In 1994 Wilmington witnessed the birth of a cinematic tradition that has grown from a one-night film festival in its first year to the sprawling four-day, five-night swirl of international and local filmmakers, indie flicks, shorts, installations, dance performances, and more. Cucalorus is much more than a typical film festival: It’s a multi-venue, citywide extravaganza. The masterminds behind the filmic monster thrive on ushering in artistic mediums of all kinds, as well as going to painstaking lengths to ensure participating visionaries from across the globe can attend the festival with little-to-no cost.
In doing so, the festival becomes larger than the parts of its whole. Community and connectivity is the name of the game. From local independent film workers, to newcomers, to returning filmmakers, the tides of passion rise each year, as ideas are shared and long-term friendships or partnerships are made. While networking is certainly a huge part of Cucalorus, attendees gain more than a collection of business cards: A sense of wonder and openness in the air infects people who attend even one screening. Wilmington long has been a haven for independent film, and with Cucalorus, the Port City and its residents get to show off to the world over.
With two decades under its belt, submissions have begun pouring in from all over the world for this year’s Cucalorus. Turning the big 2-1, Cucalorus will hit the legal drinking age come November 11. According to Zoë VanDerPloeg, Cuc’s new communications coordinator, there certainly will be some cocktails worthy of the milestone. But first programming the festival is of utmost importance. “We had 1,713 entries last year,” VanDerPloeg says. “We expect to get a similar amount for Cuc’ 21.”
They officially began accepting submissions in April and thus far have wrangled in 663. The regular submission deadline is June 24, and Wilmington residents can submit for free. Those who can’t make the regular deadline need not fret, as late submissions will be accepted until July 15, and an extended deadline will last through July 29. (Want to submit? www.cucalorus.org.) As well Dance-a-lorus submissions are due by July 29, and it’s free of charge for all to submit.
Each year the abundance of submissions is narrowed down to approximately 250 films—around 140 of which are shorts. And with those, over-200 films and a host of talent—writers, directors, editors, cinematographers—can see just what Wilmington has to offer.
As well, the 10×10 Filmmaking Challenge will continue for 2015. Originally becoming a part of Cucalorus in 2011, the program was conceptualized by Norwood Cheek as part of a retrospective on his work. This year the challenge will pair 10 filmmakers with 10 entrepreneurs to shoot a short in less than a week, which will fortify the bond between filmmakers and businesses. Local businesses laud the support and capital gains out-of-town and local productions give. The competition comes in conjunction with a partnership between the kooky Cucalorians and Castle Branch Corp.’s tekMountain incubator and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNCW. The application deadline is Wednesday, June 10 at 11:43 p.m.
Also returning this year will be Cucalorus’ gnarly sister festival, “Surfalorus,” which will take place in the Outer Banks October 1 through 3. The submission deadlines are the same as the regular Cucalorus submission windows.
“We have received some incredible support from Dare County to make this happen; although, we do have a Surfalorus outreach screening in the works for Wilmington sometime this summer,” VanDerPloeg mentions.
Their Surfalorus outreach screening will take place Thursday, July 16 at Wrightsville Beach Park (1 Bob Sawyer Dr.) at 8 p.m. Music from Selah Dubb will play in the park prior to the screening.
VanDerPloeg also comments that Cucalorus is ablaze with their 2015 sponsorship campaign. The deadline to sponsor Cuc’ 21 is July 1. “We’re always looking for new sponsors to support Cucalorus and come enjoy the festival,” she says.
In order to tide folks over until the official festival, Cucalorus will be offering a slew of summertime events. This Friday, June 12, the short-film compilation “Fracking Stories” will play at Jengo’s Playhouse (815 Princess St.) at 7 p.m. (see full story on Working Films page 9). The free screening will be followed by the free closing reception for the multi-media installation “Water Warriors” by Michael Premo and Andrew Stern at Wabi Sabi Warehouse (19 North 9th St.). Additionally, Cucalorus will take their Pop-Up Cinema Series to various locations downtown, and films on Saturdays throughout the September. Stay tuned for more details. —Christian Podgaysky