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Charlotte Area News

CineOdyssey Film Festival Showcases Filmmakers Of Color

Gwendolyn Glenn
Tre McGriff, founder of the CineOdyssey Film Festival

More than 40 films are on tap for Charlotte’s third annual CineOdyssey Film Festival, being held at the Mint Museum. The three-day festival features filmmakers, producers and actors of color from around the world.

Through Saturday night, short and feature-length movies produced by African, Caribbean, Asian, Latino and other mainly independent filmmakers of color will be shown at the CineOdyssey Film Festival. African American filmmaker Jennifer Sharp’s film is on the list. She lives in Los Angeles and shot most of "Una Great Movie" in Mexico.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
Los Angeles filmmaker Jennifer Sharp's movie "Una Great Movie" is included in CineOdyssey Film Festival at the Mint Museum

It sounds like a love story, but Sharp describes it as an intellectual, quirky movie that starts out being about a beautiful black woman in Mexico looking for a lost lover but ends up being a romantic comedy with all white people. The movie revolves around a black screenwriter in Los Angeles trying to write a diverse script that keeps getting changed by Hollywood gatekeepers who tell her that her ideas will never sell.

“Hollywood says you have to be more commercial, need a celebrity — all the things I’ve been told I didn’t do in this movie,” Sharp said. “It’s a commentary on movies we see, why they’re made, why we see them and why they are not diverse.”

"Cutting edge" is how festival founder Tre McGriff describes Sharp’s film and others showing during CineOdyssey. He says he started the festival because he wanted to bring more diversity to Charlotte’s movie scene and give less-known filmmakers of color, who have produced great short and feature-length films, a place to have them seen.

“We always try to look for the new talent,” McGriff said. “Our film festival doesn’t lend itself to … screening a bunch of Hollywood films, not that those films aren’t great in their own right, but we’re always looking to find the next talent, either locally, nationally or internationally. And I think people are going to be very surprised by the quality of the films.”

McGriff says he’s constantly reading movie scripts and viewing trailers in selecting films to showcase in the festival. The Charlotte festival is not in the same league with Sundance or other larger film festivals, but McGriff sees CineOdyssey as a springboard for filmmakers of color to get into those larger venues.

“Two of our films were rejected by practically every film festival until they got into ours and then they got selected into the Oscar-nominating film festivals after that,” McGriff said. “One of them is a film called ‘Water in a Broken Glass.’ It’s a feature film that deals with LGBT love triangle. That film went on to play at the Pan African Film Festival.”

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
CineOdyssey Film Festival founder Tre McGriff (far left) mingles with movie goers at the opening reception

McGriff says the other was “Aged Out,” about a young man who is homeless after aging out of foster care and the woman who helps him. He says it was accepted into an Oscar-qualifying film festival after being in CineOdyssey, meaning it was eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award.

McGriff says about 300 people attended the festival last year and he hopes for a larger audience this weekend. Sharp says it is a great venue for her movie because she will more opportunities to mingle with the audience, receive feedback and meet other filmmakers.

“You go to big festivals and there are celebrities there, and you’ll never meet one of them, even though you’re a filmmaker,” Sharp said. “They all play the game. So in my opinion, these smaller festivals are better, and they’re better for art, they’re more appreciative of art, they’re better for the filmmakers, and I believe that more distributors need to come. If they’re serious about evolution in the film industry, they need to start coming to the smaller festivals that have more heart so they can start finding better movies.”

CineOdyssey founder McGriff hopes to see more whites in the audience than in past years. He says the films in the festival appeal to a universal audience and are inclusive of all races in terms of those behind and in front of the camera. The festival ends Saturday night.