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'Celebrating and interrogating Southern culture': Carrboro Film Fest returns for 17th year


The Carrboro Arts Center is pictured on Aug.14, 2022.

Carrboro Film Fest will return for its 17th year from Nov. 18 to 20, taking place at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. 

The festival will include seven blocks of short films, as well as two feature films on opening and closing nights. There will be nearly 50 short films shown throughout the weekend.  

The festival aims to represent "diverse filmmakers from across the South," according to a press release.

Carrboro Film Fest Director Bradley Bethel said the films span a variety of genres, including narrative documentary, comedy, drama and animation.

When he took over as director four years ago, Bethel said it was his intention to make the festival all about the South and Southern culture, both as a highlight and critique. 

“I wanted the festival to become a place, a venue, for both celebrating and interrogating Southern culture,” Bethel said. 

Now, every film screened at the event is related to the South in some way.

“We've added a level of local and regional relevance and, in the process, we've actually been able to raise the bar and raise the quality of the films by focusing on just Southern films,” Bethel said.

Bethel said Carrboro Film Fest is ultimately about building community. He added that the festival offers a unique opportunity to experience the films surrounded by others. 

“Come to Carrboro Film Fest for the great Southern films and stay for the community that you'll be part of,” he said. 

The opening night film this year is "Tableau," directed and written by UNC alumnus Stuart Howes. 

The film tells the story of an adulterous mother who is trying to win back the respect of her oldest daughter, focusing on themes of redemption and forgiveness. 

Howes said the film was shot in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, including in locations like a UNC classroom, Carolina Coffee Shop, Franklin St. and Coker Arboretum.

“Being from Chapel Hill, the Carrboro Film Fest is my backyard," he said. "To get to show the film there to friends and family and my home community is really exciting."

Howes also said smaller film festivals like Carrboro Film Fest are important because they provide a platform for independent films to be viewed, as well as offer viewers with the opportunity to discover "hidden gems."

“I think movies are one of the great American pastimes, and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is a joyous and important pastime,” he said. 

The closing night film, "The Smell of Money," was also written and produced by North Carolina native and UNC alumna Jamie Berger. 

The film is a documentary investigating pollution produced by factory pork farms in eastern North Carolina and the environmental racism surrounding the facilities. 

Berger will be in attendance for a Q&A session after the screening of the film on Sunday. She was inspired to work on the film after doing her undergraduate honors thesis at UNC on the same topic, she said.

“I think it was really important for us as filmmakers to make sure the folks in the very state that this is happening, know that it's happening,” she said.

Berger said that festivals like Carrboro Film Fest allow films to gain credibility and momentum. 

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“I think attending film festivals is a great way to just support local film, local artists, to be part of maintaining this culture of independent filmmaking,” Berger said.

Tickets to attend the event are on sale now and available on the festival's website.

A festival pass, which grants admission to all screenings, is available for $50. Tickets for individual screenings are also available for $10. 

In order to attend the event, attendees are required to wear a mask and must provide proof of either a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result.


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