PAVING THE WAY: Cucalorus continues to evolve, welcomes live music and Superchunk to the stage

Throughout its more-than-two-decade tenure, Cucalorus has grown beyond a film festival. Each year it celebrates filmmakers, performers and entrepreneurs, as well as shares our city with folks worldwide, making a great economic impact on ILM every November for five days. It has adopted more film blocks to showcase compelling shorts and feature films, and added such staples as Cucalorus Connect—two days of business- and tech-based workshops and lectures—and stage events for more performance-driven art, such as works-in-progress of original theatre, dance-and-film collaboration as seen in Dance-a-lorus, and even live comedy.

NEW AGE: Superchunk will open this year's Cucalorus Festival on November 7. Courtesy photo
NEW AGE: Superchunk will open this year’s Cucalorus Festival on November 7. Courtesy photo

And in 2018, to open the 24th annual Cucalorus, live music will be added to the lineup. They’ve invited Durham-based indie rockers Superchunk to open the festival on November 7.

“[We want] to showcase the dynamic, creative community here in Wilmington in the broadest way possible,” explains Cucalorus’ artistic director, Dan Brawley. “We want to shout that out to the world, to come and take a look at all these assets—human, geographic, cultural. At the same time, we want to bring some of the most visionary, bold makers and thinkers from around the world; to celebrate their work and weave it into our own community.”

Brawley and company are working on a few new initiatives for 2018. For example, interactive events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Dawson’s Creek” are in the works—some of which will be based at one of the show’s famed downtown locales, Hell’s Kitchen. “We’re working with several partners on an augmented-reality locations tour of all the great spots around town where the show was filmed,” Brawley adds.

Superchunk should excite local music fans, who remember the brilliancy of its band members Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, who launched Merge Records in 1989. Merge has since worked with Arcade Fire, M Ward and Spoon, among other great artists. Superchunk reunited in 2016 with original drummer Chuck Garrison, along with Jon Wurster, and their 11th studio album “What a Time to Be Alive” in February 2018.

“Cucalorus and Superchunk were both enrolled in the same witness protection program run by HBO in the late 1980s,” Brawley quips. “We started planning this year’s opening concert while watching ‘Tales from the Crypt.’”

Cucalorus also announced the first round of 2018 film selections just last week. Katie Orr’s 2017 directorial debut “Poor Jane” (also its North Carolina premiere) is a drama about a woman’s life unraveling when love for her husband suddenly ends. Award-winning filmmaker John Whitehead’s 2017 portrait “Don’t Get Trouble in Your Mind: The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Story” will make its North Carolina debut during the fest, as will Douglas Tirola’s craft beer-centric documentary “Brewmaster.”

 BREW DOC: Brian Reed in 'Brewmaster.' Photo courtesy of 4th Row Films
BREW DOC: Brian Reed in ‘Brewmaster.’ Photo courtesy of 4th Row Films

“They’re really a nice snapshot of the kind of films that you’ve come to love at Cucalorus,” Brawley observes. “A doc about music and another one about beer! Sounds pretty tasty! Ann Lupo’s feature debut ‘In Reality’ is a gem, too, about a young woman (played by the multitalented Lupo herself) about life, romantic struggles and all the funny places our brains go as we try to figure it all out. Super funny, but also very real.”

REALITY CHECK: 'In Reality' is one of several films announced for this year's Cucalorus 2018. Courtesy photo.
REALITY CHECK: ‘In Reality’ is one of several films announced for this year’s Cucalorus 2018. Courtesy photo.

While it may seem like the Port City is getting its own mini-South by Southwest of sorts, Brawley is leading the Wilmington-based festival down its own eccentric evolutionary path. “The way we’ve adapted the festival over the years is very specific to this place and to the community of artists and thinkers who have joined along the way,” he explains. “We’re planning some bigger events, but Wilmington is still a small coastal city, so the festival’s great value is in creating these magical, intimate events where audiences and creators collide in a very sincere way—without all the red-carpet spectacle you’ll see at bigger events in bigger cities. We do see Cucalorus continuing to be an important icon for the city—part of the machinery that interprets, informs and shapes the future of the city.”

Readers can stay tuned for more announcements from Cucalorus Festival at and check back in with encore, sponsors of the event.

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