School of Communications Arts @ Digital CircusIs it the most perfect typeface ever created? Or a fascistic tool of corporate mind-control? Such are the extreme points of view on Helvetica, a Swiss font first created more than 50 years ago. This feature-length documentary (which screened before a packed hall at Full Frame last year) explores the urban spaces and cultural landscape that Helvetica inhabits. Extensive interviews with graphic designersacross generations and across the globeoffer remarkable insight into the creative process of design and the cultural implications of aesthetic decisions. Once you see Helvetica, you’ll notice Helvetica all around you. This free public screening, sponsored by the Raleigh chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, begins at 7 p.m. For more info, visit Raleigh.aiga.org. Fiona Morgan
Carolina Jazz Festival
Memorial Hall, UNC CampusThe N.C. Jazz Repertory Orchestra headlines Day Two of the five-day Carolina Jazz Festival at Memorial Hall at 7:30 p.m. As the NCJRO is big band with a passion for jazz education, its program will tour the American jazz landscape through the voice of David Hartman, host of the N.C. Symphony’s radio broadcasts. Tonight’s 7:30 p.m. show follows a day full of performances and clinics and an opening day meet-the-artists jam session. Tickets are $10-$20. Performances by the UNC Jazz Band Friday, several combos Saturday and a headlining engagement with the San Francisco Jazz Collective Saturday night follow. For more info and tickets, visit www.unc.edu/music/jazzfest. Andrew Ritchey
Center for Documentary StudiesMike Disfarmer’s portraits of the rural, working-class Arkansans of the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II are not the posed, smiling penny portraits typical of that time. The subjects sit or stand awkwardly, looking tired, worn and caught off-guard, probably partly due to the harshness of their lives and partly to the dour rudeness of the photographer who just snapped the picture. Disfarmer was an eccentric recluse who so completely rejected his place in the world that he claimed to have been swept up by a tornado as a child and dropped there. Born “Myer,” which is German for “farmer,” he changed his name to Disfarmer, from the German suffix dis-, meaning not, to further distance himself. Only a concrete floor, a stark black backdrop and Disfarmer’s coldness and disdain frame the families or sweethearts who came to sit for his portraits on some special occasion, or the war-bound sons and husbands who stopped in to have a last picture made. When he died, his town sold his entire body of work for $5. Years later, collectors rediscovered the haunting candor of Disfarmer’s portraits and bought up his old glass negatives and prints, now worth thousands of dollars. Juliana Hanson
Disfarmer is on display through April 6 in the Lyndhurst Gallery at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. A public reception and talk will be held tonight at 7 p.m. with scholar and collector Julia Scully, who was instrumental in discovering Disfarmer’s work in the 1970s. For another Disfarmer-inspired event, see Saturday listings.