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Smyth twins bring monthly abstract film to N.C. 

Kelly Gallagher’s Pen Up the Pigs

Kelly Gallagher’s Pen Up the Pigs

Strange Beauty only happens once a year, leaving experimental film screenings scarce in the Triangle otherwise.

But Unexposed, a new monthly series for local and touring filmmakers, is filling that gap. This Sunday, its fourth installment, themed "Women with Knives," showcases three female experimental animators, Kelly Gallagher, Lauren Cook and Charlotte Taylor.

All three will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Filmmaker interaction, as well as D.I.Y. vision, is a defining characteristic of the series, says 25-year-old Jeremy Smyth, who co-founded Unexposed with his twin brother Brendan.

The brothers are filmmakers themselves. "People know us as those twins who bring a 16mm camera to other countries," Jeremy says, "and make elaborate documentaries with weird twists." They've already completed two award-winning experimental docs in Mexico and Indonesia that have made the indie festival rounds.

"Pen Up the Pigs" by Kelly Gallagher from Kelly Gallagher on Vimeo.

The twins grew up in Florida and learned about experimental film at the University of Florida. From 2012 to 2013, they spent a year in Massachusetts, where they founded the Haverhill Experimental Film Festival. They just wrapped up the second one, which is why Unexposed took May off.

In its first year, Jeremy says, Haverhill ran on a $750 municipal grant, but it quickly caught on in the experimental film community nationwide. This year, it enjoyed $11,000 in funding from grants and submission fees. "Our own professor who taught us everything—he submitted to us," Jeremy marvels.

The twins moved to Durham in 2013 because of Duke's MFA program for experimental and documentary arts. "We weren't looking to go back to school, but we wanted to be in that environment," Jeremy says. "The funny thing was, Unexposed started because nothing was happening around here. We wanted to start yanking these professors off campus, shove them in a little barn and see what happens."

The series' regular venue is the Barn & Cupola in Durham, but it moves to a house on Burch Avenue this month because the barn's owners are out of town. The usual space only holds around 20 people, making Unexposed a very intimate scene.

"Our style is to create a down-to-earth event, but do it professionally," Jeremy says. "We want to make it accessible to the local community."

The Smyths are ardent advocates for experimental film. "In museums, it's extremely normal to see a realist painting next to an abstract one," Jeremy says. "Cinema is an art form in the same way, but after 115 years, many people still don't know how to react to abstract cinema. We want to show people that film is an art form, not just Matthew McConaughey taking his shirt off."

The brothers think Durham is primed for a series such as theirs. "A lot of experimental filmmakers I talk to are talking about Durham and maybe moving here," Jeremy says. "We've only done three events and we don't even have to try anymore. People from Iowa and Baltimore are contacting us now. All the professors at Duke want to do a show. It's really cool that it's caught on so quickly."

Brian Howe is the INDY's arts and culture editor. Email him at bhowe@indyweek.com or follow him on Twitter @Brian_Gray_Howe.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Double exposure."

  • Unexposed, a new monthly series for local and touring filmmakers

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