Best Summer Ever directed by Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli
Best Summer Ever directed by Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli

Cucalorus Film Festival revealed its first round of cinematic selections for this year’s 26th annual festival presented through a series of Drive-in experiences at the Curbside Cinema at UNCW combined with online screenings and late-night performances.

Headlining the bold group of early selections is Mo Scarpelli’s mesmerizing documentary “El Father Plays Himself.” Scarpelli skillfully upends traditional doc format as she follows a young filmmaker making a feature about his boozy father’s tumultuous life in the Venezualan Amazon. As the title suggests, the filmmaker casts his father to play his father.

SXSW selection “Best Summer Ever” is a delightfully original take on a teen musical with eight original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew with and without disabilities, including Wilmington’s own Jeremy Vest as the high school mascot. Local filmmakers Hannah Black and Megan Petersen come back home after an impressive festival run, despite the pandemic, with their loving family drama “Drought,” about an autistic teen who steals the family ice-cream truck with his sisters to chase the storm of the year.

Following up on the festival’s equity commitments, out of the 35 early selections 23 of the films are directed by people of color and there are 19 female directors, 14 male directors, 2 non-binary, 2 two-spirit, 1 trans-woman, and 1 trans-man. Standout shorts include Stephanie Diane Ford’s magical film “Black Baptism” and Danielle Deadwyler’s hauntingly emotional dance film “CHOR(E)S.”

Early selections for Cucalorus 26 include:

Narrative Feature Films

Best Summer Ever directed by Michael Parks Randa & Lauren Smitelli
Drought directed by Hannah Black & Megan Petersen
Freeland directed by Kate McLean, Mario Furloni
Inspector Ike directed by Graham Mason

Documentary Feature Films

Belly of the Beast directed by Erika Cohn
El Father Plays Himself directed by Mo Scarpelli
Stories I Didn’t Know directed by Melody Gilbert, Rita Davern
The Chasing of a Great Movie directed by Jennifer Sharp

Short Films

A Syrian Woman directed by Khawla Al Hammouri, Louis Karim Sayad DeCaprio
Assholes directed by Jonny Look
Augustus directed by Jon Alston
Beneath the Earth directed by Joseph Rucker II
Brother directed by Ya’Ke
Chor(e)s directed by Danielle Deadwyler
Don’t Be a Sucka directed by A.J. Riggins
Fitness! Or a story about Sweat directed by Kana Hatakeyama
Future Ancestor directed by Josue Rivas
Heart Tick Kaboom directed by Grace Kim & Ty Lance West
I’m Free Now, You Are Free directed by Ash Goh Hua
Kapaemahu directed by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer & Joe WIlson
Kindred Kings directed by Trey Gray
Liminal directed by Daniel Abramovici
Little Chief directed by Erica Tremblay
Must Love Pie directed by Patrick Clement
Pink, White & Blue directed by Ash Malone
Schroon Lake directed by Eryka Dellenbach
Second Seed directed by Baye & Asa
Sin Cielo directed by Jianna Maarten
Tamales y Tunas directed by Lucía Archila Escobar
Tbh: u cute directed by Bailey James
The Black Baptism directed by Stephanie Diane Ford
The Rougarou directed by Lorraine Caffery
Tides directed by Andre Silva
Trudie’s Goose directed by C. Lily Ericsson, Cheri Gaulke, Samara Hutman, Liran Kapel
Two Little Boys directed by Farbod Khoshtinat
Weekend directed by Ario Motevaghe
When the Waters Get Deep directed by Kelly Whalen

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