Cucalorus Festival History
Cucalorus is a non-competitive festival focused on supporting innovative artists and encouraging creative exchange. The festival is held each November in historic downtown Wilmington, North Carolina with screenings of more than 300 films from around the world.
Twinkle Doon, a group of 12 Wilmington filmmakers, screens 16 short films from North Carolina – dubbed officially as “An Evening of Celluloid Art, a film festival for open minds.” Filmmakers, artists and film enthusiasts lined the streets along the Cape Fear River waiting to enter a packed out Water Street Restaurant for this one night event. Matt Malloy appears as “the boy who plays guitar.” According to co-founder Kristy Byrd: “There were no prizes or awards. We didn’t want this to be a competition. It’s a showcase for filmmakers not only in the Southeast, but all across the country.”
Building on the success of the initial festival, Cucalorus morphs into a 2 day spring festival. The non-competitive showcase attracts submissions and attendees from all over the Southeast. Films such as Josh and Jonas Pate’s “The Grave” and John Schultz’s “Bandwagon” were crowd favorites.
Legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff presented his classic “The Red Shoes” and North Carolinian Ross McElwee brought his film “Six O’Clock News”
Actor and North Carolina native Nick Searcy screened his debut feature “Paradise Falls”
Highlights included “Snake Tales” and “Tax Day,” from female directors Francesca Talenti and Laura Colella, respectively
Farhad Yawari’s “Dolphins” screened outside, along the Cape Fear River, on the deck of the USS North Carolina
David Gordon Green’s directorial debut “George Washington” was the undisputed indie film of the year
Wilmington-made “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys,” from producer Jodie Foster, was an audience favorite
Docs rule the day with Nick Doob’s “Schooling Jewel,” the street-fighting “The Backyard” and Chris Smith’s “Home Movie”
Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant,” the east coast premier of Tricia Brock’s adaptation of “Killer Diller,” which is based on a novel by Wilmington author Clyde Edgerton, and Ross McElwee’s “Bright Leaves” were highlights
Oscar-winning writer Jim Taylor’s directorial debut, “The Lost Cause,” a narrative short starring Nick Searcy, and Jonathan Caouette’s “Tarnation” were favorites
For the first time, Cucalorus opens in early November and the historic Thalian Hall Center becomes its primary venue
Screened films “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Freeheld” went on to win Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short, respectively. The closing night film “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” released in 2008 to critical acclaim.
Erica Dunton presented her film “The 27 Club”, Marianna Palka and Jason Ritter were here for the screening of their film “Good Dick”, and the festival closed with a special screening of “Wendy and Lucy” with Kelly Reichardt on hand.
Record busting crowds joined artists like Ray McKinnon (That Evening Sun) and Gary Lundgren (Calvin Marshall) for five days of salty celebration as Cucalorus celebrated fifteen years of renegade festival making. Four films from the festival went on to receive 10 Oscar noms and no one was seriously injured as far as we know.
More than 200 artists travel to Wilmington to participate in the annual celebration. Joining filmmakers are dancers, choreographers, spoken word artists, musicians, performance artists and installation artists – as Cucalorus spreads its arms to embrace an increasing collection of diverse artists. Luke Matheny joins the family for a screening of “God of Love” (2011 Academy Award winner for Best Live Action Short). Matt Hulse brings his satchel of seeds and becomes the King of Cucalorus 2010 by participating in the works-in-progress program, hosting his signature ‘Audible Picture Show’ and presenting the world premier of his short “A Pilgrimage.”
The 17th annual Cucalorus Film Festival came to a close on Sunday night, capping off a record year for the events overall attendance and marking the debut of the NC Retrospective program. The festival hosted 297 artists, including filmmakers, dancers, choreographers, poets, musicians, actors, and one mime from 7 different countries around the world and from cities scattered across the country. Accumulated attendance at the festival’s screenings, parties and educational events totaled 10,515.
Top grossing films were Holy Motors, A Royal Affair and Somebody Up There Likes Me. Durham-based filmmaker Jim Haverkamp hosted a standing room only screening of experimental shorts produced during the film festival as part of the Strange Beauty Challenge. Festival staff conducted a closing ceremony described as “the Holy Rite of Communion served by the First National Church of the Exquisite Panic.”
An extended conversation on the stage at Thalian Hall with Shirley Knight and director Gary Lundgren was one of Saturday’s many highlights. Bobcat Goldthwait made his first appearance at the festival with his found footage horror film Willow Creek. The world premiere of Rebecca Kenyon’s doc Something You Can Call Home sold out on Friday night. Toronto based filmmaker Ingrid Veninger’s The Animal Project had its US premier at City Stage.
Force Majeure from Ruben Ostlund and Hide and Seek from Joanna Coates were the top performers. Regional favorite and World Premiere NC Sixty, directed by Erica Dunton, graced the Thalian Mainstage.
Cucalorus officially comes of age. The launch of the Connect Conference brought innovators and entrepreneurs together for gatherings all over downtown. Wilmington on Fire by Christopher Everett sold out with a line wrapped around the block. Waffle Street by Eshom and Ian Nelms and Applesauce by Onur Tukel were other favorites.
Cuctails took over the booze scene during the fest, conjuring delicious regional cocktails for us all. Louis Foreman taught us what to do after you’ve thought of a great idea in his keynote Connect speech. Ingrid Jungermann made a return to Wilmington with her queer dark comedy Women Who Kill, and UNCW alum producer Hillary Pierce brought us TOWER. Tribute to local camera engineer legend Joe Dunton included films like Oliver!, The Shining, and Dance Craze. Vivan Kubrick and steadicam inventor Garrett Brown joined for a livestreamed Q&A!
Hurricane Florence couldn’t rain on THIS parade. A little over a month after one of the most destructive hurricanes in our port city’s history raged through Wilmington, Cucalorus 24 brought collective joy, societal mindfulness, and a raucous good time to a community in recovery. Indie legends Superchunk kicked off the festivities, the Connect Conference celebrated four years of innovation, and over 200 unexpected films were screened. Other highlights included John Jeremiah Sullivan + Rhiannon Gidden’s powerful musical exploration of Wilmington’s pre-coup culture of 1898.