CineOdyssey Film Festival 2020 Recap

2020 marked the 4th year of Charlotte, NC’s CineOdyssey Film Festival which showcases diverse films from all over the world with a focus on works by filmmakers of color from he the African, Caribbean, Latino, Asian and Native American diasporas, as well the U.S. And just like most film festivals this year, CineOdyssey also had to adapt to these pandemic times. Their 4th annual festival was a hybrid version mixing virtual screenings with certain selections playing at a drive-in (I hate that I wasn’t able to make it to any of the drive-in features).

As in the past, this year’s festival had an impressive lineup of films that address the multicultural issues of today at the intersection of race, class and gender. Although I hate I wasn’t able to attend this year in person (like last year), I was fortunate enough to be able to catch a couple of screenings online. So here’s a little recap of some of my favorites:

“Cycles” — Dir: Katherine Murry-Satchell (2020)

This short was very well done and interesting and relatable. It’s about relationships and how the right one for us is always right under our nose. “Cycles” starts with two teen friends who hookup ever summer until one day, one of them doesn’t show up. Years go by, they both grow up and move on with their lives. Then one day, they run into each other again and all those emotions bubble up to the surface — but life gets in the way. This is a story about having difficult conversations, communication, coming to terms with our past and seeking closure and connections. Very tenderly done and worth the watch.

“F.A.M.” — Dir: Anthony E. Williams and Kyle Romanek (2020)

This one started out a little shaky for me — I had no idea where this one was going. But it turned out to be more touching than I expected. Its the story of a black man torn between the 3 women in his life — his ex/baby momma, his current wife and his teenage daughter. It’s a story of broken families, differing parenting styles and coming out. One of its downsides is the fact that it tries to cram too many different themes into a short amount of time. Otherwise, it was refreshing to see this type of Black father/daughter bond on the screen. And side note: the entertainment attorney in me is wondering how much of their budget was spent on licensing music for the short…🥴

“Lance” — Dir: Chloe Aktas (2020)

This was an interesting short about heartbreak and getting over it. Somewhat satirical and thought-provoking. Very simply done with one character alone in a room with a tape deck.

Lance Jeffries appears in Lance (in a Neck Brace) by Chloé Aktas, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Chris Amodio. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Gay As In Happy: A Queer Anti-Tragedy” — Dir: Jordana Valerie Allen-Shim (2020)

A quick “f**k you” to all the bigots! Much needed in 2020…

“Dear Ronan” — Dir: Leigh Murphy (2020)

This might be one of the cutest (and heartbreaking) things I’ve seen all year. This is the story of friendship in the time of quarantine — through the eyes and words of a 4-year-old. Its a tender look at a child’s understanding of the pandemic and the crazy times we’re living through right now.

“Generation Lockdown” — Dir: Sirad Balducci (2019)

This was hands down my favorite short of the festival — even though its a heartbreaking subject matter. This short deals with the trauma our kids have to contend with doing active shooter lockdowns at school. It shines a light on how we are failing our children — they should not be fearful of school — and we are not doing anything substantial about it. The young actors in this short were great and what’s even more amazing is the fact that this short is based on the short story of 6th grader Caleb Brown. We have to protect our kids — school shootings should not be normalized! “Generation Lockdown” was hard-hitting and very well done.

“Bolas Criollas (Creole Balls)” — Dir: Juan Vicente Manrique and Vittorio Dugarte Barbarito (2018)

This one caught me a little off guard lol. This was quite an interesting take on freedom, revolution, conformity, and fascism — all while stark naked. But quite interesting…

“L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life)” — Dir: Sam Vinal (2019)

This documentary short is a very eye-opening look at one activist — Cherri — and her fight to protect the waterways for the surrounding people and ecosystems. Its all about resistance and how native and indigenous peoples have been fighting this fight for centuries. Its the all-familiar story of how the “all-might dollar” chokes the life out of communities — most often minority and lower-income. But this story gives us hope and reminds us that the Earth is tough, yet fragile and we must continue the fight. And Cherri is quite the character…

“Breaking the Silence” — Dir: Seayoon Jeong (2019)

This historical fiction tells the story of a former “comfort woman” during WWII. Its the tragic story of hundreds of thousands of women forced into this through brutality and depravity. And this atrocity wasn’t formally recognized as a war crime by the UN until 1993 — a shame. The storyline here was very good, but the execution went a little off the rails at times. But overall a good watch for educating people about a part of history that is often glossed over or not talked about at all.

I watched a couple of other shorts — but most of those fell short in either the plot or acting categories for me and made them a little hard to watch. But I do commend their hard work and creativity on getting their stories out to the world. Some of the others I watched were “I Resign” (about the broken American dream and institutional racism — very personal, but the acting was a little 😬), “The Black Baptism” (a little too out there for me), “Hope” (this one just came across as one mans fantasy of being a hitman or playing an action hero), “AVG” (timely subject matter, but the execution was a little lackluster), “Off the Record” (again, timely subject matter but the acting and believability fell a little short — but it was fun seeing my old neighborhood in the film), “A Postcard to Nina” (this was another coming out story but some of the details just didn’t add up), “Hi, How Are You?” (another short about school shooters with vibrant cinematography but overall, it just felt kind of weird), “Strike Out” (another timely short about BLM and getting white people to really “hear” us), “Meows” (cute little animation), “Cake” (very interesting short about sexuality and its spectrum) and “The Obituary of Jasper James” (this one was really weird to me and I couldn’t quite get into it, but to each their own).

But big ups to all the film that won awards at the festival (unfortunately some of which I didn’t get a chance to screen)!

Best Student Film“A Lonely Death” Dir: Matt Suppes (I didn’t get a chance to catch this one)

Best Regional Film“The Black Baptism” Dir: Stephanie Diane Ford

Best Smartphone Film“A Postcard to Nina” Dir: Ronald Baez

Audience Favorite Film“Generation Lockdown” Dir: Sirad Balducci

Special Recognition Award“Making Sweet Tea” Dir: John L. Jackson, Jr. (didn’t get to see)

Best Short Film“The Obituary of Jasper James” Dir: Ryan Fenson-Hood

Best ActorHugo Piccinini in “Blanes St & Muller” (didn’t get to see)

Best ActressFarelle Walker in “1,2,3 All Eyes on Me” (didn’t get to see)

Best Film“Mama Gloria” Dir: Luchina Fisher (didn’t get to see)

Here’s to yet another great festival and hopefully next year, I’ll be able to attend again in person!