Diverse stories take center stage at Black film festival

Diverse stories take center stage at Black film festival


The Charlotte Black Film Festival is set to happen around the city July 6 – July 9 with more than 100 films.

The annual event is the largest of its kind in the Carolinas and brings together filmmakers from all over the world. The three-day event includes workshops for creatives, discussions on Black culutre and contributions to the film industry, and film screenings.

This year, there’s a variety of films that tell stories from faith to NASCAR.

QCity Metro spoke with some of the filmmakers who will be highlighted during this year’s festival. Here’s what to expect: 

Breaking color barriers

Jack Gordon’s “Outside Line” is a documentary-style film released in February about 21-year-old NASCAR driver Rajah Curuth. Curuth, who is also a student at Winston-Salem State University, is one of the first drivers to enter into the sport by way of virtual racing. 

Virtual racing is a simulated version of NASCAR driving, but is similar to being on an actual racetrack.

“You see these iconic families have passed down [racing] from generation to generation. It’s hard to break in[to NASCAR] if you’re kind of outside of that (generations),” Gordon told QCity Metro in a phone interview. 

The film’s name is a play on a NASCAR term “outside line” that references a racer’s position on the track. Gordon says he chose the name to represent Curuth’s journey and “less traveled path” as a minority racecar driver. 

“I think one thing [about] this film is that we wanted to show it to all audiences but more specifically, Black audiences,” Gordon said. 

This is the first project Gordon, who is a Washington, D.C.-based filmmaker, has submitted to the Charlotte Black Film Festival. Despite having no prior interest in NASCAR, Gordon said he decided to tell the story after learning about Caruth.

“I’m always looking for stories that are compelling [and] take a preconceived notion of what something is or what it looks like, and kind of turns it on its head,” Gordon said.

“We’re excited to have audiences connect with [the film] and kind of learn about NASCAR. Plenty of people can learn like, oh, there’s really exciting things happening [and] here’s a driver that I can get behind.”

Dear Eleanor

“My mother grew up during a time when movie theaters were still segregated, so my dream is to have her see the film and see this story about herself,” Tina DaCosta, director of “Dear Eleanor” said. 

The film is a sequel to one of DaCosta’s earlier films, “Brick by Brick,” which follows the life of Elza “Buddy” Cannaday, DaCosta’s father, who was Cleveland, Ohio’s first Black contractor during the 1950s.

“Dear Eleanor” picks up where “Brick by Brick” left off and tells the story of how DaCosta’s father and mother met. 

Tina DaCosta’s parents, Buddy and Eleanor. Photo courtesy of DaCosta.

“In order to be a contractor, or have your own construction company, you had to be recognized by the brick mason’s union, but at those times, they were not allowing people of color in,” DaCosta told QCity Metro.

Her father moved to Cleveland in search of his own father and ended up meeting the woman who would become his wife and began courting her by writing her love letters.

DaCosta’s film is part of the Black Women in Film category and said she’s excited to be part of the festival.

“I’m just just pleased that not only did I get a chance this time around, honor my mom and telling this story, but also in having her experience it with me,” DaCosta said. 

An adaptation of the Bible

Sheena Faust’s “The Dreamer” is a modern-day adaptation of the story of Joseph in the Bible’s Old Testament. 

Sheena Faust, second from the left, pictured with cast and crew. Photo courtesy of Sheena Faust.

In the film, the character of Joseph is a “young, arrogant bachelor” who has to deal with family secrets and his own self doubts in order to fufill his purpose. 

Faust began her film career doing skits and plays at her church and had always known she wanted to eventually transition to television and film.

She said her inspiration for “The Dream” stems from hearing a minister repeatedly talk about Joseph’s story and her own roots in the church. 

“Faith-based films can some sometimes be considered very niche, but I feel like it just has the universal themes of forgiveness,” Faust said. 

“And so for that reason, I feel like this will just be relatable to so many, and they’ll be able to walk away with motivation and understanding that, you know, someone else understands their journey.”

Faust submitted “Why am I still Single?” to the festival’s web series and her first short film, “Blinded” to short film categories of the film last year and is familiar with what participating feels like.

“To have somebody see the importance and the relevance of your film, to feel that it has value for someone else is, is really, you know, what we [filmmakers] do it for,” Faust said. 

“We do it to have an audience [who will] look at it, be inspired and, take away gems and jewels from the film, so it’s always a huge honor,” she said.

This is Not a Drill

As an educator, Mariot Valcin felt it was necessary to touch on the issue of mass school shootings.

Mariot Valcin, third from the left, giving instructions to cast. Photo courtesy of Mariot Valcin.

His film “This is Not a Drill” depicts an ordinary day in the lives of college students that becomes a tragedy by way of a school shooting. 

Valcin wrote the script for the film in 2019, but COVID-19 delayed filming. He officially completed the film last summer. 

“Because these things just keep reoccurring, I want to show how college students lives are impacted because of school shootings,” Valcin said. “So that’s what I show in this film, and, not showing the violence, but the college students near the proximity of this tragedy.”

Valcin also utilized information from people he knew who have been personally affected by school shootings to make the film more authentic. 

He currently teaches English at Central Piedmont Community College and has been an educator for 17 years. Valcin began his film career in 2019, although he had prior experience in the theatrical industry.

“So this film, as much as I want to say, it’s not political,” Valcin said. “Sometimes we try to look at school shootings like it’s a single topic problem, but I think it’s a multifaceted problem and requires a multifaceted approach to creating more harmony to keep these things from occurring in society.”

If you go:

The festival will be held July 6 -9 at Hilton University Place in Charlotte. Tickets range from $20 – $129 for various events.


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