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Preview: Charlotte Film Festival 2015

By Branna Calloway

September 24, 2015

The Charlotte Film Festival has come a long way from its first year under Louis Gurgitano’s leadership. Expanding its screenings to over 60 films in just seven days, the festival has also returned to its nonprofit roots with coordination through Charlotte Cinema Arts with a mission to promote cinematic works in and around the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. Discover your favorite emerging filmmaker and choose from several genres including shorts, documentaries, horror and more. We had a chance to chat with Communications Director Brandon Falls.

Some of the CFF Team
(Left to Right) Brandon Falls, Will Martin, Amanda Wiegel, Jennifer Bratyanski, and Jay Morong

CLTure: What’s new with Charlotte Film Festival this year compared to previous years?

Brandon Falls: Well, first off this is the return of the Charlotte Film Festival after a few years off. We took some time to look at what has worked best for the festival in the past, what needed to be changed, and what new concepts we could bring in to make the festival stronger, better and more appealing.  We wanted to make sure the business and “backend” was structured and ready to support the actual “event” part of the festival. This is our first year under our new parent non-profit, Charlotte Cinema Arts. Through CCA, the Charlotte Film Festival provides a cultural hub for established and emerging film-artists to showcase their works to the region’s top producers, peers, investors and viewers.  

We are also really excited about our social media presence this year and connecting and promoting our films and filmmakers via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Periscope!  Tagging and supporting not only what is programmed for the festival but also giving shoutouts to festival friends, our amazing 100% Volunteer staff and our supporters and Festival partners. We have seen the growth in Facebook and Twitter skyrocket since the first of the year and are really embracing social media more than we have in the past.

CLTure: What are some of the festival’s goals and initiatives?

BF: As a festival, we commit to providing an environment that spotlights the next generation of local, regional, national and international independent filmmakers. We strive to bring the most innovative, independent cinema to Charlotte for our dedicated festival patrons and film enthusiasts. We believe that Charlotte deserves an annual week-long celebration of independent cinema and of the people that create these great works of art. We also believe in supporting and backing the almost two dozen different film festival and screening series in the greater Mecklenburg region throughout the year. Groups like Charlotte Jewish Film Festival, Films on Tap, Carolina Film Community, Charlotte Film Society, Back Alley Film Series, JoeDance, 100 Words Film Festival and several others.

CLTure: How has the North Carolina film tax incentive expiration affected the Charlotte Film community and this festival?

BF: The huge reduction in the NC Film Tax incentive hasn’t really affected the day-to-day operations of the Charlotte Film Festival or our actual festival week at all. We do see where talented cast and crew have left NC to pursue work in other states that support film. That being said, the NC Film soul and passion is still kicking. We have a record number of films this year from Charlotte and North Carolina as a whole. A great, diverse representation of NC film talent. We have filmmakers that grew up in NC and left for other markets, but have returned to film their projects here because they know good cast and crew still exist.  

Pre Festival event at Wheelhouse Media

CLTure: There are a great mix of film genres at this year’s festival. Can you give us some of your recommendations?

The festival is programmed with films two different ways. First, we have a submissions period, where filmmakers around the globe submit their films to our panel of reviewers. From those we pick films to play that we call “OFFICIAL SELECTIONS.” This year, we have Narrative Features, Documentary Features, Narrative Shorts and Documentary Shorts. A few highlights from our Official Selections would be:

MANSON FAMILY VACATION (Narrative Feature) – 9.26 Carolina Cinemas 7:45 PM

Nick Morgan (Jay Duplass) has it all: a loving family, a beautiful home and a successful law practice in Los Angeles. His estranged brother Conrad (Linas Phillips) has nothing but a backpack. When Conrad shows up for a surprise visit, all he wants to do in town is go to the infamous Manson Family murder sites. Reluctantly, Nick joins him and ends up on a road trip that leads the brothers into the modern-day world of Charles Manson.

Director: J. Davis, USA

ROMEO IS BLEEDING (Narrative Documentary)

A fatal turf war between neighborhoods haunts the city of Richmond, CA. Donté Clark transcends the violence in his hometown by writing poetry about his experiences. Using his voice to inspire those around him, he and the like-minded youth of the city mount an urban adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with the hope of starting a real dialogue about violence in the city. Will Richmond force Donté to compromise his idealistic ambitions? Or will Donté end Richmond’s cycle of trauma?

Director: Jason Zeldes, USA

HARBINGER (Narrative Short) – 9.27 Carolina Cinemas 12:30 pm

An adopted ten year old climbs to the top of an oak tree in hopes of catching his unborn baby brother falling from space.

Director: Kieran Moreira, Raleigh NC

JOSEPH GETS DRESSED (Documentary Short) Partially filmed in Charlotte – 9.27 Ayrsley Grand Cinemas 12pm 

Kiwi-American kinetic artist Joseph Herscher is building the biggest machine of his life: a contraption that will dress him from head to toe in front of a live audience. Joseph Gets Dressed is a delightful documentary for all ages, and will charm people who love art and science in equal measure.

Director: Gemma Gracewood and Corey Gegner, USA

Secondly our programming schedule is filled with SPECIAL SCREENINGS of SPECIAL EVENTS.  These films come from our Programming team reaching out to distributors and actually bringing specific films to the festival.  Several films are regional premiers and we are even the US Premier for a Columbian Film.

FINDERS KEEPERS – Opening Night Film (Documentary) – 9.25 Ayrsley Grand Cinemas 8pm

When his amputated leg is discovered in a grill sold at a North Carolina auction, John Wood finds himself at the center of a worldwide media frenzy. Believing the new-found attention to be his chance at doing some great things in an otherwise disappointing, wayward life, he’s quickly swept up in the hysteria as the leg’s enterprising buyer, Shannon Whisnant, then sues to regain its custody. But the stranger-than-fiction chain of events, fueling John’s drug addiction and compounded by generations of his familial dysfunction, soon sets John on the streets and heading to his certain demise. Just in time, however, another twist in these fantastical occurrences gives John a final shot at becoming whole for the first time in his life.

Director: Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel, USA

EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT (EL ABRAZO DE LA SERPIENTE) – US Premiere – 9.26 Ayrsley Grand Cinemas 7:15pm 

At once blistering and poetic, the ravages of colonialism cast a dark shadow over the South American landscape in EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT, the third feature by Ciro Guerra. Filmed in stunning black-and-white, SERPENT centers on Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his people, and the two scientists who, over the course of 40 years, build a friendship with him. The film was inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers (Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evan Schultes) who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant.

Director: Ciro Guerra, Columbia/Venezuela/Argentina

MEN & CHICKEN – Regional Premiere – 10.3 Carolina Cinemas 5 pm

Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) stars in this delirious comedy from Denmark’s Anders Thomas Jensen (The Green Butchers), about two sadsack brothers who head to a dilapidated mansion on a remote island to meet their biological father — and their three seriously eccentric siblings.

Director: Anders Thomas Jensen, Denmark

Prefestival Event at Carolina Cinemas Charlotte

CLTure: What are some of the ways people can get involved with the Charlotte Film Festival outside of attending?

BF: Any support is greatly appreciated by following us on social media. @CharlottefilmFestival on Instagram, Charlotte Film Festival on Facebook and @CltFilmFest on Twitter. Once CFFSEVEN is finished on October 3, we immediately start planning CFFEIGHT for 2016. Our team, from ticket takers to our directors, is fully volunteer. We are always looking for people that are excited about film and would like to come onboard as part of the CFF team. We will also be looking to build new relationships with future sponsors, partners and organizations that see having a business relationship with us as a good fit.

CLTure: Is there a growing independent film scene in Charlotte? How can people access info and get better educated on the filmmaking process?

BF: There has always been a strong independent film scene in Charlotte. Carolina Film Community is a great way to learn more about opportunities and classes and just general meetups. Follow NC Film Office and the Charlotte Regional Film office for stories and updates. Also, attending other film events and festivals is a great way to meet people and network.

CFF Red

CLTure recommended films by Branna Calloway 

Finders Keepers – 9.25 Ayrsley Grand Cinemas 8pm 

Not only does this film kick off the festival, it’s a story with local significance. Remember reading a few years back about a severed foot that was found in a smoker bought at a Maiden, NC auction? Yea, it was kinda strange then, too. So strange, that some filmmakers thought it’d make a cool movie. You be the judge.

Buskin’ Blues – 9.27 Carolina Cinemas 3:20 pm

Another film with a local spin, this one is based in downtown Asheville and follows the lives and passions of artists making a life performing on the streets. Connections are made as well as insights about what it all means, but best of all you get a closer view of the human spirit through its greatest lens – art.

20 Years of Madness – 10.3 Carolina Cinemas 11:30am

Sometimes after something you really wanted blows up in your face, the only thing left to do is laugh. That’s what the cast of a mid-90s public access show in Detroit does after reuniting. Still part of the underground after all the time away, the adults reminisce about their teen years together while facing life as grown-ups.

Beverley – 9.26 Ayrsley Grand Cinemas 2:30am 

Racism is pervasive. This is the story of Beverley, a mixed-race girl growing up in 1980s Leicester. Her family leaves an urban environment to the suburbs, thinking that this alone will provide the safety and opportunity they need to change their lives. Sadly, some things go deeper than simply a location. They seep into people’s hearts and minds, polluting them to the point of ambivalence, hatred, and aggression.

BrocKINGton – 9.27 Carolina Cinemas

This movie hurts so much, but it is necessary to spread a message that needs to be heard. Blake Brockington was just another 18 year old from Charlotte. Well, except for the fact that Blake was named Homecoming King at East Meck, where he was a drum major in the band. He graduated in 2014 and served as an advocate for the local transgender community. Blake committed suicide on March 23, 2015.

Check out the full schedule of films at Charlotte Film Festival 2015. 

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