New North Carolina Fest Aims to Join Awards Circuit

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The awards season seems to grow more jam-packed every year, and the latest addition gets underway Wednesday in North Carolina: the inaugural Film Fest 919 in Chapel Hill (919 is a reference to the town's area code), which will run through Oct. 7 at Silverspot Cinema at University Place, just off the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Film Fest 919 was established by three industry veterans — entertainment journalist Claudia Puig (president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and chief programmer of the Mendocino Film Festival), publicist Carol Marshall (long associated with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival) and executive Randi Emerman (a Chapel Hill native who previously ran the Palm Beach International Film Festival) — with the goal of becoming a major awards season player, in the vein of two other Southern film fests that also take place each October, in Middleburg, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia.

The new fest's slogan is "Catch the Films Before They Catch On," and it will offer its attendees plenty of opportunities to do that over its five-day run. This year, its lineup is comprised of 36 films from 17 countries, including many of the hottest titles from the earlier fall film fests. Its opening night screening will be Oscar frontrunner Roma; its closing night screening will be Green Book; and in between will be, among others, The Favourite, Wildlife, Shoplifters, The Old Man & the Gun, Destroyer, 22 July, Non Fiction, Destroyer, A Private War, Birds of Passage, Dogman, Private Life, Boy Erased, The Sisters Brothers, Capernaum and Girl.

Talent is also trekking south to collect honors. Roma's lead actress Yalitza Aparicio and supporting actress Marina de Tavira will pick up breakthrough awards, while a spotlight award will go to Green Book co-writer and producer Nick Vallelonga, who is also the son of the late Tony Lip, who is portrayed in the film by Viggo Mortensen. (Statuettes were designed by Durham-based sculptor Renee Leverty.)

The fest also will offer panels on topics ranging from WETA Digital Visual Effects to the art of screenwriting (with The Florida Project's co-writer Chris Bergoch) to North Carolina's tax incentives (moderated by North Carolina Film Office director Guy Gaster). And some proceeds from ticket sales will go to the University of North Carolina's Department of Communication's Writing for the Screen and Stage and Media Production programs.