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Magic in the Air: Filmmakers partied the night away at Bellamy Mansion

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Droves of art enthusiasts and visiting and local filmmakers descended upon the antebellum-stye Bellamy Mansion last night for Cucalrous’ kickoff party. The hum of eager chatter filled the backyard and rooms of the 10,000 square-foot home. Ideas were exchanged, and memories were made.  Old friends reunited, and new BFFs were made.

Contorting into Cucalorus: A dance team made their way through the crowd at Cuc' 20's kickoff party

Contorting into Cucalorus: A dance team made their way through the crowd at Cuc’ 20’s kickoff party. Photo by Christian Podgaysky

Each of the four downstairs rooms had a delicious spread, running the gamut between fruit and chips and crab dip. Drinks were slung in the mansion’s spacious backyard, and fun shenanigans, like an impromptu performance by a group of dancers who contorted their way through a sea of people, took hold in a night to remember. Cucalorus isn’t just a film festival; it’s a homecoming. There was definitely a sense of magic in the air.

Filmmaker Caleb Andrew Ward certainly felt the magic. After graduating from UNCW in May, Ward headed west and settled in Denver, Colorado. This weekend marks his first trip back to the Port City since his move, as he’s premiering his film, “Children of Salt.” A film major, the short-turned-feature started as a senior thesis and showcases the local talents of cinematographer Ethan M. Sigmon and producer James Martin. As well, it boasts the acting chops of Jacob Keohane and Ashleigh Lineberry.

“It’s really great to be back,” Ward comments. “I miss this town a lot. I had a blast being here and going to school, and it’s great to actually have ‘Children of Salt’ premiere in the town where it originated.”

Since being in Denver, Ward has demonstrated his compassionate side by becoming crew member for Love Hope Strength, a nonprofit that implores folks to get on the list to donate bone marrow to cancer patients. He’s traversed the country, going to music festivals and events with the organization. Now, Ward has settled into a managerial position for Sie Film Center in Denver.

Having been in Wilmington for only a week, Ward already has gotten reacquainted with local film by starring in a production directed by ILM theatre darling Patrick Basquill. Though acting and being on set in the Port City is a favorite pastime for Ward, he can’t deny that a trip to Pure Gold—a strip club with which he used to be a member—tops the list of must-dos during his brief stay in Wilmington. Check out the premiere of his film at 10:30 p.m. on Friday night at TheatreNOW (19 S. 10th St.)

Likewise, former Cucalorus artist-in-residence Mandi Edwards also has returned for the festival, debuting the film she created here last spring. Hailing from the U.K., Edwards wanted to create an objective piece about guns in America. Her explorations culminated in a short documentary entitled “Guns in the House.”

“Well, it kind of changed from gun laws, and it turned more into how safe people feel in their community,” Edwards describes. “And guns was kind of an overarching thing, ’cause it’s stereotypical to think people have guns in their house. Everybody I asked was kind of like you’re in the right place—you’re in a Southern town. Actually, the most fascinating thing I found was that every single person I spoke to had a different perspective in the same city.”

With “Guns in the House” under her belt, Edwards now has jumped onto a similar project helmed by a New Orleans man. Titled “91 Percent,” the film is a statistical documentary that takes the controversy surrounding guns to a national level. The project will begin shooting in 2015.

For now, Edwards simply is basking in her time here in Wilmington. “I can’t believe how much has changed in the six months I’ve been gone,” Edwards says. “Everything’s been swapped around: Some shops are gone, people have left, new people have arrived, and there are new residents. But it still feels like home.”

“Guns in the House” premiered today as part of the Dorking Shorts block, but will have a repeat screening tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. at Thalian Main (310 Chestnut St.)

Conversely, Slovenia native Simon Intihar is experiencing not only his first trip to Wilmington, but also his first trip to America. “It’s beyond expectations,” he says. “The people, the welcoming, the hospitality.”

Intihar entered his short film, “Diving-In,” at Cualorus after discovering the festival on FilmFreeway, a website dedicated to matching filmmakers with festivals. He immediately jumped at the opportunity given Cucalorus’ lack of an entry fee. “I’ve visited other festivals, and I think this one has something special,” Intihar says.

“Diving-In” tells the story of a man marred by a tragedy he caused that greatly impacted his and his family’s life. Throughout the 15-minute short his family gives him one last chance. Intihar previously has worked in TV and nonfiction. He made a piece on Peter Bossman, the first black mayor elected in Eastern Europe. As well,  Intihar’s talents extend into music. The percussionist is a member of two bands in Slovenia. “Diving-In” will premiere tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Thalian Black (310 Chestnut St.), as part of the Bantam Shorts.

As always, Cucalorus will host a plethora of local talent. Marty Landau, producer of the short film “Pushing Buttons,” pores over its premiere. “This is the first time I’ve personally had something in the festival,” Landau tells. “Last year I was actually the social events coordinator for Cucalorus.”

“Pushing Buttons” came into existence after a chance encounter with Meredith Jackson on the set of “Tammy.” Landau was Melissa McCarthy’s double, and Jackson was Susan Sarandon’s. “We became really good friends and we had a good time,” Landau says. “I follow politics, and I knew what was going down with 994 [the House Bill responsible for cutting film incentives], and I was like ‘guys, come on, we’re about to get screwed completely. We’ve got to do something.'”

So, Jackson, Landau’s husband, Jonathan Landau, and Langley McArol penned a script in December 2013. They shot the film, which stars Lee Armstrong, Sam Robison, Jackson, Devin McGee, and Tammy Arnold, in January.

“Then we went straight into a political campaign [for the film industry],” Landau reports. “So, we did the political campaign until last week.”

The film revels in the local film scene’s flavor, enlisting the help of Bo Webb, Stephen Thompson,  Mark Rudolph, and a host of others. “Pushing Buttons” will be screened at 10 p.m. at City Stage (21 N. Front St.) on Saturday as part of the comedic Swedish Flower Shorts.

These are just a few of the visionaries whose work will be featured at this year’s festival. Stay up to date on everything Cucalorus with our encore Go! app.

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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, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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