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Tar Heels Shine at Sundance 

The festivals in Park City proved to be an exceptional showcase for North Carolina filmmakers. In an unprecedented year for the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, their graduates were associated with five Sundance films.

"This was a landmark year," said Dale Pollock, dean of NCSA's film school, sounding like a proud parent.

This April, Pollock plans to bring action to North Carolina, with the Riverrun Film Festival in Winston-Salem. "We want it to be the Sundance of the South," he said, arguing that the Park City festival has gotten so overgrown that a need has once again been created for a serious, young filmmaker-oriented event. "The fact that we're tied to David Gordon Green can help us achieve that."

Green, a 1998 grad, kept the highest profile with All the Real Girls, his warmly received follow-up to George Washington. The festival jury was so impressed by his film's tender evocation of youthful romance that they presented him with a Special Jury Prize for Emotional Truth.

It was also a good festival for cinematographer Tim Orr, Green's classmate from NCSA. Not only was Orr responsible for the lush images of All the Real Girls, but he also handled the camerawork for another gorgeously photographed festival favorite, Raising Victor Vargas.

NCSA had other alums to brag about. Peter Hedges (screenwriter for About a Boy), who studied drama in the early 1980s, saw his film, Pieces of April, emerge from the festival as a hit. He also sold his film during the week, for a sum thought to be in the vicinity of $2.5 million. Steven Gonzales, another alumnus, edited a festival entry called Rhythm of the Saints, and Zene Baker edited Civil Brand.

Triangle filmmakers also did quite well. Chapel Hill filmmaker Francesca Talenti's The Planets snagged an Honorable Mention in the short film category. Meanwhile, over at Slamdunk, one of several alternative festivals happening during the week, Raleigh filmmakers Drew Martin and David Bauemler took the audience prize for their short, Fudgie and Jane.

Chapel Hill native Mike Galinsky created a stir at the Slamdance Festival (which received a visit from Al Gore) with Horns and Halos, his sometimes shocking portrait of an overmatched biographer who attempted to publish allegations concerning George W. Bush's youthful cocaine use. Galinsky says that he plans to bring his film to the Triangle in the coming months.

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