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Drive-In Doldrums: The 2020 Cucalorus Film Festival


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Hello again, and welcome to my retrospective of the 2020 Cucalorus Film Festival. This was the year that the Covid-19 pandemic shut virtually every business down, and Cucalorus was no exception. The show must go on, however, and Cucalorus took an inflatable projector screen to UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium parking lot and played the audio of each film through everyone’s car radios!

 

But most films were not shown in the drive-in setting. In fact, most films were instead made available through an online platform. That’s where I watched that year’s Animated Short Film block, and this year there were some pretty good selections. One of them was about the history of a tribe of Pacific Islanders, and that one ended up getting shortlisted for the Animated Short Film Oscar. There were also some cool DYI films in the mix as well.

 

Anyways, I ended up seeing three films through the Drive-In option. It was supposed to be four, but I thought the screening for that movie was at 8:00, so I spent time with my mom and drove to the ticket window, only to be told that it started at 6:00 and I missed it completely. Whoops. I was supposed to review it for the college newsletter, too. That film was titled “Summer” something.

 

Anyways, the first film I saw was Beast Beast, and that was one of the films from that year’s Sundance festival. It was a coming-of-age thriller with an adventurous narrative style and great performances. Will Madden, who collaborates often with Jim Cummings, plays a college graduate who tries and fails to become a gun enthusiast YouTuber, and his obsession and false impressions lead him down a dangerous path. He’s not the main character though, it mostly follows two  high school students. Anyways, I won’t spoil it beyond that, but it gets pretty wild.

 

Then I saw Freeland, and that was about people in the California mountains trying to grow pot illegally, only to be thrown through a loop when it becomes legal. Krisha Fairchild from A24’s Krisha is in it, and a then up-and-coming Lily Gladstone is also in it. I thought the movie was pretty good!

 

The the last one was my favorite; it was called Dramarama and it was about five drama students who throw a murder mystery party at their house the day before one of them goes off to college. So it’s this somewhat comedic, somewhat dramatic coming-of-age film and I thought it did an excellent job making all their relationships feel real. And guess what? Megan Suri is in it! Yep, the Miseducation of Bindu star! There she is, killing it in the indiesphere! Keep it up, Megan Suri!


After every film, everyone in their cars honked their horns. That was everyone’s makeshift applause! I was honking my horn along with them at all three of my drive-in screenings!

 

Then, there was Drought. Yep, the movie my dad catered for the previous year! It’s about an autistic weather enthusiast who ropes his friends into an adventure where they track a hurricane in an ice cream truck. Very small budget and very indie, but still a cool concept. I wanted to see this at the drive-in but couldn’t because I was doing the college newsletter thing and someone else claimed writing a review for Drought before I could. But I got to watch it through Amazon Prime, and it was good!

 

Anyway, thank you for reading this retrospective. Not much going on this time especially due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Covid-19. I will say though that there were some notables films available online this year. Test Pattern, an abortion drama that would later find success at the Gotham and Independent Spirit awards, was a selection in 2020, as was the documentary Belly of the Beast, which saw its original song, “See What You’ve Done” by Mary J. Blige, shortlisted for the Best Original Song Oscar. So the next time you’re at a film festival, keep your eyes peeled, because you never know if a film you’re considering watching has more eyes on it than you might think!

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