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Durham, North Carolina: Filmmaker who Organizes Outdoor Screenings to Show at Film Festival

“Between terrifying normality and sublime fever dreams lies Strange Beauty,” states the press materials for a new film festival that begins today, the Strange Beauty Film Festival.

Beauty, strange or otherwise, takes many forms in the films to be screened at the festival. “More Control” is a music video — shot in sharp, high contrast black and white — by filmmaker Steve Daniels of Columbia, S.C. It takes its inspiration from the quote that “Cinema is an evil force” bent on exerting “control over people and events.”

Wilmington filmmaker Andre Silva’s “Ichthyopolis” mixes animation and live actors to produce a colorful, surrealistic set of images. “Fledgling,” a documentary by Elizabeth Heny and Tony Gault of Colorado, is the story of a family that raises a stray baby crow and sets it free. “Scene 32,” by Durham filmmaker Shambhavi Kaul, is a quiet meditation on several different landscapes.

Each filmmaker’s mood and method is different, but they all work in the medium of short films, most well under a half hour. Their films are among 46 shorts that will be screened today and Saturday at the Strange Beauty Film Festival at Manbites Dog Theater.

Durham filmmakers and husband and wife Jim Haverkamp and Joyce Ventimiglia have organized and curated the event. Ventimiglia said the festival has been in the works for about a year. They put out a call for submissions and have been selecting the films for the past three or four months.

They have chosen fiction, documentary and experimental films for the festival. Haverkamp and Ventimiglia got the idea for Strange Beauty while attending various film festivals. “Whenever we go to a film festival, there’s always one film that stands out,” Ventimiglia said. “We thought to ourselves, it would be great to put on a festival of just that kind of film.”

Short films have a do-it-yourself quality that makes them appealing, Ventimiglia said. “I think because a lot of times they’re made on a limited budget, they’re very personal films, and people tend to take more risks.”

Ventimiglia and Haverkamp both have made films themselves. She did location work for Haverkamp’s short documentary “Armor of God,” about musician Scott Irving. They collaborated on “Hot Dog Man,” a short documentary about people’s reactions to a hot dog statue in downtown Durham. Haverkamp was also one of the producers on “Monster Road,” a documentary about animation artist George Bickford.

During today’s screenings, Durham filmmaker, scholar and collector Tom Whiteside will present films he has curated for Strange Beauty on two simultaneous screens. Whiteside is president of Durham Cinematheque, which puts on outdoor screenings downtown during the summer months. On the two screens, audiences will see excerpts of newsreels, home movies and snippets from famous films, all drawn from Whiteside’s extensive and eclectic film archive.

Haverkamp and Ventimiglia already are planning for a second Strange Beauty festival. They will see what goes right this year, and get more people involved for the second year, she said.

Cliff Bellamy



Durham, North Carolina: Film Festival Organizers Use Outdoor Movies to Draw in the Crowds

Passes go on sale today for the 13th annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, to be held in Durham April 8-11.

For the first time, the 13th festival will have two nights of free outdoor film screenings. The screenings will be at the Durham Farmers’ Market area in Durham Central Park, at 8 p.m. April 9 and 10. Food vendors will be on hand for the screenings.

The festival always presents free screenings to schoolchildren and the public. The outdoor event is a way to expose more people to the festival, said Ted Mott, director of production for Full Frame.

“We want to keep that community energy going, and that’s hard to observe if everyone’s inside,” Mott said. Festival officials hope the screenings will make the festival more accessible and inviting, he said.

Festivalgoers may purchase passes in three categories. The Priority Pass (general admission price of $500) provides first access to tickets and events, and a total of 25 tickets to films, panels and premium events. The Festival Pass ($200) gives the holder 20 tickets for films, panels and premium events. The Film Pass ($125, $75 students) gives the holder tickets to 15 films. Convenience fees for online purchases are lower this year, Mott said.

Passes, along with more details, may be purchased at www.fullframefest.org/passes. For festivalgoers who prefer to mail their payment (and avoid a convenience charge), a form will be available today on the Web site.

Passes come with a few new perks for the 2010 event, Mott said. For the first time, holders of the Festival and Film passes will not have to pick up tickets the same day as the screenings. “We’re not going to make you go to the box office if you don’t want to,” Mott said. “We’re trying to get people to see more movies,” not stand in more lines.

In January, the festival will announce the thematic series and the career award, which honors an important filmmaker. Film titles will be announced in early March. The film schedule for the 2010 festival will be announced March 18, and festival tickets go on sale April 1.

Festival organizers expect to screen more than 100 films next year. Films will be shown at five venues in the downtown area — the Carolina Theatre, the Durham Convention Center, the Durham Arts Council’s PSI Theater, Rigsbee Hall, and Durham Central Park.

The 2009 thematic series was titled “This Sporting Life,” a series of sports films that Steve James, director of “Hoop Dreams,” curated. Also during the festival, James, filmmaker Peter Gilbert and William Gates, one of the subjects of “Hoop Dreams,” were on hand for a panel discussion and screening of the acclaimed basketball documentary.

Other films and special guests at the 2009 festival were “The September Issue,” with a visit by Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley; and “Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie,” with a visit by Wavy Gravy, also known as Hugh Romney.

During each festival, awards are made in 10 different categories — among them the Grand Jury Award, the Audience Award, the President’s Award and the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights

Cliff Bellamy



Durham, North Carolina: Obama's Election Victory Projected on an Inflatable Screen

Obama's Election Victory Projected on an Inflatable ScreenThe following is an excerpt from “Obama”, by Olivia Hayes. Read it here: http://linguisticallysmitten.blogspot.com/2008/11/obama.html

On election night, we all piled into the center of downtown Durham. It was rainy and muddy, so we hid out in The Pinhook for a while, drinking beer out of plastic cups and checking our Blackberries and iPhones for updates. Anna managed to find an Obama volunteer from San Francisco who we chattered with the whole evening, pondering the possibility of North Carolina going blue. And at a certain point, the crowd outside got louder, watching a live feed on a giant inflatable screen.

We moved outside, boots sinking into the municipal mud just in time to see CNN declare that the McCain campaign “didn’t see a path to victory.” By the time they announced Obama the winner, we were arm and arm under the misting rain, dancing, hugging, laughing, cheering…Tears were shed, strangers were hugged, and the country had begun stitching up the wounds, inking tentative treaties with hand shakes.

I watched Obama’s speech wrapped in the arms of one of my best friends, a tear slipping down my cheek when he repeated his famous mantra. It broke the fever of discontent and cynicism incubated in the ranks of my generation for the past eight years. And that night was the first night that we could say, without rancor, without irony, that we were proud to be Americans.