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Surfing the Globe: Local documentary film festival DocuTime kicks off its 12th year

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AmericanPromiseFilm captivates through its ability to expose us to unfamiliar worlds. From the unique minds behind Cucalorus, to the various artists who use Wilmington to house their latest cinematic ventures, to the high-profile projects that come to southeastern North Carolina every year, the port city’s film scene thrives through a vast, passionate pool of talent. One such local enthusiast, Paula Lee Haller, holds an annual documentary film festival, DocuTime, which will embark on its 12th year this Saturday, January 25th.

Haller brims with excitement as she discusses bringing documentaries to the Cape Fear region. Her unparalleled enthusiasm stems from a desire to open eyes and take the area on a tour of the world in a matter of a day. No stranger to documentary, she founded the International Documentary Association in 1982 in Los Angeles. As well, Haller served as producer for the 1985 National Geographic documentary “Four Americans in China.”
A little over a decade ago, Haller imparted her expertise locally. With the aid of community partner WHQR Public Radio, DocuTime found its footing at the Screen Gems studios. The screening room offered seating for 55. However, as interest mounted the festival made its move to King Hall in its sixth year. Haller attributes the support she’s found to the city’s innate interest in film.

“Foreign films fit right in with our demographics,” she explains. “Documentary fans are not afraid of subtitles. Our audience loves learning about foreign cultures—curiosity and imagination are part of enjoying a good documentary. Learning by watching entertaining and informative documentaries is such a pleasure.”

By effect, Haller keeps Wilmington’s curious minds a priority when programming DocuTime. She considers the selecting process for the event to be an art form. The dedicated film connoisseur scours the depths of the Internet to find the most enriching non-fiction films. The arbitrary process is fueled by her keen, discerning eye. Keeping the Wilmington community in mind, she also strives not to step on the toes of other local film festivals such as Cucalorus. She maintains that she never feels like she’s in competition with other events, she simply hopes to accentuate the work already being done within the community and find her own niche in satisfying the city’s cultural thirst.

Her ability to bring quality films to the area becomes apparent in the lasting impact certain films have had on loyal attendees of the event. Haller enthuses that people still talk about DocuTime’s 2010 showing of “Paper Clips,” the documentary follows a middle school’s study of the Holocaust where they collected six million paper clips to represent the victims. This film’s resonance typifies what makes it all worth while for Haller.

“[My goal is] having attendees come up to me and say, ‘Wow, DocuTime was so much fun!’” She elaborates. “Or, ‘I loved this film or that film, I’ve learned so much.’” The day also affords time for brief Q&A sessions run by Haller as the films programmed offer insightful discussions.

Haller intends to continue the momentum with the selections she’s gathered for this year. Kicking off the day will be “La Mansion de la Radio” at 10 a.m. The film uses stream-of-consciousness editing to give insight into Radio France—the nation’s answer to NPR or BBC. The second feature, “American Promise” will begin at 12:00 p.m. The film chronicles the life of two African-American boys enrolled in a school on the Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Thirteen years in the making, the film captures the adversity the boys and their families face as a result of stereotypes and a learning disorder.

A shorts block will begin at 1:45 p.m. with “Captive Radio,” which explores the way the families of kidnapped victims use a weekly radio show in Columbia to communicate with the hostages. A micro-short documentary, which runs for three minutes, “Spider Drove a Taxi,” gives an intimate portrait of New York City’s oldest cab driver. The next stop for the day’s journey is Kuwait. “Kings of BBW Barbeque Kuwait” tells the story of five BBQ pitmasters who use their craft to benefit the troops with a cook-off. “Paraiso,” a film that Haller quips gave her vertigo, looks at the lives of immigrant window cleaners who work on Chicago skyscrapers.
Another feature called “Sweet Dreams” will play at 3:15. The film showcases an all-women drum circle composed of people who lived through the Rwanda genocide. They channel their drum-playing to promote peace and healing. Rounding out the day’s event will be “Liv & Ingmar,” which illuminates the 42-year-long relationship between Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman.

DocuTime will be held at UNCW’s King Auditorium. Parking can be found at the Fisher Student Center lot off Hamilton Drive. Haller promises that signs around the campus will guide guests to where they need to be. Tickets, which can be purchased at or Sharkey’s Box Office on the first floor of the Fisher Center, are $7 per show or $25 for an all-day pass. As well, seniors pay $5 for individual tickets and $20 for an all-day pass. Students get in for free with a student ID. Doors open at 9:30 a.m..

“When you develop a good program, the people come,” Haller says. “We have wonderful audiences—sophisticated, well-educated, and well-traveled. Over 65 percent stay all day, looking at all the documentaries on the program.”

King Hall, UNCW Campus
Tickets: $5-$7 per show, $20-$25 day pass
Free for students with ID
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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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