Greensboro summer film festival debuting in June

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by Anthony Harrison

Greensboro receives its very own film festival this summer.

Barefoot Bijou Summer Film Festival will focus on micro-budget films as well as those made in the state or by North Carolina residents.

The festival will be held from June 3 until June 27 said festival co-founders Les Butchart and April Harris.

Features already slated for Barefoot Bijou include festival opener Esposito, a 2011 romantic comedy that garnered the best narrative feature award at the Puerto Rico International Film Festival, and Elephant Sighs, directed by High Point University Theater Department Chair Ed Simpson and starring Ed Asner.

Butchart will also premiere his new film, Lake of Fire.

While feature films are by invitation and selection only, Barefoot Bijou has made an open call for submissions of short films. Harris encourages students to submit their short pieces.

“We’re really hoping that the colleges and universities will get involved,” Harris said. “We’d love to get some neat student films.”

According to Harris, the idea for Barefoot Bijou came to her a few months ago after speaking with someone interested in leasing space at HQ Greensboro in downtown Greensboro.

“I had long been looking at the space behind the Forge and HQ Greensboro, thinking it would be perfect to show films back there,” Harris said.

The space Harris speaks of, backing up to Gibb’s Hundred Brewing, the Forge, HQ Greensboro and Elsewhere, is a rectangular, sloping courtyard.

While the concept simmered in her mind, Harris met Butchart, a local filmmaker and founder of CineCoin, a crowdfunding platform for independent filmmakers.

“I said, ‘What if CineCoin was a sponsor for a film festival?’” Harris said. “He said, ‘Well, I don’t have any money.’ I said, ‘Listen, you don’t have to have any money; you just need to help me get it together.’”

While Harris had the idea, she admitted the need for help from someone like Butchart.

“[Butchart] knows everybody in film — he’s been making films for probably 30 years in Greensboro — and I know nothing about films,” Harris said. “I just watch Netflix; that’s about it.”

The festival’s name instills the casual ethos Harris and Butchart hope to create.

“The ‘barefoot’ part comes from — we want to have a laid-back atmosphere,” Harris said. “And ‘Bijou’ was an old movie-theater chain.”

Harris stated that the events will be “BYOC”: Bring your own chair.

“We want to have a real authentic, Greensboro feel to [Barefoot Bijou],” Harris continued, “not a fancy film-festival feel at all — just a very good, grassroots effort.”

Aside from showing films, Barefoot Bijou aims to celebrate the south end of downtown Greensboro, especially the areas around West Lewis Street.

Harris mentioned Community Theatre of Greensboro will screen some films, Elsewhere will host a directing workshop and there will be meet-and-greets at Gibb’s.

Barefoot Bijou hopes to accomplish a few goals.

For one, Harris believes the festival will show off the businesses around the Lewis Street area to anyone ignorant of recent developments.

“What we envision is people really getting to understand what’s down here,” Harris said. “There are so many cool nooks and crannies people haven’t even discovered. I mean, a lot of people haven’t even been to Spice Cantina.”

Harris also hopes Barefoot Bijou will unite the Greensboro filmmaking community.

“There seems to be, when you start getting into it a little bit — there are a lot of people making films,” Harris said. “A film festival brings everybody together out of the woodwork.”

For more information, find Barefoot Bijou’s page on Facebook.