Cutting-edge cinema on the Cucalorus schedule is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

'He Hated Pigeons' makes its U.S. premiere Saturday during Cucalorus, with a live score performed by a Canadian flautist. Images courtesy Cucalorus.
‘He Hated Pigeons’ makes its U.S. premiere Saturday during Cucalorus, with a live score performed by a Canadian flautist. Images courtesy Cucalorus.

The 21st annual Cucalorus kicks into high gear today, with even more movies screening at various downtown venues throughout the weekend.

Among the nearly 300 selections, there is plenty to choose from–animated, funny, touching, a little odd and downright disturbing shorts, documentaries tackling social issues, epic romantic tales and dark comedies.

For the cutting-edge cinephile, there is a collection of movies, dubbed “Vanguard” and listed below, that spotlight the works of pioneering directors and emerging artists.

Individual movie tickets are $10, and festival passes are still available. For ticket information and a full schedule of screenings, click here.

  • “He Hated Pigeons” (1 p.m., Saturday, Thalian Hall main stage)–This feature film by Cucalorus alum Ingrid Veninger makes it U.S. premiere Saturday. A young man is pushed to the edge of the earth–and the borders of sexuality and sanity–while dealing with an immense and varied landscape. Shot entirely on location this summer in Chile, the film features stunning meditations on the locale and a live score by Canadian flautist Roz McPhail, an alumni of the Cucalorus Residency program.


  • “Female Pervert” (4:15 p.m, Saturday, Jengo’s Playhouse)–This breakthrough film from Jiyoung Lee follows Phoebe, a lonely video game designer pining for real connections in the modern world. But unable to relate to people in normal society, she seeks help from a therapist, changes her diet and joins a book club. As her path to self improvement unfurls, some of her more eccentric interests – some would say perversions – lead her down a darker path.


  • “Sweaty Betty” (7 p.m., Saturday, City Stage Theater)–In this film from two childhood D.C. friends aiming to show their neighborhood in a positive light, “Sweaty Betty” tells the touching stories of big dreams in an inner city area. Floyd and his family have raised a 1,000-pound pig in their backyard, and are determined to turn her into the team mascot for the Redskins football team. Just a few blocks away, teenage single fathers Rico and Scooby scheme up a better life for themselves and their children and are presented with an unexpected opportunity.


  • chris-and-sonia-bookstore-H
    The unconventional romantic comedy, ‘It Had to Be You,’ starring stand-up comedian Dan Soder, is among this weekend’s ‘Vanguard’ selections.

    “It Had to Be You” (7:15 p.m., Saturday, Cape Fear Community College’s Union Station)–Sonia, a neurotic jingle writer who’s always dreamed of a more exciting life, is surprised by a sudden marriage proposal from her otherwise easygoing boyfriend. Faced with an ultimatum, she must decide between joining the ranks of her married friends or pursuing her fantasies. A raunchy but touching romantic comedy, the film explores choices modern women make while also playfully mocking expectations of gender and romance.


  • “Stinking Heaven” (1:15 p.m., Sunday, City Stage Theater)–Married couple Jim and Lucy run a commune for sober living out of their suburban New Jersey home. The motley members eat, bathe and work together selling homemade “health tea” out of their van. Although there’s constant bickering and plenty of fires to be put out, Jim and Lucy have managed to establish a haven for these outcasts. But the harmony is interrupted when Ann, a recovering addict and the ex-lover of one housemate, arrives. Ann’s insidious presence sends the members spiraling out of control, resulting in paranoia, drug relapse and eventually death.


  • “Funny Bunny” (1:30 p.m., Sunday, Jengo’s Playhouse)–In this oddly touching feature, Gene, who spends his days canvassing obese children, befriends an overweight and emotionally arrested 19-year-old who has successfully sued his own father to win back a large inheritance and gotten himself disowned in the process. When Gene discovers the teen has an ongoing online relationship with a beautiful but reclusive animal activist named Ginger, Gene convinces him to go on a pilgrimage to find the woman. The two form a close bond along the way, despite both being drawn to Ginger.


  • “Rosehill” (4:15 p.m., Sunday, City Stage Theater)–After receiving some bad news, a New York actress escapes to the Midwest to visit her old friend, a frustrated sex researcher. The pair then set out on a local road trip through a place that has seen better days in this film that is part road trip, part meditation, part improvised fiction and part documentary, coming together to form a commentary on crisis, darkness and the resilience of the human spirit.