By Nathan Walls
Pat Wright’s passion for films says it best: “Film is cool because it makes the world smaller and it brings new ideas to people and it makes our community richer for it.”
That’s the call to action for people to attend the annual Indigo Moon Film Festival, which will be held for the third straight year Oct. 12-14 in historic downtown Fayetteville.
Wright and Jan Johnson of Groundswell Pictures and Moonlight Communications brought the film festival to Fayetteville because the closest such event was about an hour and a half away.
“We both love quality films,” Johnson said. “We have practically made a profession of going to film festivals. We have been accepted and awarded at film festivals. One of the greatest joys of a film festival is when the filmmakers come to talk about their films and why they made them.”
Having enjoyed very popular film festivals in Asheville and Durham, the latter of which is known to attract approximately 25,000 fans annually, Johnson and Wright saw the positive impact the events have had on those communities.
“And we just thought we need that here,” Wright said. “Folks enjoy living somewhere that has that kind of cultural art.”
The 2018 festival will have a green theme – the great outdoors – and is co-sponsored by Sustainable Sandhills and the City of Fayetteville’s Public Works Commission (PWC). The opening night film this year is “Living in the Future’s Past,” which shows the impact of how everything we do is having an impact on our environment. The documentary is narrated and produced by actor and environmentalist Jeff Bridges.
“While you might not think every time you turn on your ignition or throw things in the trash that should be recycled is all that bad, it shows the impact of billions of people doing this,” Wright said.
Johnson continued: “Bridges’ focus is on doing everything we can to save our planet. For centuries, we have been doing a lot of harm to our planet. Right now, it’s going to take hundreds of years to heal our planet. It’s not just in the U.S., it’s all over the world. It’s a beautiful film that’s extremely interesting.”
Other films about conservation will be shown in the Revolutionary Coworking space on the 5th floor of the Self Help building at 100 Hay St. Displays, giveaways and composting demonstrations will be held so people can see how easy it is to apply small practices to help the environment.
PWC is sponsoring a video contest for people to send in their own videos about their favorite ways to conserve energy and water. Prizes will be awarded for winners of the contest.
On Saturday, Oct. 13, you can watch movies from morning until night when the bulk of the festival films will be shown. Screening locations this year include The Arts Council, Hay Street United Methodist Church, the Cameo Art House Theatre (both screens) and the Revolutionary Coworking space.
Other films, revealed during a kickoff event on Aug. 31, include:
- “Rodents of Unusual Size,” a fascinating flick that shows the behavior of unique animals like the Nutria. Johnson said: “What they do is just weird, so you have to tune in. The film is just fascinating.”
- “Conversation with a Cigarette,” a narrative short
- A suspense film called “Occupants”
- A film on forest bathing
- “We Will See Someday,” a creative, pencil-drawn animation about reincarnation
Films from North Carolina include:
- “Robeson Rising,” a documentary that Lumbee Indians made to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
- “Ground Zero Goldsboro,” about the unexploded Mark 39 nuclear bomb from the 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash
- “Birds of the Sky,” a film produced for Falcon Christian Academy and Falcon Children’s Home by local producer Jeremiah McLamb
- “Calcutta Mercy”
Wright, Johnson and their volunteer judging panel do their best to select as many North Carolina films as possible, but “films are selected based on merit,” so those selected have to meet high standards.
“We had a lot of North Carolina films that won audience awards last year,” Johnson said.
The audience awards are cash prizes and jury awards are trophy prizes. The award winners will be announced on Sunday, Oct. 14, during the awards banquet barbecue at SkyView on Hay, located at 121 Hay St.
While there are only a few award winners, it is an honor for a film just to be selected for viewing.
“We had so many great films submitted this year,” Wright said. “The hard part was narrowing it down.”
More than 120 submissions came in from more than 20 countries. Approximately 50 films are expected to be shown this year.
“We’ve been watching films since May!” Johnson said.
Wright and Johnson said that the help of their volunteer judging panel and the board of Groundswell Pictures makes the whole event possible.
“We have a great volunteer board,” Johnson said. “We are so grateful to them for helping to get the festival up and running. They put the hard work in and see the fruits of their labor when they see people really enjoying themselves at the festival.”
“The volunteers are the engine behind the festival,” Wright added.
Wright and Johnson are hopeful for another great turnout this year, much like 2017.
“Last year was our second year, although it was our first full three-day festival,” Wright said. “We had dozens of filmmakers and hundreds of people come in for it. We showed more than 40 films in four venues. It was just a great festival and I think everyone was really happy with it.”
Last year’s opening night film was “Hondros,” a documentary about award-winning war photographer Chris Hondros, a Fayetteville native killed while on assignment in Libya in 2011. The film was produced by Greg Campbell, Hondros’s childhood best friend in Fayetteville. The movie had its N.C. premiere at Indigo Moon and has since aired on Netflix.
“Several North Carolina filmmakers drove in and other filmmakers flew in from across the country last year – it was really fun to hear them talk about their films and documentaries,” Johnson said. Question and answer sessions with filmmakers are held after many of the films.
“An inside pleasure of a film festival is to ask the filmmaker why they made certain decisions about their films,” Wright said. During these conversations, friendships are often formed by audience members and the filmmakers.
Due to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the first annual festival was shortened, but not before a great opening night. The Maya Angelou film “And Still I Rise” was shown to a sold-out audience. Filmmakers came in during the rainy second day. Electricity went out around noon or 1 p.m. that Saturday. About 30 people were in a theater watching a film when the power went out.
After that, “we stayed in the Rainbow Room with candles on, sharing stories,” Johnson said.
Wright, Johnson and volunteers helped the filmmakers and fans get safely back to their hotels and back home.
So it’s fitting that a festival umbrella is now sold, with proceeds going towards a grant to a selected filmmaker to help him or her in “weathering the storm to get their films from script to screen.” Fans can also purchase other merchandise that assists with the operations of the festival.
Looking towards the future, the organizers want to attract more people each year and are excited about the new downtown hotel and baseball stadium, and are hopeful that a new performing arts center comes, so films can be shown at those venues.
VIP passes for the 2018 festival went on sale Aug. 31 and tickets became available Sept. 7.
To purchase passes and tickets, and learn more about the event, visit indigomoonfilmfestival.com.