Every month, Emily Alexander sets up her own, repertory movie night in Raleigh, aptly titled Raleigh Film Underground.
She got the idea to start the night after two film-related events happened in North Carolina. The first was the closing of long-running arthouse the Colony at the end of 2015, a place where she grew up watching movies. The second was the state offering up a $30 million grant to fund film and TV productions. “I felt like our film industry and independent film in North Carolina was just starting to – what’s the word I’m looking for? I felt like it was gonna take some community effort to get it back on its feet.”
So a year ago, Alexander got a $1,000 grant from the Awesome Foundation to round up the projection equipment needed to screen films on a regular basis. Underground was launched last April, with the intention of showing not only indie and cult films (this month’s selection will be the acclaimed 1990 documentary “Paris is Burning”), but previews of films made by local filmmakers and artists.
At first, Underground was going to be a traveling picture show, bouncing around from venue to venue. But Alexander soon got an OK from Charlotte Smith at the antique store/event space Union Camp Collective in downtown Raleigh to have Underground play there.
“A couple of months ago, she approached me and offered me a year-long residency at her warehouse,” says Alexander. “This new location, Union Camp, is spectacular. So far, it could not be any better for my current circumstances.”
Union Camp isn’t the only space in the Triangle opening up its doors to free, monthly, film happenings. Durham’s Shadowbox Studio has been home to the recently-started Movie Loft, where indie and cult films are also screened.
Loft may take place at the Studio, but it was originally conceived by people at Duke’s Arts of the Moving Image. Adjunct instructor Jim Haverkamp approached the photo/video-shooting space about having a movie night.
“I guess they were looking to spread out and do more events, instead of just being a pure studio,” says Arts of the Moving Image staff specialist (and Loft curator) Stephen Conrad. “So, Jim asked me if I wanted to start picking a selection of movies to show, and he just gave me carte blanche to pick whatever I wanted.”
For this month’s screening, Loft will show “River of Grass,” the debut 1994 film from filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (who recently did “Certain Women”). Just like with Underground, Loft wants to hip Triangle moviegoers to films they may not have heard about. “I’m not trying to be super-obscure,” says Conrad. “They’re just things that maybe have not gotten the viewership or credit that they deserve.”
Alexander, who is currently working with the city of Raleigh on an upcoming public art festival, is also not out to be snobby with her film choices. She’s just giving local cinephiles a chance to watch something different on the big screen – and she’s glad events like those through Loft are happening as well.
“Having lived in New York and, then, Los Angeles and having lived in places where I had a lot of access to these kinds of things, I know that I want a lot of access,” she says. “I want more of these types of events available to me. So, in my mind, the more, the better. I think it’s great for everybody that lives here.”
Movie Loft presents “River of Grass”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12
Where: Shadowbox Studio, 900 E. Club Blvd., Unit 2200D, Durham
Raleigh Film Underground presents “Paris Is Burning”
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27
Where: Union Camp Collective, 1109 N. West St., Raleigh