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Carrboro Film Fest explores facets of Southern culture


The 14th annual Carrboro Film Fest serves as a good platform for people in the UNC community to show their filmmaking skills. Photo courtesy of Alex Boerner.

Triangle film lovers gathered to celebrate new, independent Southern film at the 18th annual Carrboro Film Fest last weekend.

Audiences filled the ArtsCenter’s theater space to watch the festival's 53 short films and two feature-length films. 

The festival opened on Friday night with a screening of “A Thousand Pines,” an hour-long documentary about 12 Oaxacan seasonal workers planting trees to replenish the timber industry in the United States. The screening was sponsored in part by the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Bradley Bethel, the festival director, said that they received 219 submissions total, all featuring some perspective on what it means to be Southern. 

This year, festival staff selected 55 submissions and curated the short films into seven thematic blocks, five of which were presented back-to-back on Saturday and included such themes as “I Gotta Do Me,”Labors of Love” and “Southern Gothic.

Each thematic block was an hour and a half, with an added 15 minutes for an audience Q&A with attending filmmakers.

“I do think that every block of short films does, in some way, explore and reveal and depict and showcase interesting ways of thinking about Southern-ness,” Bryan Reklis, the Carrboro Film Fest technical director, said. “That's what we want our film festival to be known for.”

Reklis said the films were put together in a way that would promote conversation.

Though the festival does not have a central theme beyond celebrating and interrogating the American South, Reklis said  many of the films each year mirror current and ongoing social issues in the South.

“We try to curate these very interesting blocks so that when you come out of that block, we want there to be conversation like, ‘Oh, wow, there was such a variety going on in there, but I can see how these things tied together,’” he said.

Saturday's “I Gotta Do Me” block included documentary stories and narrative films about individuals who break from conventional norms in some way, Reklis said.

One of the films screened was “Gabriela,” a narrative short film in which a young, undocumented Guatemalan woman dreams of joining a local swim team. The film tackles issues of self-acceptance and freedom, according to Evelyn Lorena, the writer, director and star of “Gabriela.”

She said that she wanted to represent stories of undocumented immigrants, as well as her own experiences in the American South.

“The South has a lot of different identities, including people like Gabriela,” she said.

Other films discussed religious and racial identities in the South, environmental issues impacting rural Southern areas and cryptids from Southern folklore.

Two more short film blocks preceded the final showing on Sunday. The closing film, “The River Runs On,” is a feature film documenting the management of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests. Its screening was also sponsored by the Hussman School. 

Chad Heartwood, an associate professor in the Hussman School, produced the documentary alongside director Garrett Martin and producer Jeremy Seifert. It is currently streaming on several sites.

The film incorporated different perspectives of forest management from Cherokee Native Americans, the U.S. Forest Service and outdoor enthusiasts. Heartwood said that he appreciates any festival that shows films that create a sense of connection to the land.

“We wouldn't exist without the land to support us, without nature to support us,” he said. “And so I think anything that helps create that path to understanding is a powerful thing, a beautiful thing. And I'm just happy festivals like this are here to do that.”


@dthlifestyle |

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