Charlotteans don't need to take all their film-going cues from Hollywood's release patterns (see this section's lead story). This week, the Queen City plays host to an explosion of alternative cinema, much of it homegrown. Here's a look at what's playing soon -- very soon -- at a venue near you.
1) The 2006 Charlotte Film Festival (Sept. 15-17). It's been a long time since this city saw a festival on the order of Robert West's acclaimed Charlotte Film & Video Festival back in the 1990s, but here's one that's hoping to fill the gap. Snagging local film critics and professors to help serve as judges, the event will showcase a total of 66 movies for a three-day stretch running this Friday through Sunday. Various area venues will serve as screening rooms -- Duke Power Theater at Spirit Square, Wachovia Playhouse at ImaginOn, the Levine Museum of the New South and the Neighborhood Theatre -- and related events include an opening night gala, panel discussions and an awards ceremony.
Need some viewing suggestions? As one of the judges for the Documentary feature submissions, I would strongly recommend: Willie Francis Must Die Again (4:30pm Friday at the Levine Museum), a spellbinding tale (narrated by Danny Glover) of a 16-year-old African-American kid who, in Louisiana in the 1940s, was wrongly convicted of murder and sent to the electric chair. When the chair failed to kill him the first time, the state, public opinion and even the US Supreme Court had to decide whether to put him in the chair again; Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story (12:25pm Friday at Duke Power Theater), an absorbing feature (executive produced by Jane Campion) about a 13-year-old girl who was snatched by North Korean spies and the ensuing decades-long attempt by her parents to discover her ultimate fate; the insightful Beyond Beats and Rhymes (8pm Saturday at Duke Power Theater), appropriately subtitled "A Hip-Hop Head Weighs In On Manhood In Hip-Hop Culture"; and To Tulsa and Back: On Tour With JJ Cale (12:40pm Saturday at Duke Power Theater), an intimate encounter with the singer-songwriter behind such hits as "Cocaine" and "After Midnight."
Various price packages for the festival are available. For more information or to order tickets, go to the extensive Web site at www.charlottefilmfestival.org. Tickets may also be obtained by calling 1-800-838-3006.
2) Declaration of Independents Film Weekend (Sept. 14-16). The Light Factory, reliably on top of what's going on outside of Tinseltown, has once again raided the Sundance and Slamdance lineups to offer off-the-beaten-path films for local movie mavens. Wild Tigers I Have Known (7:30pm Thursday at the Ballantyne Village Theater; $10) centers on a 13-year-old youth who falls in love with another young boy. An Evening of Short Films From Sundance 2006 (7pm Friday in the Knight Gallery at Spirit Square; $7) serves up Robin's Big Date (yes, Robin of Batman & Robin fame); No Umbrella -- Election Day In the City; Transaction, about a prostitute and one of her johns; and The Aluminum Fowl, plugged as "a glimpse of four brothers' daily obsessions with chickens, rap music and aliens." And the feature documentary Spit (7pm Saturday in the Knight Gallery; $8) focuses on the history of spoken word poetry and includes an interview with recent Charlotte visitor Nikki Giovanni. For more info, call 704-333-9755.
3) Greatest Hits of Experimental Film (starts Sept. 17) / Ingrid Bergman Directed By Roberto Rossellini (starts Sept. 19). There's something in the popcorn down in NoDa. After launching two successful fests (African-American flicks back in February and Asian cinema this past month), the NoDa Film Festival organizers have partnered with the Glover Microcinema, 3103 Cullman Ave., to present two free weekly film series. Greatest Hits of Experimental Film will be shown at 4pm Sundays for nine consecutive weeks; the series kicks off this Sunday with works by Maya Deren, with future installments dedicated to Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol and the titanic teaming of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. Tuesdays at 7:30pm, meanwhile, will be reserved for Ingrid Bergman Directed By Roberto Rossellini, starting with Stromboli this upcoming Tuesday and running for three additional weeks. For details on these programs, as well as others planned later in the fall, go to www.glovermicrocinema.blogspot.com.
4) Invisible Children (Sept. 15). Invisible Children isn't just a movie; it's a cause. Three California filmmakers have documented the horrors unfolding in Uganda, where kids as young as 8 are snatched from their homes by a rebel outfit and programmed to serve as remorseless fighters and killers. Hart Witzen Gallery will screen the documentary every hour this Friday night, with shows starting at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30pm. Admission is free. For more info on the film, or to get involved in raising public awareness of this crisis, go to www.invisiblechildren.com.
5) Night Feeders (Sept. 19). OK, so actually leaving the house to see a movie isn't your deal. Not to worry: Local writer-director Jet Eller has you covered. His horror film Night Feeders, produced by the Charlotte-based outfit Synthetic Fur, hits DVD on Tuesday. Filmed primarily with a Charlotte cast and crew, the story centers on four deer hunters attempting to stave off flesh-eating aliens. In addition to its availability at video stores, Night Feeders can be purchased at Amazon.com and rented at Netflix.com.