The Joedance Film Festival is a tribute to the life of a remarkable young man, Joe Restaino, who inspired his community to action following his brave battle with a rare form of pediatric osteosarcoma. This August, the festival will achieve a new milestone: a decade of fundraising for clinical research to end pediatric and rare cancers. Inspired by Joe’s love of movies, Joedance celebrates the cinematic achievements of talented local filmmakers. It has become a beacon not only for this powerful art form, but more importantly, for the pursuit of a cure and improved treatments for rare and devastating forms of cancer, such as osteosarcoma.

In anticipation of their 10-year anniversary, Joedance founder Diane Restaino shared special memories and plans for the beloved event that supports local filmmakers and families touched by cancer:


Atrium Health Foundation: The Joedance Film Festival is celebrating its 10th year – how exciting! Tell us about the history of the festival. 

Diane Restaino: Joedance Film Festival started in the courtyard of the Tenth Street Townhomes located in Uptown Charlotte’s Fourth Ward Neighborhood. The first year was a gathering of 15 family members and friends to help us through a difficult time and remember Joe, who passed away in 2010. We attached a DVD player to our neighbor’s deck and screened two Sundance films on the side of a townhome; the name “Joedance” Film Festival was born.

Before Joe died, he gave us a Legacy List that included a request to raise money to help find better treatments and hopefully cures for sarcomas, blastomas and brain tumors. He also included the caveat it not be named the Joe Restaino Foundation. Joe had osteosarcoma, but during his four years of treatment, was touched by two other people with the other cancers.

I promised Joe I would raise money in Charlotte to support Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s, but he didn’t live long enough to know we created a film festival. I chose a film festival because it is what our family did together. We still have a New Year’s Eve tradition of lunch and movie that has been going on for two decades.


Foundation: What does it mean to you to carry on Joe’s legacy with the Joedance Film Festival?

Diane: Through the money raised by Joedance Film Festival, Joe’s legacy has touched so many people with childhood and adolescent cancer. Our efforts advance on-going research and funding in the necessary work, though not always front and center, that must be done to find a cure for cancer. Before he died, Joe knew what he wanted his legacy to be and he left a Legacy List of what he wanted us to fund at Levine Children’s:

1 – Joe wanted a research internship funded. A paid Joedance Internship was established in 2014 and we funded the Healios Project, a flavored liquid nutrient to lessen the severity of mouth sores which is now part of the protocol for every child and adolescent cancer patient at Levine Children’s. This year, the Joedance Intern is working with Dr. Jennifer Pope in Integrative Medicine.

2 – Joe wanted to find a better, and more successful, treatment for recurrent osteosarcoma. In 2017, Dr. Javier Oesterheld, Specialty Medical Director of Hematology/Oncology/BMT at Levine Children’s, authored a clinical trial for recurrent osteosarcoma. Fourteen hospitals around the country enrolled in the trial. Joedance helped fund this clinical trial.

3 – Joe wanted us to be a part of research every day. To fulfill this wish, Joedance has a three-year fundraising plan to fund the First Line Research Tech at the Pediatric Research lab opening later this year.


Foundation: How have the funds raised from the Joedance Film Festival contributed to the search for more effective treatments, and eventually a cure, for osteosarcoma and other rare pediatric cancers at Levine Children’s Hospital? 

Diane: We are focused on supporting all aspects of the treatment of pediatric sarcomas, blastomas and brain tumors and the research for a cure. One thing we learned during Joe’s treatment is that treating the whole young person and lessening the side effects is just as important as researching for a cure. We also found that teens and young adults face a very different set of challenges than the younger patients. To that end, we are proud of our progress with bringing Healios for mouth sores to the forefront as well as our work with Integrative Medicine. And of course, our support of Dr. Osterheld’s clinical trial for recurrent osteosarcoma cuts right to the heart of what we do and fulfilling Joe’s Legacy List.


Foundation: How do those who knew Joe remember him?

Diane: Joe was best known as frustratingly stubborn yet incredibly loyal. We love to meet people who knew him who share their memories of Joe. He was a leader. Joe wanted to make an impact. His Legacy List was forward-thinking and designed to help teens and young adults like him, who would face a similar fight with cancer, live better lives. We share video of one of his last public appearances because we can’t describe his tenacity properly. Read more about Joe’s story here.


Foundation: You’ve made some changes to the festival for its 10th year, including extending it by one day and adding South Carolina filmmakers to the line-up. What else can festival-goers expect this year?

Diane: In addition to our expansion to accept submissions from North and South Carolina filmmakers, and adding the third day, we partnered with Arts+ to create the Cultural Arts Evening on the opening day. Students from Arts+ will perform during our VIP and Public Receptions prior to the film screenings, Thursday, August 1st. We are very excited about adding a music component. Arts+ is a wonderful organization serving more than 4,500 students in the Charlotte area. Their goal is to make outstanding arts education available to students of all ages, skill levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. Also on Thursday, Sozo Gallery, located in Uptown, is hosting a gallery opening to support Joedance.

Joedance has grown so much in a decade. It’s not only supporting filmmakers but other arts during the Joedance Film Festival weekend in August. Joedance fundraisers happen all year-long and we’re always looking for ways to raise money to fulfill Joe’s Legacy List while enhancing Charlotte’s cultural environment. Everything you need to know about the film festival weekend, including ticket information, is on our website,


Foundation: What were some of Joe’s favorite films?

Diane: Joe loved them all. He didn’t live long enough to know that we started a film festival to raise money to fulfill his Legacy List. I knew I didn’t want to do a gala, or luncheons and we weren’t going to do a 5k to raise money, so I looked to what our family did together, and it was watching movies. That first gathering to watch films comforted us in a way that was meaningful, and we knew it was how we wanted to continue to remember Joe.


To honor Joe Restaino’s memory, support patients of Levine Children’s Hospital, and enjoy the cinematic talent of local filmmakers, donate or purchase tickets to Joedance here. Follow Joedance on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest news and updates!