’Tis the season for independent cinema in the Piedmont Triad

by Mark Burger

The Triad Independent Film Network (TIFN) rings in the holidays with a special selection of lighthearted short films that celebrate the season this Wednesday at the Carousel Grande Cinema 15 (1305 Battleground Ave., Greensboro).

The Fruitcake Film Festival is a collection of almost 50 films made by 20 of the region’s most creative and ambitious filmmakers. The only requirements for entrants were that each film have a holiday theme and would be no stronger than what would pass for  a PG rating so as to accommodate younger filmmakers and family audiences.

“This area has an amazing filmmaking community,” said Jason Pierce, TIFN president and an independent filmmaker himself (his credits include the imaginative horror spoof Hellphone). “The Triad Indie Film Network is just one visible indication of it, but there are dozens of filmmakers who have never been to a meeting. This is a great place to live if you want to make films.”

The Fruitcake Film Festival began in 2004 as an idea by TIFN member and independent filmmaker Stephen van Vuuren. “The concept is simply to get first-time, family, kids and experienced filmmakers, all to make 10-, 30- and 60-second short films in wacky holiday categories,” he said.

The event was screened at the Green Bean Coffeehouse in Greensboro – “[and] people loved it,” said van Vuuren. but “due to a lack of venue, we could not bring it back until 2007, and it screened at Open House Theater.”

If anything, that event proved a little too successful — as crowds exceeded fire regula tions and many had to be turned away. Last year, TIFN reformed last year as a formal non-profit organization and there was again a community clamor for the Fruitcake Film Festival. They weren’t to be disappointed.

As a result, said van Vuuren, “we are bringing it back as an annual event, and since DCPs [digital cinema packages] are my freelance business and I use the Carousel Cinema for testing them, it’s a great spot for us to host the screenings.”

Should crowds exceed initial theater capacity, the screening will simply be moved to a larger theater. In other words:the more, the merrier.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. and admission is $5. The official TIFN website is The official Facebook page for the event is events/441289735930382/.

The TIFN will also be holding its first meeting of 2013 on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the new Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema (2134 Lawndale Drive). “We are moving meetings to Geeksboro because we feel that location best represents our target membership,” Pierce noted. (The Facebook page for this event is www.facebook. com/events/416286438440114.)

From Faith to Freedom marks the feature debut of actor-turned-writer/director/ producer Derrick Parker, a graduate of East Carolina University and the recipient of an MFA in acting from the University of San Diego/Old Globe Theatre.

The film, inspired by actual criminal cases, is scheduled to run through Dec. 22 at the Carousel Grande Cinema 15 (1305 Battleground Ave., Greensboro).

The story focuses on Mercury Sinclair, a high school football star whose future looks limitless. His dreams of gridiron glory are unexpectedly dashed when he is arrested and convicted for a murder he didn’t commit. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, he tries to prove his innocence and win his freedom — a process that will take faith and fortitude, to say nothing of time.

“The theme just fired me up,” Parker said. “I had to write about it.

“I learned of a story of a man in Polk County, Florida who spent 36 years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” he recalled. “He was 53 when he was released. That bothered me. After doing some research, I found thousands of cases just like this one. Instead of complaining about it, I decided to do something about it. My way of bringing attention to the subject to perhaps solve a problem before it happens, was to make a movie about it.”

Indeed, Parker said, the well-publicized cases of Darryl Hunt and Ronald Cotton in the region helped inspire this dramatic story. From Faith to Freedom was filmed in various locations throughout the Piedmont Triad region, and the majority of both cast and crew hail from the region as well.

For advance tickets and specific showtimes, call the theater: 336.230.1620.

For more information about the film and to view the trailer, check out the official Facebook page: fromfaithtofreedom.