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FROM HORROR TO DOCS: Independent film festival goes into year 15

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The Cape Fear Independent Film Festival welcomes loads of films and panel discussions.

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The Cape Fear Independent Film Festival (CFIFF) is celebrating its 16th year, once again delivering three days of quality cinema from around the world. Their focus continues to be showing a wide variety of films, from groundbreaking documentaries to the best from around the region.

knobgoblinsThe festival takes place from March 10 through 12, and kicks off at a familiar location: The Browncoat Pub and Theater  (111 Grace St.) in downtown Wilmington. In addition, they will be screening films at the historic Hannah Block Community Arts Center (120 S. 2nd St.). This year features a great blend of films, panels, and the annual film awards celebrating the festival’s best. A festival pass is available for all screenings for $55 or tickets can be purchased to individual screenings and blocks from $5 to $10. The awards ceremony, which closes out the festival on March 12, can be purchased for $20.

One of the most frequent filmmakers is Christopher Moore who won the Best Horror Award in 2015 and whose latest film, “Knob Goblins,” marks his seventh screening. “Knob Goblins” will be shown as part of CFIFF’s Horror Block on Friday, March 11, 9 p.m., at Browncoat. We spoke with Moore about the work and festival.

encore (e): What do film enthusiasts need to know about “Knob Goblins”?

Christopher Moore (CM): “Knob Goblins” is my love letter to 1980’s practical creature movies. It’s about a mental patient who’s allowed to return to his childhood home, so he can finally come to terms with the death of his younger brother. He thinks his sibling was killed by a Knob Goblin, a demonic creature that bites your junk off. LOL! Yes, the title says it all. I wanted to make a film where only guys are screaming victims instead of women.

e: Tell us about your first experience with the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.

CM: I was nervous at first because it was only the second film festival I’d ever been accepted into with my other movie, “Hard Stapled.” The people running it made me feel right at home, and I made quick friends with some of the fellow filmmakers there. The festival always has a special place in my heart because of how I was treated as a film-festival newbie.

e: In your experience how has the festival changed over the years?

CM: It’s been interesting seeing them screen films at different venues over the years, as well as the different places that hold many of the social events. It seems to be constantly changing in different ways.

e: What do you find to be the most attractive feature about the festival?

CM: The people running it really care about the filmmakers and want you to have a good time while you’re there. Every year I’m lucky enough to be invited back. I look forward to hanging with many of the people involved with running it, as well as the other filmmakers who make it out for the event. Plus, the Wilmington area is a great backdrop for the festival, so it always feels like a mini-vacation whenever I make it out there.

Other movies worth catching during the two-day film festival…

Other Madnesses

Four out of five stars

Saturday, March 12, 6 p.m.

Hannah Block Theater • 120 S. 2nd St.

The standout feature of the festival is a fascinating piece of psychological terror called “Other Madnesses.” The film takes its inspiration from other reality-bending mind games like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “The Number 23.” But it’s also deeply rooted in early works of Martin Scorsese. There’s most definitely a “Taxi Driver” vibe going on as we follow the maddening descent of Ed Zimmer (James Moles). He’s a strangely charismatic New York City tour guide who spends his days atop a double-decker bus, calling out historically relevant locations around the city. His nights are spent somewhere more sinister. He is haunted by visions of a missing girl and struggles to string these surreal images together into a cohesive narrative.

Ed’s life is seemingly filled with sisyphean challenges. His job is a constantly repetitive ordeal. The same tour bus every day recites the same practiced dialogue.  He’s socially awkward and has few connections to this world. There’s a definite Travis Bickle vibe to the character, but it never feels derivative. In fact, it’s a dirtier, grittier New York City, the director, Jeremy Carr, has taken us back to. Ed Zimmer could easily live down the hall from Travis Bickle: tenants in the same madhouse.

Life deals Ed a few interesting hands as he begins to interact with two diverse and distinct personalities. There’s Lucia (Natia Dune), a beautiful Russian tourist that strikes up a relationship with Ed. Then there’s the super creepy inspector who claims to be investigating Ed for a recent murder; however, there’s something he’s hiding behind a thick accent and beady eyes.

“Other Madnesses” succeeds because it keeps the audience guessing. The film is a rare feature that succeeds even though it never answers half the questions raised during the course of the film. Like all good psychological thrillers, there’s the constant question of whether what Ed is experiencing is real or nothing more than the crazed synapses of a troubled mind. As Ed begins to seek out violent criminals and execute them, you are forced to wonder whether he’s a vigilante anti-hero or a nut job incapable of determining what is real and fiction.

It is a fantastic feature well worth seeking out. Director Carr excels at creating an atmospheric thriller that makes great use of New York City. James Moles is excellent in the lead role, and brings in the right amount of sickliness and sympathy to Ed. He’s a character we might not identify with, but Moles makes him easy to understand. Even his most violent motivations are rooted in a basic truth we can all understand. Do yourself a favor and check out “Other Madnesses.” It is easily the best movie I’ve seen so far in 2016 and deserving of finding an audience.

UPDATE: “Other Madnesses” won awards for both Best Feature Film and Best Produced Screenplay (The Don Award) at The Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.

Regional Showcase

Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m.

Browncoat Theatre • 111 Grace St.

LOCAL DOC: Local filmmaker Michael Raab’s “The Disappearing Church’ will screen twice during Cape Fear Independent Film Festival. Courtesy photo

LOCAL DOC: Local filmmaker Michael Raab’s “The Disappearing Church’ will screen twice during Cape Fear Independent Film Festival. Courtesy photo

Over the past 16 years, the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival has built a reputation for showcasing the best independent cinema from around the world, while fostering strong relationships with filmmakers from around the region.  Each year the festival kicks off with a Regional Showcase which pays tribute to a number of filmmakers from around the region—Asheville, Burgaw, Belmont, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, and Raleigh. Ten films will be showcased in this block, including locally written and produced “The Disappearing Church,” by Michael Raab. The documentary follows three remaining parishioners who attend mass every Sunday at the closed Sts. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church in St. Helena, NC. The church officially performed its last mass with a member of the clergy in 1998 but a few behind still attend in an unorthodox manner. “The Disappearing Church” also will screen in the Documentary Block, held Saturday, March 12, 5:30 p.m.

Union Bound

Three out of five stars

Saturday, March 11, 4 p.m.

Hannah Block Theater • 120 S. 2nd St.

One of the films with a strong regional connection is “Union Bound,” a true story based on the diaries of Union Soldier Joseph Hoover. Hoover escapes a Confederate prison camp and is aided by slaves from the Underground Railroad to find his way home. 

Producer Michael Davis hails from North Carolina and will be attending the screening, which also features Sean Stone (son of famed director Oliver Stone) in the lead role. It’s a classic tale of survival set amidst the backdrop of a conflict that still resonates today.

Unverified

Three out of five stars

Saturday, March 11, 7 p.m.

Hannah Block Theater • 120 S. 2nd St.

The world of college athletics always has been under scrutiny. There isn’t a successful college program that isn’t constantly being looked at to make sure NCAA rules and regulations aren’t being violated. In a day and age where college sports account for billions of dollars, it’s no surprise some schools are looking for any advantage in a highly competitive landscape. But what happens when one of the schools breaking the rules is right in your backyard? By now the scandal has plagued the University of North Carolina football program. It is something people are aware of, though they might be unfamiliar with the particulars.

“Unverified” is an unflinching documentary from director Bradley Bethel, examining what the press called “the largest case of academic fraud in the history of college sports.” Like any story, the truth isn’t anywhere near as simple as the headlines would have us believe. Accusations which quickly were adopted as fact are dissected, as those involved begin to question the institution that has turned against them.

“Unverified” is a stark piece of blunt filmmaking and deserves to be seen.

Actors Discussion Panel

One of the highlights of the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival is the annual Actors Discussion Panel which features working performers from the region. They’ll converse about being a working actor in the area.

The panel includes actor Scott Parks (“Containment,” “The Vampire Diaries”), Eddie Mills (“Devious Maids”), Jeff Sandor (“Turn,” “Sleepy Hollow”) and Jen Ingulli of SE Casting Services (“The Walking Dead,” “Homeland”). The panel, hosted by festival mainstay Langley McArol, is sure to provide helpful insights into the process of being a working actor.

For more information on this year’s Cape Fear Independent FIlm Festival, check out the website at www.cfifn.org.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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