When Tre’ McGriff moved from New York to Charlotte in 1999, he felt something was missing.
Previously surrounded by cultural diversity, McGriff remembers watching African, Latin-American and Italian films. Despite Charlotte’s cultural festivals and outlets, he said, it lacked a platform for diversity in cinema and film.
For a changing city, McGriff wanted to create something that would give filmmakers of color a voice.
“The (Charlotte) community is becoming more diverse,” McGriff said. “I think in order for us to understand each other and the community, we have to embrace each other’s culture.”
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So McGriff launched the CineOdyssey Film Festival last year, a first-of-its-kind for Charlotte. The second annual event will be held July 12-14 in the Wells Fargo Auditorium at Knight Theater.
The festival celebrates filmmakers from the African, Caribbean, Latino, Asian and Native American diasporas as well as from the U.S., the organization’s website says.
“The most important thing this festival will do is give people an opportunity to experience diverse cultures through the realm of cinema,” McGriff said.
Films were chosen through submissions, recommendations and McGriff's own discoveries.
This year’s festival includes screenings of around 30 independent films. McGriff said he is excited about many of the films, including “BlacKorea,” directed by award-winning filmmaker Christine Swanson.
The film, told from a child’s perspective, touches on the complexities of life being born to a Korean mother and an African-American father in Chicago.
McGriff also wanted to maintain a local presence by having filmmakers from both North and South Carolina.
“My great passion is to give filmmakers a platform and to get their work seen,” McGriff said.
In addition to film screenings, there will be a workshop for smartphone filmmaking taught by Charlotte filmmaker Quinton Littlejohn and a panel discussion on the impact of diversity in the film industry at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture.
The panel will be moderated by Hollywood writer and producer Calvin Brown Jr. Panelists will include: film director Christine Swanson, Queen City Unity founder Jorge Millares, filmmaker and fine artist Roni Nicole Henderson and Manoj Kesavan, founder of Charlotte’s BOOM! Festival.
CineOdyssey also holds events and film screenings throughout the year leading up to the annual festival.
While McGriff said he has self-funded the organization for two years, the organization just received non-profit status. He hopes this will help CineOdyssey continue to grow in the Charlotte Community.
“I’m all about independent filmmaking,” McGriff said. “I love the Hollywood stuff, I love the big blockbuster stuff, but I think as a community, we really need to embrace and support independent filmmakers... We want to nourish them so they can grow their careers and do big things.”
Want to go?
Schedule and ticket info can be found here. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Tickets range from free for the film workshop to $65 for all-access.
Myah Ward: 704-358-5062; @MyahWard