Also Showing on TPC

TPC is presenting Anytown, USA: A documentary short film series profiling small towns in North Carolina, a series of programs created by Randolph Benson and produced by Critical Focus Pictures in collaboration with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

The next programs are airing Saturday, January 11, at 6 and 6:30 pm, and on Thursday, January 16, at 8 and 8:30 pm. This week’s films are:

  • The Vampire Beast Of Bladenboro by Laura Dunne. More than 50 years ago, residents of the small community of Bladenboro, N.C., were terrorized by a predator that viciously killed numerous domestic animals. The events of those few weeks in January 1954 are told through accounts of five individuals who were children or teenagers living in Bladenboro at the time. They are joined by two carnivore behavior “experts,” who speculate on what this creature could have been.
  • Lakewood Standing Strong by Zoe Levitt and Rahima Rahi. High school can be a challenging time, as students must grow into themselves, find friends, and figure out their next steps. In today’s social media-saturated environment, young people have even more challenges to grapple with. Gossip, rumors, photos, and cruel comments can quickly become public knowledge and follow students home from school, even without their consent. This video highlights a group of Lakewood High School students who have come together to address cyber-bullying, an issue facing students across the country. Zoe Levitt is a Social Justice Researcher, Policy Advocate, and Documentarian conducting video documentary work with and for people working on social justice issues. Rahima Rahi is inspired by the intensity of human emotions. She values her sensitivity to the suffering of others, which she channels into activism and various creative expressions such as dance, collage art, and visual storytelling.

The following week, programs are airing Saturday, January 18, at 6 and 6:30 pm, and on Thursday, January 23, at 8 and 8:30 pm. Next week’s films are:

  • Tobacco Culture In Smithfield by Maggie Smith. Residents share their memories and thoughts on the importance of tobacco culture in Smithfield, and how things have changed over time.
  • Winged Invasion: The Blackbirds Of Scotland Neck, by Lisa Sorg. They shot firecrackers, banged pots and pans, even doused the offenders with soap and water dropped from airplanes: With help from the federal government, Scotland Neck residents tried to shoo away an estimated 6 million blackbirds that had invaded the town in 1969 and 1970—and had made life quite miserable. Lisa Sorg is an Environmental Reporter with NC Policy Watch.
  • The Curtis Theater, by Random Gott. This film looks at the town movie theater as a source of shared experience for the citizens of Liberty. Stories told by the employees, patrons, and the family that built and ran the theater illuminate its history.

Anytown USA is an annual filmmaking production and editing course, created and taught by Randolph Benson. Each year one small town (population less than 5,000) is featured, and student filmmakers each tell a story of their choice within the town. Together the short films form a nuanced, intimate portrait of local communities as they struggle to survive.

What is Anytown USA? View a promotional video.

Towns featured to-date

  • Pittsboro, Spring 2006
  • Bladenboro, Spring 2008
  • Smithfield, Spring 2010
  • Star, Spring 2012
  • Scotland Neck, Spring 2013
  • Liberty, Spring 2014
  • Robbins, Spring 2015
  • Roseboro, Spring 2016
  • Siler City, Spring 2017
  • Mt. Gilead, Spring 2018

Mt. Gilead, NC was the featured town in 2018

About Randolph Benson

Randolph Benson

Randolph Benson’s work has garnered numerous awards, most notably an Academy Award for Best Student Documentary at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Academy Awards. Benson received an Eastman Kodak Excellence in Filmmaking Award at the Cannes Film Festival and a First Appearance Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. He has been an instructor of film and video at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for over a decade, and he serves on Award Juries at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (Durham, NC, USA), the Boone (NC) Film Festival and the Let’s All Be Free Film Festival (London, UK). Benson also serves on the executive board of the Center for Deep Policy Research.

About the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke

The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) is dedicated to documentary expression and its role in creating a more just society. A nonprofit affiliate of Duke University, CDS teaches, produces, and presents the documentary arts across a full range of media—photography, audio, film, writing, experimental and new media—for students and audiences of all ages.

For more information about CDS, visit the CDS website.

About Critical Focus Pictures

For more information, see the Critical Focus Pictures website.

Critical Focus Pictures uses the power of documentary film to tell the unique and personal stories of people and organizations. Critical Focus Pictures was founded by award-winning producer Randolph Benson, who is also director, cinematographer, and editor. The Critical Focus Pictures team includes producers John Schoenfelt and Rachel Baer.