Strange Beauty Film Fest celebrates the weird

The 4th annual Strange Beauty Film Festival celebrates the wonder of the weird

CorrespondentJanuary 23, 2013 

  • Details What: The Strange Beauty Film Festival When: Begins at 8:15 p.m. Thursday-Friday; begins at 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Where: Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham Tickets: $12 per screening; $40 for festival pass at www.manbitesdogtheater.org

It’s busier work these days, but aside from that, curating the Strange Beauty Film Festival in Durham hasn’t changed much in four years, according to co-organizer Jim Haverkamp.

“We just put out a call for entries, and just try to send it out to all the weird people we know,” he says.

Just like always, the annual festival will reveal the strange beauty of experimental short films at Manbites Dog Theater downtown, and the entries will include a healthy sampling of Triangle filmmakers.

“This year we got almost twice as many as we got last year,” says Haverkamp, who added that he and co-organizer Joyce Ventimiglia watched about 300 short films this year, to select slightly more than 50 films that add up to about six hours of offerings, spread over three nights.

Plus, there were many more international entries than last year – including filmmakers from Israel, Portugal, Canada, England and Estonia – which just goes to show that weird people can find each other everywhere.

Haverkamp and Ventimiglia were encouraged a few years ago by Manbites Dog Theater board members Ed Hunt and Jeff Storer to come up with a film event for the theater. Haverkamp and Ventimiglia had both done some work there, designing video for live theater productions.

“Joyce and I just kind of hatched this in our living rooms,” says Haverkamp, a freelance video editor who teaches a couple of film classes at Duke University. “In terms of running this, it’s just the two of us.”

That entails trying to find as many revelatory ways to demonstrate “strange beauty” in a short film as possible. Haverkamp calls the selection process “weird algebra.”

The co-organizers agree that the films must connect on an emotional level, somehow, no matter how strangely that is achieved.

“For me, soundscape is really important in a film,” says Ventimiglia, a video production specialist at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. “There’s that old saying that ‘A movie without sound is nothing, but sound without a movie is radio.’”

Of this year’s selections, Ventimiglia says she especially loves “Atracados [Moored],” a 10 1/2-minute film by Filipe Afonso from Lisbon, Portugal, scheduled for screening Saturday.

She describes it as “all of these really breathtaking images of a port city – sort of an obscure narrative about these two brothers.” (She declines to say more, because “that would give it away.”)

Haverkamp seems especially partial to “Light Plate,” by Josh Gibson, an instructor at Duke University’s Program in Arts of the Moving Image.

“That’s an incredible film,” says Haverkamp. “It’s all shot in Italy. Josh has worked out this really intricate imaging system with 35-millimeter film – like film that you would see in a cinemaplex, but he’s got it in a handheld camera.”

In addition to short films, the festival will feature Circle Spiral Slow on Friday by Durham Cinematheque, a project of filmmaker and 16-millimeter film collector Tom Whiteside, whose film loops will be accompanied by Durham instrumental band Arrows Out.

On Saturday, the “Unofficial Afterparty” to mark the last night of the festival takes place at Motorco (723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham), with a screening of Durham Cinematheque’s “JUST BUGS” with a live score. It’s all part of a CD release party for Fontana, and Durham’s beloved folk-punk band The Wigg Report is also on the bill.

For more information about the Strange Beauty Film Festival, and the full lineup of films and events, go to www.strangebeauty.org.

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