Louis Gurgitano started the Charlotte Film Festival in 2005 as a way of exposing emerging independent filmmakers and their work to Charlotte audiences. Since then, the festival has grown and evolved — but not always in the right direction.
“We slowly began drifting into some Sundance wannabe that really didn’t do anything for me,” said Gurgitano. He wanted to get back to the basics and simplify the whole event. The sixth annual Charlotte Film Festival is just that — an opportunity to rebuild the festival from the ground up.
This year, the concept is to feature four weeks of distinctive programming. The first week showcases long-form fiction narratives like director Renzo Vasquez’s A Box for Rob and The Mulberry Tree, directed by Mark Heller . Week two is focused on documentaries, including Sean Fahey’s Bailout and Nathan Clarke’s Wrestling for Jesus.
Week three is comprised of short-film blocks (including student films), and the fourth week features movies from the horror and science fiction genres, like Pig, written and directed by Henry Barrial, and Scott Di Lalla’s I Am ZoZo.
Gurgitano has also made strides to improve the dates and times of screenings. “I’ve always felt that every entertainment event is scheduled for the weekend here and that there’s nothing to do during the week.”
This year’s schedule is filled with screenings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. “We’ll see. If people show up, we’ll do it the same way again next year, and if not, we’ll try something else,” he noted.
Another key difference to this year’s festival is having one central location, the EpiCentre Theater 5. “We and the filmmakers love the EpiCentre Theater and we feel honored that they are as stoked about the Festival as we are.”
Logistically speaking, having the EpiCentre as the base of operations will make the festival more accessible. In previous years, parking had been a definite issue, but Gurgitano feels this year will be better. “We’ve been able to include three hours of free parking with a ticket purchase, and I think that’s going to help a lot of folks feel good about coming.”
There are more than 70 films screening at this year’s festival. “First and foremost, we are looking for things that stir emotion in us,” said Gurgitano. “I think in this plastic society, people are aching to feel, be it pain or joy. We’re looking for movies that will make us laugh and, more importantly, for movies that will make us cry.”
Not surprisingly, movies that deal with important cultural and political topics are included in the schedule. “I’m stoked about the doc Question One. Talk about movies that can make a difference,” said Gurgitano. “I don’t care what side of the same sex marriage issue you are on: I dare you to come to this film and leave feeling the same way you did when you walked in.”
But it’s not just about showing a movie. The Charlotte Film Festival has partnered with Working Films, NC Equality, and HRC (Human Rights Campaign) to build an event around the screening in light of the Anti-LGBT Constitutional Amendment vote on May 8.
“I’m hoping we’ll pack the house and activate some people,” said Gurgitano, who thinks the Charlotte Film Festival will expose the public to a multitude of fresh voices and ideas.
Gurgitano isn’t stopping with the Charlotte Film Festival. The Charlotte Horror Fest (http://charlottehorrorfest.com/) will premiere in the fall of 2012, and the Big Cause Docu Fest (http://bigcause.org/) is currently in development for inauguration in 2013.
The 2012 Charlotte Film Festival runs March 5-27, Monday through Wednesday evenings, at the EpiCentre Theater. For more information, including a full schedule of events, go here.