Local film part of Strange Beauty Film Festival

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 12:01 AM

Wolfgang Hastert’s short film “Wolfkino” is a brief record of a day in November 2011. Hastert narrates a few events that happened that day. His mother back in Germany “sat alone at a table laid out for two,” and in Tokyo, Japan, an elderly man chanted for world peace.
In Durham that day, Hastert and a friend also made a film about what was going on in a neighborhood along Fayetteville Street in Durham. Viewers see men sitting and discussing politics and other events at a car wash, and George Covington cooking chicken on a grill at his barbecue and catering restaurant nearby, all footage that became “Wolfkino.”
Hastert’s short, impressionistic look at Durham is one of the films being screened beginning Thursday at the fourth annual Strange Beauty Film Festival, a festival of eclectic and experimental films. As in years past, the 2013 festival includes animation, short films, and documentaries in varying genres, using various techniques.
Hastert, who is taking courses at Duke University for his MFA degree in experimental and documentary arts, used two different cameras in his short film. He shot black-and-white footage with a “classic, old Russian film camera,” he said in a phone interview. Charles Cheek, a friend of his who lives in the neighborhood, shot the color footage using a hand-cranked toy camera, and viewers can see Cheek operating the camera in this film. Editing and merging these two different media took a lot of post-production work, Hastert said. He credits Josh Gibson, one of his teachers at the Center for Documentary Studies, with encouragement and technical support. Gibson also has a short film in the festival, “Light Plate.”
Cheek also “is a member of my Buddhist organization,” Hastert said. “There’s a very deep message in the film about Buddhism,” and “a message of world peace throughout that film,” he said.
Hastert, a trained photographer, has made documentaries for German television. He has an interest in American photographers and filmmakers. He made “The Picture Man,” about Shelby Lee Adams and his photographs documenting the people of Appalachia. His film “The Queer Reveries of James Bidgood,” is about the filmmaker who made the cult film “Pink Narcissus.”
For the fourth season, organizers Jim Haverkamp and his wife, Joyce Ventimiglia, viewed about 300 films, almost double last year’s submissions. Many of the submissions came from Europe and Australia, Haverkamp said, along with submissions from local filmmakers like Hastert.
This year’s films continue with the eclecticism of years past. “That’s really one of the things that’s most fun,” Haverkamp said. “It’s not just a documentary festival or a fiction festival. We really try to run the gamut,” as well as balance the humorous with the sometimes harrowing and jarring, he said.
Here’s a brief look at some of the other film offerings at “Strange Beauty”:
-- Chapel Hill filmmaker Bill Brown’s short film “Document” has rapid-fire images of the words in a report the CIA’s Inspector General compiled about counter-terrorism and detention activities after the September 2001 attacks. The report was heavily bowdlerized before it was released.
-- “Belly,” an animated short film by Julia Pott, is a tender story about Oscar, who comes of age when rescuing his older brother Alex.
-- Michael Langan and Terah Maher’s film “Choros” centers around the movements of  a single dancer. They use a technique of multiplying the individual movements of the dancer to give the viewer the experience of motion. Composer Steve Reich’s hypnotic piece “Music for 18 musicians,” the soundtrack for this film, also enhances that experience of motion.
-- Charles Fairbanks’ documentary “Flexing Muscles” looks at the Mexican wrestling sport of lucha libre. Fairbanks dispenses with narration and commentary, choosing to allow the stars of this tradition, among them Smoke, Serpiente Negra, The Corono Girls and others, to tell their individual stories and to articulate what lucha libre means in their lives.
In addition to the film screenings, the festival has two added attractions. Tom Whiteside of Durham Cinematheque will present “Circle Spiral Slow,” with film from his extensive archive and live music by the Durham band Arrows Out. Whiteside will make his presentation Jan. 25. Jennifer Deer, a writer and audio producer, will present “Aural Fixation,” a mix of documentary and audio art, Jan. 26.


Go and Do
WHAT: Fourth Strange Beauty Film Festival
WHEN: Jan. 24-26
WHERE: Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham
ADMISSION: Tickets are $40 for the festival, and $12 for individual films. To purchase, and for a full schedule, visit www.manbitesdogtheater.org.