By Cameron Lee
July 14, 2019
When you think about minority filmmakers, names like Spike Lee, John Singleton (R.I.P.), F. Gary Gray, John Woo, and Ang Lee may come to mind. Recently, with the popularity of directors like Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Creed), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) and Jordan Peele (Get out, Us), there’s been an emphasis on stories being told from an alternative perspective outside of the typical white Hollywood structure. Long overdue for many film appreciators.
In Charlotte– much like Hollywood– the city has been built primarily by the white male political and corporate structure. While the film industry in North Carolina was devastated in 2014 by the expiration of the film tax incentive program that was in place since 2005, there seems to be somewhat of a resurging film community in the city.
Founder of CineOdyssey Film Festival Tre’ McGriff came to Charlotte in 1999 from New York, and, as a film aficionado and former film school student, started the festival in 2017. The goal was to help nurture the city’s film scene through a diverse showcase of films from the African, Caribbean, Latino, Asian, and Native American diasporas. Interestingly, the festival has run parallel to the technological and social advances in recent years. “Filmmakers of color are in a great place now, not only in terms of more affordable equipment to create films, but also access. We don’t need permission to enter this industry, and there are more platforms available to get the work seen,” said McGriff.
In its third year, the festival seems to be hitting its stride, only now as an official 501c3 arts organization. Having independently funded the festival in its first two years, the organization has received more support and awareness as a recent recipient of the Arts & Science Council’s Cultural Vision Grant. “We are more in control of our own destiny, and sponsors seem to look at us through a more positive lens,” said McGriff.
Along with the wide-range of short films, features, documentaries and narratives, the festival aims to add a teaching component. This year will feature a talk with Christopher Everett, producer and director of the critically acclaimed documentary, Wilmington on Fire. The documentary chronicled the massacre on the African-American community by a white mob on November 10, 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Everett, who is also the communications manager of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, will discuss the process of independently funding, producing, distributing, and generating revenue with documentary films.
McGriff continues to curate a diverse set of films that cross a multitude of topics and subjects. The selection process can be a bit tedious. “It’s a three-pronged process. We get films by submission, by referral, and by wayward discovery. There’s levels to this, both high and low,” said McGriff.
Among this year’s screenings include Silent Sam, a documentary that followed the student-led movement to remove the Silent Sam statue at UNC Chapel Hill. Another highly anticipated film is Suicide By Sunlight, a Black vampire film that was screened at Sundance Film Festival last year and was filmed by an all-female crew. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, Four Points, a truly original narrative film by Cadell Cook, follows four average citizens that have been selected by a fictional tech-savvy President of the United States to play a sinister game that will determine the policy of the new administration.
This is just a taste of what’s ahead for the third annual CineOdyssey Film Festival, and McGriff aims to continue to push the social culture through film. “I’d like attendees to break from their normal silos and bubbles, and come experience works by filmmakers of color that they may not see anywhere else. These films can help bridge cultural understanding, because the stories are universal.”