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Fayetteville Observer, The (NC)
February 8, 1991
SPOTLIGHT FAYETTEVILLE: CITY PREPARES TO HOST FILM AND VIDEO
MICHAEL FUTCH, STAFF WRITER
By MICHAEL FUTCH, STAFF WRITER
Dustin Hoffman's in town.
And Fayetteville is hosting its first-ever North Carolina International Film and Video Festival.
What's going on here? Fayetteville's neither Hollywood nor
Cannes, but the movie cameras and film projectors will be rolling here
over the next four days. It's big-time motion picture making at its
best and the skimmed cream of the small scale independent filmmaking
Mr. Hoffman, a two-time Oscar winner, is scheduled to shoot a
brief scene for the big-budgeted commercial movie "Billy Bathgate"
today in the old Cumberland County Courthouse. And hundreds are
expected for the festival, whose purpose is to spotlight independent
filmmakers, those unrecognized artists who are constantly struggling
for financial support to pay for their next project.
The two unrelated projects are further examples of how North
Carolina has become more involved in the filmmaking industry. The state
ranks third in film development behind California and New York,
according to the N.C. Department of Economic and Community Development.
"Filmmaking is an expensive medium, and it takes a lot of money
to make things happen," says independent filmmaker Andy Garrison, one
of four scheduled festival speakers. "Sixty percent of what I do is
trying to raise funds for each project."
Mr. Garrison's first dramatic movie, "Fat Monroe," starring Ned
Beatty and released last October, will be shown during a workshop
portion of the event that strives to recognize exceptional visual work.
New York Times film critic Vincent Canby called Mr. Garrison's
15-minute slice of backwoods Americana "a pint-sized classic" during
its showing at the prestigious New York Times Film Festival.
The screening of "Fat Monroe" and Mr. Garrison's lecture on the
"Nuts and Bolts of Filmmaking" on Sunday morning should provide one of
the many treats of the three-day N.C. International Film and Video
Festival. The affair will feature 28 documentary, drama, experimental
and animated films, deemed the best of more than 200 films and videos
submitted for competition. Three workshops on filmmaking are also
Besides Mr. Garrison, scheduled speakers include acclaimed
horror makeup artist Tom Savini; Susan Leonard, director of exhibitions
for the South Carolina Arts Commission Media Arts Center; producer,
director and film historian Tom Whiteside; and Alex Albright, an
assistant professor of English at East Carolina University who will
introduce an important North Carolina film saved from obscurity.
A special Children's Series kicks off the festival from 11 a.m.
to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Howard Johnson Plaza-Hotel symposium room on
Cedar Creek Road. Admission is $2.
Festival events will be held at Howard Johnson on Saturday and
Sunday before moving on Monday to the board screening room at the
Chesnutt Library on the Fayetteville State University campus. Hours are
11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, and 9 a.m.
to about 11:30 a.m. Monday.
Jazzdango, the opening reception, will be held at The Arts
Center, 301 Hay St., Saturday evening from 7:30 to midnight. The "lost"
1947 motion picture "Pitch a Boogie Woogie," filmed by this state's
first motion picture company (Lord-Warner Pictures of Greenville), will
A roundtable discussion on "Southern Media Opportunities and
Needs" is set for Sunday at noon at Howard Johnson. "The Arts Council
here is in the process of developing a media center that will provide
access for regional filmmakers," says Libby Seymour, associate director
of The Arts Council and project director of the festival.
The Media Center, located in The Arts Center, has audio, video,
film and photography equipment available for use, and Ms. Seymour says
the center is looking to supplement that.
Author Alex Haley, whose second book "Roots" became a
phenomenon and made him a household name, is scheduled to speak at 7
p.m. Monday at Fayetteville State University's Seabrook Auditorium on
Murchison Road. The ensuing 1977 television miniseries "Roots" drew
over 130 million viewers, the largest program audience in TV history.
Tickets are $10 for Mr. Haley's program and $15 for the 8:30
p.m. reception that follows, or $25 for both events. For more
information, call 486-1474.
The N.C. International Film and Video Festival has its roots in
the N.C. Film Festival, which was held in 1974 and '75 in Chapel Hill
before moving up Interstate 40 to Raleigh in 1976. According to Chapel
Hill's Chris Potter, who helped organize the first two events, the
festival was discontinued after 1977 when the N.C. Museum of Art
temporarily shifted its focus from North Carolina art.
The original festival was open only to North Carolina
filmmakers, Mr. Potter says, recalling that about 100 entries were
received the first year.
The reorganized festival in Fayetteville has broadened its
scope considerably, with one of its films coming from as far away as
the Soviet Union. Sergey Mavrody's "Dangerous Planet," an honorable
mention recipient in the field of animation, tells the story of a
precarious journey of a tiny alien creature.
A panel of film industry experts and the film festival staff
selected 105 films from the 200 films and videos submitted for the
festival contest. These finalists, with running times ranging from 2
minutes to feature-length 2-hour-plus, were screened by the judges last
weekend. "The quality was exceptional, especially in the category of
documentary," Ms. Leonard says.
Ms. Leonard, director of exhibitions for the South Carolina
Arts Commission Media Arts Center, says the films were evaluated
according to their respective categories, which included animation,
documentary, drama, experimental and special award series.
"When you are judging festival or a fellowship (work), you are
looking for something that stands out because it goes beyond the normal
approach. Independent film became notable because it is not a
traditional approach to storytelling or just the whole idea of reality.
It goes beyond what we normally see in commercial theaters," Ms.
"There aren't that many different stories in film and video,
period. What becomes different is the way they are told or the
believability. It really doesn't have to do with the money as far as
believability. Something can have a multimillion dollar budget, but it
doesn't touch you because there are flaws."
It's only appropriate that this state host such a festival.
North Carolina is the No. 1 state in terms of film industry growth,
with $2.3 billion in total earnings from moviemaking activity since the
state film office was established in 1980. That includes a record $426
million in commercial production revenue since 1990.
"It's a real important venue for independent filmmakers," Mr.
Garrison says of this weekend's festival. "It's a place for their work
to be seen. That's how we get the work distributed. It's also how we
First-place winners in the festival's major series are: Deborah
Lefkowitz of Cambridge, Mass., for "Intervals of Silence" in the field
of documentary; Edgar A. Barens of New York City for "Honey and Salt"
in drama; Robert Russett of Lafayette, La., for "Frankenstein: Phases
of Interpretation" in experimental; and Chicago's Caroline Leaf for
"The Street" in animation.
Of note among the four special categories recognized by the
festival, Durham's Nancy Kalow won the N.C. Filmmaker Award for her
30-minute video "Sadobabies." This film, which is based in San
Francisco, reveals the life and culture of young runaways.
"We were looking for works that went beyond the traditional
statements about social conditions," Ms. Leonard says. "It has more
depth to it than the normal documentary you see on television."
Of the films reviewed by the judges, 10 were the work of North
Carolina filmmakers. That included "Dear Phil," the story of an
isolated Southern housewife searching for some meaning in her life.
Based on a short story by North Carolina short story writer Lee Smith,
it won second place in the drama series.
ECU's Mr. Albright is featured speaker during Saturday's
opening reception, when "Pitch A Boogie Woogie" will be shown. This
25-minute movie features an all-black cast and was originally intended
for black theaters across the nation. "Pitch" experienced distribution
problems, however, and only played in about a dozen movie houses in the
Carolinas in 1947 and '48.
"It's kind of an innocent film. It's a real fine example of
early North Carolina cinema. It's not fine in the sense of filmmaking,
but you have to understand what you're seeing. It's one of the very
earliest films made in the country for black audiences," says Mr.
Albright of the movie that was directed and produced by two white
brothers from Washington, N.C.
"Pitch A Boogie Woogie" is a backstage musical that starred
local Greenville men Tom Foreman and Herman Forbes. Four flammable
nitrate prints of the movie were abandoned in the Roxy Theater in
Greenville. They were brought to Mr. Albright's attention and later
transferred to safety film with a restored sound track.
Six of the musicians who played on the film's sound track as
the Rhythm Vets - at the time students at N.C. A&T University -
will reunite and play at the festival's opening reception. Native North
Carolinian and renowned jazz saxophonist Lou Donaldson made his
recording debut in the movie, Mr. Albright says.
The festival, which awarded over $1,500 in cash and
certificates, is supported by the Arts Council with a grant from the
Grassroots Program of the N.C. Arts Council and the Society for the
Preservation of Vaudeville and Variety Arts.
Excluding meals and hotel accomodations, cost for the entire
festival is $20. Admission to all 28 film screenings of the five major
festival categories is $10, or $2 per category, and $10 for all three
workshops and the reception. Admission to the reception only is $3. For
more information, call 323-1776.
Caption: (1) William Johnston In The Film "Fat Monroe". (2) A
Scene From Robert Russett's Experimental Film "Frankenstein: Phases Of
Interpretation." (3) A Promotional Poster From The "Lost" 1947 Film
"Pitch A Boogie Woogie."
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