A Banded Demoiselle:

Nov 9 • ARTSY SMARTSY, COVER STORY, FilmNo Comments on A Banded Demoiselle:

Cucalorians are preparing to take over our city come Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11th. They’ll be crawling across our streets, antennas perched, looking for the most fulfilling films to store away in their poison sacs and spew across the land. Those Cucalorians are feisty little things!

In preparation for Wilmington’s highly revered independent movie festival, bugs come in more ways than one: inching across the Soapbox walls on Thursday evening at the Bug-a-lorus Art Show, which will take place as part of the Cucalorus Kickoff Party, including live music, shorts and music videos. Bugs will be served at the Pegasorus luncheon on Friday, and they’ll especially show their diverse species throughout a range of flicks to be screened at different venues all over Wilmington. From City Stage to Thalian Hall’s Main Stage and Black Box Theater, to Jengo’s Playhouse and Screen Gems Studio’s screening room, to Front Street Brewery and Dixie Grill, Cucalorians will be hard to miss in the Cape Fear.

We spoke with festival director Dan Brawley last week about the 2010 event and what we should expect. He shared some insight into new stuff going on, including a screen-printing station where folks can make their own shirts for $5, as long as they bring the product to screenprint. Those environmentally savvy Cucs will also be planting a tree for every international filmmaker flying to the festival, all in an effort to help reduce their carbon footprint. Brawley waxed more on the festival, including films he thinks the public should see and, of course, how they came up with “bugs” as this year’s theme.

encore: Tell us what’s new with Cucalorus 16.
Dan Brawley: We got infested with bugs in late July. During one of our six-hour staff meetings, we got so hungry that we decided to kill two birds with one stone—we started eating cockroaches. Now we don’t ever need an exterminator, and we’re pretty healthy, too, which is nice.

It’s all about sustainability really. We’re looking down the road and trying to create an event that can be an example for financial and environmental stewardship. So, we’ve repackaged the festival in some fairly minor ways. It’s kind of like condensed milk—you get the same amount of Cucalorus-y goodness, but it’s sweeter and thicker.

e: Why start on Thursday rather than Wednesday as in previous years?
DB: According to sacred writings of the First National Church of the Exquisite Panic, Inc., Wednesday is a big waste—like the median in the road sitting in the middle of the week and probably ruining Tuesday and Thursday by proximity. We no longer recognize Wednesday as a “real” day.

e: I understand it’s been a tough year in bringing the festival together with financial restraints felt against everyone but especially with nonprofits. How have you worked around and within them, and what have you learned from it on a positive note?
DB: Well, the good thing for us is that we never had much money in the first place. So, we’ve been innovative and adaptable for years. We were probably better prepared than most because we’ve learned how to stretch a dollar. So, in some ways, the economy has been an advantage for us. Plus, watching movies is good, cheap fun.

e: Much of the time Cucalorus gets many award-winning or highly acclaimed films to show. Can you share with us some of the ones that are playing this year and their appeal?
DB: This is easily the deepest slate of films in Cucalorus history. I run through the list and it’s hard to pull one or two out and say, “Hey, this is the one!” But since you asked…

“A Film Unfinished” is getting some awards season buzz, so I think a lot of people are looking forward to it.

And then there’s “Enter the Void”— one of the most original works in years, clearly a standout but also the most challenging film in the festival. Gaspar really gets into your body and moves things around. Which is great if you’re into that.

“Small Town Murder Songs” by Ed Gass-Donnelly is a special little film, broken into evangelical chapters and driven by some outstanding music. Ed’s short film “Pink” screened at Cucalorus in 2005, so we’re excited to welcome him back and show him some Cucalorus love.

The last film on my must-see list, “The Four Times (Le Quattro Volte),” is a genre-defying masterpiece by Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino. At times an austere and loving documentary, the film’s auspicious enterprise is to give visual life to Pythagoras’ belief in four-fold transmigration of souls. The film is framed by mesmerizing footage of the ancient process of making coal.

e: In the same vein, Cucalorus always shies away from the competitive spirit that film festivals normally bring; explain to folks who are unaware what your main goal is.
DB: We just want to bring people together, feed them good films, maybe some moonshine (one of Cucalorus’ sponsors is Piedmont Distillers Moonshine), and then see what happens. We’ve stuck to our belief that an event without the trappings and tensions of competition is valuable—that it helps to foster a creative atmosphere where people can relax and get to know each other.

e: You’re situated completely downtown this year; what’s the appeal to keep the festival focused downtown?
DB: Downtown Wilmington is such a treasure. We have two of the sexiest historic theaters in the country, so we’ve got that going for us. It’s also really comforting for filmmakers from overseas when they come to Cucalorus, and they don’t have to spend all day trying to figure out how to get around. It makes the experience more intimate for everyone.

e: If you had to convince someone to participate in the festivities this year in one sentence, what would it be?
DB: Next week, you could be drinking moonshine, eating crickets and watching “Enter the Void”—your choice.

e: Finally, bugs are the theme for 2010. What bug would Cucalorus be if only one?
DB: A banded demoiselle.

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