New documentary chronicles people of the Core Sound

March 4, 2013
By Bill Krueger

In the eastern reaches of North Carolina, where the coast weaves in and out to form secluded coves and communities, live the people of the Core Sound. These people, and their lives in commercial fishing, have been the subject of study by William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English Walt Wolfram and video producer Neal Hutcheson, both of NC State.

Wolfram and Hutcheson, who have produced five documentaries showcasing the diversity of accents, dialect and culture of North Carolina communities across the state, have reunited to create their sixth documentary and the second one about the people of the Core Sound as part of The North Carolina Language and Life Project.

The new documentary, “Core.Sounders,” premieres March 14 at the N.C. Museum of History in downtown Raleigh. The film covers the economic struggles the fishing communities face.  “There are lots of cultural issues (down east) and one of the important ones in this region is the commercial fishing,” says Wolfram. “It’s not only the language (or dialect) we’re interested in, but it’s also the traditions. The documentary will talk about culture, the challenges of development and also the fishing industry.”

People in the Core Sound have a long, rich history of fishing, and Wolfram and Hutcheson want this documentary to showcase that.  “People have made a living for generations and now it’s changing and competing with (a lot of things),” says Wolfram. “The fishing industry is not nearly as viable, people can’t make a living. It’s not simply about fishing it’s an entire lifestyle.

Part of displaying that lifestyle for Wolfram and Hutcheson is through the events surrounding the premiere. “One of the things that will sort of show the community context is following the film, a panel of people from Core Sound will be there, including some of the people in the film,” says Wolfram. “We hope that the whole theme from hors d’oeuvres to panel to production will present community in a context that premieres usually don’t do.”

The premiere of this documentary marks the end of a lot of hard work and weeks spent working to put this film together. Hutcheson, a 1992 NC State grad,  took several trips to the Core Sound and stayed with the people to get the story right and the full effect of what’s happening.

“One of the important dimensions of this film is the community has been involved in this, which is unusual,” says Hutcheson. “We have input from professionals and input from the community. We have spent years there … it’s a very vested project.”

The Core Sound people were the subject five years ago of Hutcheson and Wolfram’s documentary, “The Carolina Brogue.” That feature focused on the unique accents that have developed in the Core Sound because of its history of isolation from surrounding communities.

Hutcheson says his new film could influence North Carolina legislation in a positive way. “I think it has the potential to help,” says Hutcheson. “We’ve captured these people quite accurately and legislation is currently dealing with complicated issues: zoning, development, water quality and fishing regulation. It’s done in an abstract way without understanding who they are.”

Hutcheson knows how much it could mean to the Core Sound people to have their story told. “The people down there have been working to get attention and have a voice and have often been ignored,” says Hutcheson. “We want to help and contribute to the conversation. If this (documentary) helps get attention they need, then I’ll be very happy.”

—Molly Green

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