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What is the Cucalorus Film Festival?



So what exactly is Cucalorus, and what makes it different from other film festivals?


Cucalorus is approaching its 28th annual festival, which will be going on between Wed. November 16th and Sun. November 20th. From then and now, it’s been screening narrative and documentary films and short films of all types as well as hosting a variety of other events. But wait a minute: what kind of films does Cucalorus select?


I will start not by answering this directly, but by instead providing a grand revelation: Cucalorus is a non-competitive festival. No awards at all, and that includes both jury things and audience things. There’s a lot of films out there specifically aiming for awards in order to increase awareness of the project, and honestly, that’s a valid pursuit because festival films compete for attention with stuff like House of the Dragon and typically need all the “reasons to watch” they can muster. But for those films, if they can only get into a certain number of festivals, or if they schedule their release shortly after big awards festivals like Venice/Toronto, then the chance a festival like Cucalorus gets awards-seeking films is slim to none.


So in light of all that, what kind of film is typically finding its way to Cucalorus? It’s this: quirky and/or soulful indies, bold international works, and films willing to experiment. Common types include colorful coming-of-age, character studies about middle-aged and elderly citizens, films about family, exciting indie horrors, smaller films from the previous Sundance, and films and docs about important social issues like disability, race, LBGT+, and the environment. And the fact that “bigger films” don’t usually screen actually makes Cucalorus even more exciting, because it means you’re watching movies that you’re unlikely to have access to anywhere else.


Uniquely, each year Cucalorus also programs one short film block that is solely dedicated to dance films. The festival itself focuses on dance as well as film, as dancers often perform before a movie starts, and there’s even a separate stage event called Dance-a-Lorus, which is one of Cucalorus’s most popular events. I’ve been to a dance film block (which I’ll elaborate on in due time), and it’s safe to say that there’s more than enough in Cucalorus’s dance films to separate them from a simple “music video” moniker.


I wanted to do a “here’s a list of films Cucalorus has screened before,” but I am currently not knowledgeable of an expansive screening history beyond the festivals I’ve attended. There is one film I know for a fact was screened in 2018 though, and that’s Burning—yes, the fantastic South Korea one. And I was this close to seeing that screening but chose not to go. And I still haven’t seen it. I’m kicking myself (;_;). Anyways…


Cucalorus is about films with a heart, films with a soul, and films with a message; unburdened by the pressure of awards, Cucalorus films are free to exhibit their artistic traits to an engaged and grateful audience, and the filmmakers and audience can start a discussion about a film without any need to seek out a lucrative Netflix deal. In short, it’s a festival about sharing and enjoying art for art’s sake, and it’s a place for DYI artists and burgeoning auteurs on the margins of the film bubble to truly thrive.


If you have any more questions, ask away in the comments, where I plan to continue the discussion!

Edited by SLAM!


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