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


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