Hi Mom! Film Festival at 10: Lo-fi, laid-back, but not lazy | Film Beat | Indy Week
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Hi Mom! Film Festival at 10: Lo-fi, laid-back, but not lazy 

Plus: UNC women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance doc Winning Isn't Everything

Editor's note: Weather update: Due to the heavy rains in the forecast, the outdoor screening scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday has been moved indoors to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

click to enlarge In By Modern Measure, a French sociologist muses on Americans he met outside a Taco Bell. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HI MOM! FILM FESTIVAL

Hi Mom! Film Festival
Sept. 5-6
The ArtsCenter

After 11 years, the Hi Mom! Film Festival is finally ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Time constraints and burnout among organizers—or "co-conspirators," as they affectionately call themselves—of the long-standing Chapel Hill/ Carrboro-based short film festival truncated last year's installment into a one-day extravaganza. Now, Hi Mom! is ready to do it up right, launching Hi Mom! #10 in Carrboro Sept. 5-6.

The 51 short films comprising this year's program will be shown over four screening blocks, beginning with 14 films played as part of the "Outdoor Block" Friday at 8 p.m. atop the Rosemary Street Parking Deck in Chapel Hill.

"Late Night Madness" begins at 11 p.m. at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, the sole venue for the remainder of the festival. Saturday, the "Matineevening" program starts at 6 p.m., followed by "Primetime Hi Mom!" at 9 p.m.

Regular Hi Mom! attendees know that the festival purposefully emulates the lo-fi, organic quality of the films it showcases. However, do not mistake laid-back with lackadaisical. "I probably spend at least 50-80 hours myself preparing for each festival," says Matt Hedt, who, along with Ian Krabacher and Tom Laney, have been the driving forces behind Hi Mom! since they and the festival matriculated from its UNC roots several years ago. "However, once we get the ball rolling every year, [the festival] always starts to take on a life of its own."

When I pointed out to Hedt that the Hi Mom! Web site did not currently contain a listing of the films being screening, he exclaimed, "Oh yeah, I just put that on today! You know, that's just one of the 100 things that have to get done with no budget, no pay and a huge time commitment. So, among other things, I had to learn Web design this year.

"When I began working with the festival around Hi Mom! #4 and #5, it was still a very analog affair," he went on. "All the film submission were on VHS except maybe one or two DVDs. This year, there were over 500 submissions and all but one was on DVD. However, the festival is still in a very analog state of mind. That is good in a way, but while we work hard each year to compile a wonderful hard copy edition of the festival's program, we still haven't fully developed more digital marketing. People ask me, 'Where's your MySpace page?' I didn't even know a film festival could have a MySpace page! In a way, we're still riding the same wheel we've always been riding."

That dichotomy might shrink next year, as plans are in the works to transition the festival back to the auspices of UNC's Carolina Production Guild, the university student-run organization under which Hi Mom! originated 11 years ago. "It seems appropriate that Hi Mom! should return to its roots," says Hedt. "We've been in contact with CPG, and we hope to pass the torch back to them. Hopefully, many of their members will serve as volunteers this year and then be ready to run it next year."

As for Hi Mom! #10, the program includes the usual deluge of low-budget, inventive filmmaking. Among the notables are Count Backwards from 5, from California filmmaker Tony Gault. "It's a sincere, unpretentious film about the director's brother," says Hedt, "and feels like it was made by someone who makes films because that's what he wants to do."

Filmmaker Rajeev Dassani, a UNC graduate and regular Hi Mom! contributor, returns with A Day's Work, in which a simple misunderstanding escalates into a microcosm of the tension between white Americans and Latino immigrants.

There are also several North Carolina entries, including a film made by Hedt, Anezina Mirage. Greensboro directors Patrick Horne and Ryan Chamberlain present A Devil in Eden, which revives a vintage NBC radio broadcast from Mae West and Don Ameche that was scandalous in its day for off-color content. The film layers the actual broadcast onto an original skit. Durham filmmaker Jessye McDowell presents the 12-minute Los Trivinos de Huasca, an experimental film featuring Super 8, black-and-white footage filmed in a north Chilean port town.

Flat-Track Life follows the Raleigh-based Carolina Rollergirls, a women's flat-track roller derby team. And, the award-winning, experimental An Indefinite Meandering of Words Left Unsaid, by Wilmington director Lexi Lefkowitz, examines one person's guilt following a loved one's suicide.

A complete film listing is available at www.himomfilmfest.org. Festival passes are $10 for the entire festival and are available at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro and CD Alley in Chapel Hill.


Winning Isn't Everything
Sept. 4
UNC Memorial Hall

Winning might not be everything when it comes to the storied UNC women's soccer program, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Since helping launch the program, coach Anson Dorrance has led the Tar Heels to 18 of 25 NCAA Women's Soccer Championships and compiled a record of 603-27-18 over 28 seasons. He has been named Women's Soccer Coach of the Year seven times and elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

So at the dawn of the 2007 season, Gorham "Hap" Kindem, a UNC communications studies professor and filmmaker, thought it was high time to look into the secret behind Dorrance and his teams' perennial success. So began Kindem's latest documentary, Winning Isn't Everything, a behind-the-scenes look at the UNC women's soccer program against the backdrop of the 2007 season.

For Kindem, the idea behind Winning Isn't Everything began to germinate years ago. "Back in the 1980s and '90s, I had a couple of soccer players—April Heinrichs and Kristine Lilly—as students in my class. I was impressed with how these athletes were such terrific students, and I thought that something must be going on with the soccer team."

Kindem recently had the opportunity to work with several Tar Heel soccer players while filming a music video, "Talk Straight," to benefit Carolina for Kibera, which operates youth soccer programs in impoverished areas of Africa. During the summer of 2007, Kindem proposed to Coach Dorrance the idea of a documentary that would examine the soccer program and try to spotlight its winning formula.

Filming began as the 2007 season started in August and lasted through the end of the post-season NCAA tournament in November. For post-production, Kindem enlisted the services of Ian Krabacher, one of Kindem's former students and a former UNC soccer player (Krabacher is also one of the principal organizers behind the annual Hi Mom! Film Festival).

NCAA and university regulations prohibited Kindem from including personal interviews with current players, but that didn't prevent the film from going forward. "Together, we decided that the film needed another dimension, and that's how we came up with including interviews with graduating seniors as well as former players," says Kindem.

One issue that does not arise during the film is the nine-year sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Dorrance and the university by a former soccer player. Several pivotal court rulings took place during 2007, including the scheduling of a potential trial date before the parties reached a settlement in January 2008. "If [the lawsuit] had come up or been discussed by the players, or if I thought the case had any import on the season, I would have dealt with it," says Kindem. "But I did not have any footage in which it ever came up.

"After the season, I had a conversation with the coaches as the trial date was approaching. I told them that if the case went to trial, I would have to deal with it in the film. However, if a settlement occurred, there would be no reason for me to mention the lawsuit in the film since it never came up during the season."

(According to media reports, UNC agreed to pay $385,000 to player Melissa Jennings and to revise its sexual harassment policies and procedures. Dorrance acknowledged having engaged in "inappropriate and unacceptable" behavior by participating in "group discussions of ... team members' sexual activities." UNC said the settlement was not an admission of guilt and stood by Dorrance.)

What does stand at the forefront of Winning Isn't Everything is what Kindem found most surprising. "Coach Dorrance is the leader of the team, but he also encourages the players to take control through an almost democratic leadership process. I was also surprised about the extent to which core values—taking responsibility, resiliency, etc.—motivated the athletics. That's what makes the soccer program so special."

The film premieres at UNC's Memorial Hall Thursday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5, $3 for UNC students, and are available through the Memorial Hall Box Office; call 843-3333.

  • The 51 short films comprising this year's program will be shown over four screening blocks Sept. 5-6.

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