With the Cucalorus Festival (Nov. 7-11, 2018) less than two weeks away, we were fortunate to catch up with Executive Director Dan Brawley to find out what’s in store for Cucalorus 24. Here’s the inside scoop!

What is Cucalorus?

Cucalorus Filmmakers Lounge On Air Sign

The Cucalorus Festival enters its 24th season this year with a five-day schedule of film, music, theatre, and comedy along with a packed two-day conference on technology and entrepreneurship. The festival has a long history for showing the best films of the year but has expanded to include the Cucalorus Stage festival, a showcase of the best theatre from the Fringe circuit combined with dance, music, and comedy. The Stage Festival headliner hits the stage on Wednesday, November 7 at the Brooklyn Arts Center featuring NC legendary pop-punk band Superchunk. To complement all the fun, the Cucalorus Connect Conference includes speakers, panels and workshops exploring how technology and the connected digital economy impact the way we work and the way we live. You can also check out the latest Virtual Reality headsets which include fun games and new applications in health care, and more. But of course, the meat in the middle of the Cucalorus meals is tons of great films!

Films all day long!

I discovered my love for film festivals over 20 years ago when I was studying and traveling overseas. I got a volunteer gig at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and discovered that my favorite time to go to the cinema was at 10 am in the morning! With a hot cup of coffee! At Cucalorus, we have five screening venues running all day long. You can take your pick of films ranging from romantic comedies to documentaries about today's most pressing issues. But my favorite treat, that you can't find at the multiplex or on Netflix, are the shorts blocks. Everyone must attend at least one of these treats. You buy one ticket to a cleverly named showcase, like Cherimoya Shorts, and you get about nine carefully curated short films. Each block is thematically organized, so if you want to hear about global issues, check out the Kumquat Shorts block on Sunday evening at Jengo's Playhouse. If you want to see the latest dance films, check out the Sapodilla shorts on Friday at Thalian Hall.

 Cucalorus Film image with seahorse and stuffed animal

Romantic comedies and festival winners

Hitting the biggest screens at Cucalorus (Thalian Hall and CFCC's Union Station) is a lineup of the year's best feature films. Many, like the charming, romantically challenged “In Reality” by Ann Lupo, have won multiple audience awards on the festival circuit. “In Reality” screens on Thursday at 7 pm in the Station Main theatre and has an encore screening on Sunday at Jengo's Playhouse. Ondi Timoner's biopic “Mapplethorpe” tells the fascinating story of the rise of the famed photographer. Mads Brugger's hilarious satire “St. Bernard Syndicate” tells the tale of two clueless American businessmen trying to sell puppies to the middle class - in China! On a slightly more serious tone, the Korean breakout film “Burning” which won the Fipresci prize at the Cannes Film Festival in June, hits the screen on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday morning. 

Cucalorus Stage image with Dancer in front of mirror panels

Social justice docs, watch and take action

This year's Voices program features documentaries exploring racial justice, food justice and everything else from roller skating to cocaine. “Agave - the Spirit of a Nation,” our opening night film, is an eloquent, cinematic essay about the traditional farmers of Mexico who grow, harvest and process the magical plants that make Mezcal. As much a mesmerizing visual document of the love and labor of processing by hand, the film touches on sustainable farming and a host of other issues that are critical to our lives, our culture and our future. Another food justice doc, “The Biggest Little Farm” is a charming story about one couple's seven-year journey as they move from L.A. to establish a traditional farm in the California countryside. Funny and uplifting, the film is a testament to the power of nature, the value of slowing down, and the joy in discovering that often the answer is right in front of us. Touching on an issue that is dear to the Cucalorus community (50% of the films at the fest are by women), “This Changes Everything” is a star-studded expose on gender disparity in the industry. Produced by Geena Davis, this eye-opening film is full of stats and stories that will inspire us all to do more to bring balance to the industry.

Cucalorus Connect image of Public Speaker

Connecting the ones and zeros

And don't forget, if you need to sit back and listen to innovators and technologists talk about the future of banking, health care, and even the way we work, join us at the Connect Theatre on Thursday and Friday. The conference this year is organized into five tracks: FinTech, HealthTech, GigTech, Startups, and the Community Brew. Learn how mobile apps are changing the way we solve public health issues and meet the brave new startups that will change our world.

And that’s not all!

For a full schedule of film screenings and cool events including cocktail workshops, comedy shows, and late-night parties, visit www.cucalorus.org