Wilmington’s Cucalorus Film Festival breaks box office records


Dancealorus PHOTO BY Holland Dotts

Dancealorus PHOTO BY Holland Dotts

Attendance at this year’s Cucalorus Film Festival, which wrapped on Sunday in Wilmington, N.C., reached 14,784 – a 26 percent increase over 2012.

The 19th annual festival, presented by PNC, screened 227 films and brought filmmakers together from 12 countries and 61 cities. Cucalorus’ slate of parties and screenings also expanded this year to a total of 115 –  making room for new attendees.

“This is a pivotal time for Cucalorus,” festival Director Dan Brawley said. “I think this festival pushed us into a completely new place, but not too far from the organized chaos that makes Cucalorus special. It seems like we’ve created some lasting value – for filmmakers and for audiences – who appreciate the irreverent and unexpected vibe at Cucalorus.”

Bigfoot (Aaron Tillis), Bobcat Goldthwait and Cucalorus Director Dan Brawley discuss Goldthwait's "Willow Creek." PHOTO BY Ryan Risley

Bigfoot (Aaron Hillis), Director Bobcat Goldthwait and Cucalorus Director Dan Brawley discuss Goldthwait’s “Willow Creek.” PHOTO BY Ryan Risley

A handful of notable guests attended the festival, joined by a growing group of alums, such as Norwood Cheek and Hope Dickson Leach, members of the festival’s emerging Ambassadors’ Council. As she returned to the U.K. on Monday, Leach commented, “Let November roll around again quickly please – you’re doing something amazing and I am blessed to be part of it.”

One of Saturday’s many highlights was an extended conversation at Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts with “Redwood Highway” director Gary Lundgren and star Shirley Knight.

"Bound By Sea" screens at Thalian Hall on Nov. 16. PHOTO BY Holland Dotts

“Bound By Sea” screens at Thalian Hall on Nov. 16. PHOTO BY Holland Dotts

An early morning screening of director Nate Daniel’sBound By Sea,” a touching testimony to Cape Fear area surfing legend Jack Viorel, brought more than 400 local surfers and supporters to Thalian’s main stage.

Bobcat Goldthwait made his first appearance at the festival with his found-footage horror film, “Willow Creek,” which included a hilariously improvised introduction from a film critic Aaron Hillis in a bigfoot costume

The world premier of Rebecca Kenyon’s documentary, “Something You Can Call Home,” sold out on Nov. 15. Kenyon, one of the founding members of Cucalorus’ Artist-in-Residency program, shot the feature-length documentary this past fall in Wilmington. The comedy-themed Atchafalya Shorts block also sold out Thalian’s black theater on Saturday night. Toronto-based filmmaker Ingrid Veningers “The Animal Project,” a charming ensemble comedy, also held its U.S. premiere on Nov. 15 at City Stage Theater.

 The festival’s Works-in-Progress program expanded to include 13 films and an extended selection of events organized through a multi-agency collaboration between Cucalorus, the Southern Documentary Fund, Working Films and Alternate ROOTS. A standing-room only screening of footage from the documentary “Freedom Fighters” was followed by a discussion with two formerly-incarcerated detectives whose private-investigator business is the subject of the ongoing project from filmmaker and Stanford professor Jamie Meltzer.

Cucalorus' held its Opening Night Party at Bellamy Mansion Museum on Nov. 13. PHOTO BY Saben Kane.

Cucalorus’ held its Opening Night Party at Bellamy Mansion Museum on Nov. 13. PHOTO BY Saben Kane.

The N.C. film industry had its moment, too, during a 90-minute panel discussion with film-community leaders that was centered on the state’s tax-incentive program. The panel is available to view on Variety magazine’s website.

The festival’s schedule featured an expanded offering of parties, starting with the opening night event at Wilmington’s top address – the Bellamy Mansion Museum. A handful of local businesses also stepped in and held parties for select films from the schedule, including a dance party at the swank new headquarters for downtown ad agency, Blueberry Creative.

The 20th annual Cucalorus Film Festival will be held from Nov. 12-16, 2014. The organization’s upcoming Oscar Party will take place Sunday, March 2, 2014. For further details on festival events, visit www.cucalorus.org.