Cucalorus awards a total of $25,000 to 20 local filmmakers

Cucalorous gives out 20 grants to independent NC filmmakers
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 11:55 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 11:27 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Cucalorus Film Foundation has announced that it is awarding $25,000 from the Filmed in NC fund to 20 filmmakers based in North Carolina.

Since the start of the grant program almost a decade ago, this is the largest amount the festival has ever been able to give out.

“I was really eager to try to invest in the bottom of the ecosystem because our state spends a lot of money supporting big budget projects that shoot at the studios,” Chief Instigating Officer of Cucalorus Film Festival Dan Brawley said. Brawley is credited with creating the grant program.

Filmmaker Stewart Nelsen was a grant recipient this year. His film project, “Tale of the Bull,” exposes racial injustice in Durham.

“To receive this grant money today lets us know that we’re headed in the right direction,” Nelsen said.

It’s stories like these, about North Carolina and made by North Carolinians, that Brawley said the grant aims to support.

“So often people come from other places to try to tell our stories and it’s just become unacceptable in the current environment,” Brawley said. “I think authentic Southern stories are told by Southern storytellers, and I think it’s becoming increasingly important that the people telling the stories are the people who the story is about.”

The grant also aims to give voices to underrepresented groups in the state.

“The Filmed in NC Fund is made possible through a partnership with the NC Film Office, and by a gift from Artless Media in conjunction with The Magnifying Glass. This multi-partner initiative supports narrative, documentary, and experimental film projects, both features and shorts, at all stages of production with a focus on growing support for female, African American and Latinx storytelling,” a Cucalorus announcement from Nov. 16 states.

The recipients were honored during the 29th annual Cucalorus Film Festival on Thursday, Nov. 16, in the Filmmakers Lounge at Thalian Hall.

“For some filmmakers, this might be the only group or time outside of their parents or their uncle that they get funding and recognized as a professional filmmaker,” Brawley said.

This year’s grant recipients are, per Cucalorus:

  • “Syd X. Porter for The Snallygaster, a narrative feature about a recovering drug addict who finds herself caught up in the town cult to sedate a demon, called the Snallygaster.
  • Andie Morgenlander for Whistle Down Wind, a narrative feature about a drunken teenage kiss, a hidden love affair and the conservative ideologies of two friends that force them to confront the truth about their sexualities.
  • Brady Jacquin for Nightingale, a narrative feature focusing on a recovering alcoholic struggling to cope with the sudden murder of his fiance, turning to violence as his only way out.
  • Lydia Carnell Hyslop for Sheila Got Bangs, a narrative feature about a missing brother and estranged sisters reuniting to wrestle with ghosts of the past and seeking redemption.
  • Resita Cox for Basketball Heaven, a documentary feature that takes a poetic look at how a predominantly Black community continues to produce the greatest NBA players in the world.
  • Bree L. Davis and Stewart Nelsen for Tale of the Bull, a documentary feature about Darryl Howard, who was exonerated after spending 20 years in prison for murders he didn’t commit.
  • Linda Royal for Minnie Evans: Draw or Die, a documentary feature that reveals the artistic mastery of one of the most important American artists of the 20th century.
  • Stephanie Diane Ford for Untitled Youth Camp Documentary, a documentary short chronicling the creation of a sexual violence awareness program at an annual youth summer camp.
  • Pierce Freelon for Where Our Spirits Reside, a documentary short that follows jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon, who wraps her grief in paper mache for a puppet show about transformation and healing.
  • Malinda Maynor Lowery for LUMBEELAND Short Film, a narrative short about a quick-tempered Native American drug dealer escaping the shadow of his cannabis kingpin grandfather.
  • Madison Cavalchire and Maddie Stambler for The Unknown Metal Box, a documentary short about a Durham artist’s mission to reunite a box of photo negatives he found in the 1980s with its original owner.
  • Tatyana Marie for Anxiety & Me, a narrative short that follows a humanized version of a young girl’s anxiety when she invites over her crush, trapping her emotions and causing chaos within.
  • Erwick D’Souza for earthlings, a narrative short about two astronauts on a wayward mission, facing death and coming to terms with their own mortality.
  • Joshua Perez for The Day the Music Stopped: The Story of Sugar Hill, a documentary feature that explores the turbulent history of Kinston, NC’s infamous red-light district, Sugar Hill, and its profound impact on music, civil rights, and the local economy.
  • Angela Hollowell for Saying Goodbye to Forever Chemicals, a documentary short about the fight for clean water in Eastern North Carolina.
  • Cassidy Scott for Lady in Waiting, a narrative short about Lady Cecelia, who must marry to save her family’s prosperity and reveal her true feelings to her new lady-in-waiting.
  • Camden Watts for Picturing Pigs, a documentary short about two photographers navigating obstacles to remind travelers that pigs are more than just food.
  • Yasaman Baghban for Eight Gates, a documentary short that tells the story of Htarsu, a 39-year-old Myanmar activist, and her children, living in Durham as refugees.
  • Stefani Byrd for Here-There, is an experimental immersive sound and video installation that investigates how the transcontinental railroad, capitalism, westward expansionism, and labor unions have shaped the American psyche.
  • Rodney Stringfellow for How to Haunt a House, a narrative short that follows a woman with a well-earned grudge against her brother who is visited by an angry ghost.”

As the SAG-AFTRA strike has recently been resolved, Brawley said he foresees a boom in the North Carolina film industry. He hopes to support more North Carolina filmmakers with even more money in the future.

“We still don’t have enough money to fund every project that we like. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to grow that fund even larger. It’s so important to grow North Carolina voices in the industry,” Brawley said.