Thursday, March 7, 2013

A film festival full of hope

Somehow, three specialty film festivals in town ended up right on top of each other this year: The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival (which is running through March 17), the Charlotte Black Film Festival (which ran during the CIAA last week) and the Projecting Hope Film Festival, which runs Friday through Sunday. (Get details at

The latter gets less attention than the others, because it takes place at one suburban theater -- the Ayrsley Grand Cinemas, off South Tryon Street near the intersection with I-485 -- and because all the films are faith-based, meaning the Christian faith. Yet even within that field, the festival explores diverse themes.

"Not Today," which screens Friday night, deals with human trafficking and the caste system in India. "Jimmy," which screens Saturday and was made around Charlotte, focuses on a mentally disabled Southern boy who sees "watchers" -- his mother would call them "angels" -- and has to testify in a murder case. "Return to the Hiding Place," which closes the festival Sunday night, pairs a World War II resistance fighter and a journalist who try to save an orphanage full of Jewish kids marked for execution.

Hollywood will never market films like these to a mass audience, because they don't rack up the kinds of numbers distributors care about. As well-loved as "Facing the Giants" was, it earned just $10 million over the length of its run; that's 1000 times what it reportedly cost, but a mediocre comedy can earn three times as much  in one week of wide release. ("The Passion of the Christ" was an anomaly, one that hasn't been repeated in the last nine years and won't be for a long time to come.)

So I'm glad these pictures are getting big-screen outings in Charlotte. In fact, some of them (such as "Home Run," "Not Today" and the Raleigh-made "Secrets in the Snow") will be shown here before they hit theaters elsewhere or come out on DVD. Every niche film deserves to find its audience, and this city should be big enough to accommodate them all.