming from the Triangle area or the state.
Local performer and playwright Mike Wiley will present his film “DAR HE: The Lynching of Emmett Till,” an expansion of the one-man show he’s performed in the Triangle area for several years. Wiley employs his unique form of storytelling to play 36 different roles in telling the tragic story.
“Granny’s Got Game,” from Raleigh filmmaker Angela Alford, tells the story of a group of 70-something basketball players in North Carolina who still compete nationally. Alford’s feature-length film grew out of a 10-minute short she made while a student at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.
“I just want people to know about these women and what they’ve achieved and their perspective,” Alford said of the film, which recently screened at the Marbles Museum IMAX theater in Raleigh. “It’s not just about the sports, it’s about the families and the support system, and everything they’ve been through.”
Another local entry, the half-hour documentary “The Possum Drop,” is directed by Wake Forest filmmaker Mindy Keeley and tells the strange tale of a small-town tradition threatened by outside forces. When animal rights activists got involved, a tiny Blue Ridge Mountains village and its New Year’s Eve Possum Drop drew unexpected national media attention.
“It’s a hilarious, beautiful story,” Beery said. “I highly recommend that one.”
Jim Haverkamp, director of the annual Strange Beauty film festival in Durham, will also be on hand to present an evening of experimental films. Haverkamp said the program, scheduled for 10 p.m. Saturday night at the Century Center, features selections from the last four Strange Beauty festivals.
“There are a handful of local filmmakers in our block, but a lot from around the world,” Haverkamp said. “We just tried to take some stuff that we really liked and run the gamut – there’s some really funny stuff and some sad stuff.”
Beery said that the expanded festival run, along with the more efficient submission process, has resulted in a genuinely different film festival.
“I really feel that we have nothing but awesome films this year.”