Nuke tests, yellow hair and fish topics at Strange Beauty Film Festival

May. 29, 2014 @ 10:32 AM

The Strange Beauty Film Festival will celebrate its fifth year with 48 film screenings June 12-14. Among the films are Josh Gibson’s documentary “Nile Perch,” about how the fish export trade has affected a community in Uganda; Hope Tucker’s “Handful of Dust,” a meditation on the aftermath of nuclear testing; and “Yellow Hair of Happiness,” filmmaker Nic Beery’s documentary of a circus clown.

Local filmmakers Jim Haverkamp (“Armor of God,” “Last Pack”) and Joyce Ventimiglia (“The Whirligig Music Project,” “Fiesta Post Card”) are the founders of the festival that screens films of all genres – animated, experimental, documentary – under 30 minutes in length. Haverkamp and Ventimiglia picked this year’s festival films from 350 submissions.
At this year’s festival, Carrboro group Felix Obelix will perform an original score composed for “The Cameraman’s Revenge,” a 1912 stop-motion film by Russian-Polish filmmaker Ladislas Starewicz. Other featured events include “The Strange Beauty Aural Fixation,” a 30-minute block of audio pieces by Jenny Morgan of Durham, and Durham film collector Tom Whiteside’s dual 16mm projection titled “Curved Shadows.”

Screenings are at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St. For a schedule and details, visit

Here are some brief reviews of a few of the films:

-- “Nile Perch,” by Josh Gibson, Durham
Nile perch is a highly prized fish in Europe, America and Japan because, in the words of fisherman Richard Kizito, “it is available in plenty and has a bland taste.” Josh Gibson’s short documentary shows Kizito as he fishes for Nile perch on Lake Victoria in Uganda, and purchases the fish from other fishermen for his processing factory for export. Nile perch, he tells us, is not native to the lake, and over time has made other native fish scarce. Shot in black and white, this absorbing film will leave you scratching your head about the hidden side of this thriving, and apparently prosperous, industry.

-- “Another Statement About Society,” by Lansing Robertson, Winnipeg, Canada
This one minute, 27-second collage of sounds and images might give you second thoughts the next time the Powerball jackpot reaches another milestone.

-- “Handful of Dust,” by Hope Tucker, Boston, Massachusetts
Between 1951 and 1962, the government conducted 119 above-ground nuclear weapons tests upwind of Snow Canyon, Utah. In 1954, the Canyon was the site used for the film “The Conqueror,” starring John Wayne. Filmmaker Hope Tucker combines audio taken at the site in 1953; color footage shot in 1954 of sagebrush, wildlife, children and horse riders; and new cyanotypes of images from “The Conqueror” and the landscape footage, to create a short film that is equally eerie and beautiful.

-- "Farcheinkontrolle," music by Waumiss, film by Rich Gurnsey, Raleigh
Filmmaker Rich Gurnsey has set this short, colorful animation of space aliens to a song by Carrboro-based band Waumiss, with results that are strange and beautiful.

-- “Reasons Why I Used to Hate My Mom,”by Windrose Stanback, Durham
Windrose Stanback uses one image in this loving audio tribute to her mom.

-- “Yellow Hair of Happiness,” by Nic Beery, Carrboro
After Julius Carallo’s son was killed by neo-Nazis in the early 1990s, he quit his job and joined the circus. Now in his 60s, Carallo explains, in Nic Beery’s thoughtful and touching short documentary, how his son’s fight against prejudice lives on through his work – and his bright yellow hair.


WHAT: Fifth annual Strange Beauty Film Festival
WHEN: June 12-14
WHERE: Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham
ADMISSION: Weekend passes are $40, individual tickets are $12. For information, visit