All-American Film Festival
Common Ground TheatreFrom its humble beginning last year in a pond of established film events, the All-American Film Festival is a fish that wants to get bigger. Founded by Durham-based filmmaker Todd Tinkham, the festival had an earnest start last year as an outlet for independent filmmakers to showcase their work. The entry requirements were scant and the festival welcomed all categories of film: documentaries, shorts, features and animation.

The same rules apply this year but the festival has expanded to include other facets of the creative community with art exhibits, live music and film workshops added to its roster of events. Tinkham points to creative festivals like Austin’s South by Southwest as a source of inspiration. “I think there are a lot of similarities between Austin and the Durham/ Chapel Hill area,” says Tinkham. “It’s an artistic community where conversations can be sparked.”

Although the SXSW is a worthy goal, it’s a distant one at this point. Still, the AAFF is smartly taking a similar strategic tack with the addition of a music showcase featuring local bands like Midtown Dickens, Future Kings of Nowhere, Mosadi Music and Killer Filler. But while the festival’s core mission still revolves around showcasing groundbreaking cinema from across the world.

“The name ‘All American Film Festival’ is kind of like a pun,” says Tinkham. “When you hear ‘All American’ you think about the boy next door or the boy with the surf board, you know blond-haired, blue-eyed, something on the lines of the Beach Boys. But what it really means is ‘all inclusive.’ This year we have a lot of different types of films, we have a lot of different types of filmmakers. We have straight films, we have gay films, we have films by white filmmakers and we have films made by people of color. ‘All American’ sounds like it means one thing, but in reality, it means the opposite. It doesn’t mean limited in any way, it means wide open.” Kathy JusticeThe All American Film Festival kicks off tonight with an opening night screening and celebration at Common Ground Theatre, including a special screening of films made by local filmmakers. For more information on the festival and a schedule of events, visitwww.allamericanfilmfestival.com.

Puppet Fusion
Progress Energy CenterTonight kicks off the first event of Puppet Fusion, an Arts Alive presentation that brings nationwide puppeteers to Raleigh for the first time. The Boxcutter Cabaret Puppet Tour presents its ragtag entertainment and lowbrow humor at 9 p.m. in the Fletcher Pavilion, offering one of only three PG-rated shows in an otherwise G-rated line-up that continues through Saturday night. Also scheduled to perform is Hobey Ford and his Golden Rod Puppets, who will collaborate with the queen of annoying songs herself, Lamp Chop. Local puppet specialists Paperhand Puppet Intervention will wrap up the festival with two performances at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday. For more info, visit www.artsaliveraleigh.com or call 832-8699. Megan Stein

Chapel Hill
The Big Sleep, Say Hi
Local 506Better looking than rocking, Brooklyn’s The Big Sleep is interesting about half of the time: The members are smart instrumentalists, incorporating post-rock dynamics and serpentine guitar lines but condensing those epics into three-minute explosions. The first 15 minutes of its latest for French Kiss, Sleep Forever, is a convincing rush of rock heroics. Make it through that, though, and you’ll only wade through their panoply of influences. Say Hi (née Say Hi To Your Mom) doesn’t have the grand intentions, which serves the Seattle band’s slightly bedraggled, hooky microcosms well. The band’s latest, The Wishes and The Glitch, is power-pop in headphones worn beneath a post-graduate sweatshirt and an umbrella. With The Nothing Noise at 9 p.m. for $8. Grayson Currin