Film Festival 38 is in the record books

Film Festival 38 ended Sunday night around 10PM.  Amid a crowd of thousands, fans cheered everyone who came to the stage for recognition.  Films that I either saw or made an impression:

  • Joe Siebert’s documentary, “The Sax Man” garnered the local filmmaker award. Of course, it wouldn’t have seemed right without the subject of his film,  Marice Reedus, Jr., stepping into the spotlight in a bright red suit.
  • Life Feels Good, a Polish drama about a paraplegic who is misunderstood through much of his childhood is a film that resonates with me 24 hours later.  It won the Eastern-Central European award and deserved it.
  • The Activist award went to the Starfish Throwers, a moving documentary about people dedicating their lives to feeding the hungry.  There was never a dry eye in the house.
  • The “what were they thinking” award went to the “The Birder’s Guide to Everything” as part of the American Independent series. The movie was adequate and it makes me wonder what the other films were that were apparently inferior to this one.  (See my review in a previous post.)
  • The most poignant moment came when director Michelle Josue picked up an award for her highly acclaimed documentary “Matthew Shepard was a Friend of Mine”.  Accompanying her were the parents of Shepard who appeared grateful for the recognition while at the same time, had to be a little sad.  That said, neither of those three people will ever forget the Cleveland support and solidarity shown to them throughout the festival.

The festival once again broke attendance records increasing attendance by another 5% to 97,804.

It’s been a pleasure blogging about the festival.  I look forward to seeing you at Festival 39.  In the meantime, feel free to join my movie group.  We head over to the Cedar Lee, Cinematheque, Art Museum and other venues on a regular basis.

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Bye-bye CIFF 38

Standing in line at the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival, waiting for the theater to clear so the passholders could enter and take up the precious aisle seats, I began talking with the smartly dressed, middle-aged woman next to me. She was, at that moment, a total stranger, but we obviously had something in common—a love of movies.

Talking with strangers at the festival is not unusual. Some even become friends—festival friends, that is. In the years since we moved here and began attending the film festival, many faces have become familiar to me—and mine to them—and we’re happy to see one another each year.

My new friend, looking around at the crowd, said, “This is the single best thing about Cleveland!” And I had to agree. The opportunity to see an extraordinary variety of films, travel around the world through them, engage with filmmakers, participate in film forums just minutes from my home in Cleveland Heights is to be treasured.

CIFF 38 ended last night with the announcement of the winners. “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine” was the two-time winner of the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice award and the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition. “The Sax Man” won the Local Heroes Competition. And I can’t believe that I saw only one of the winning films (“Sax Man”). But I did see 35 other feature films and documentaries and 19 shorts, as well.

Among my special favorites are: “Waltz for Monica,”which EK described as “the Judy Garland story with a happy ending; “The Ferry,” a beautiful and touching father-son story from China; “Code Black,” an inside look at the emergency room at L.A. County Hospital; “Ivory Tower,” higher education in the U.S. from Harvard to MOOCs; and “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” entertaining in the extreme. And here I add my fervent hope that “The Longest Distance” and “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” will show up at the Cedar Lee or the Cinemathèque.

Audience numbers were up again this year, by about 5 percent, and there are lots of people responsible for the success of CIFF 38. Thank you Marcie, Bill, Patrick and Co. for another excellent 12 days. (Please bring back the T-shirts. Mugs and coasters just don’t cut it for wearability, publicity or a show of pride in what Cleveland has to offer.)

Thanks to all the wonderful, friendly, helpful, hardworking and always cheerful volunteers; to the sponsors and providers of food, drink and ice cream; and to The City Club of Cleveland for the stimulating and informative film forums.

As the festival ends each year, I am reminded of Jon Forman, whose foresight and youthful determination led him to found the Cleveland International Film Festival nearly four decades ago. Thanks, Jon.

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Waltz to an Excellent start to the 38th CIFF

Frankly, the first movie of the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival was an ominous start. Crack, Back and Sack had a lot going for it.  Norwegian, Irreverent, Sexual tension and an attractive cast.   But all those ingredients couldn’t save it from being overly vulgar (discussing private parts really got old) and listless.  The characters were neither believable and frankly I didn’t really care about them.   Plus the scenery, wasn’t all that great. 1 1/2 * out of 4

I didn’t have time to contemplate my section when I ended up sitting next my counterpart Jewel to drink in the wonderful Waltz for Monica.  This unknown jazz singer on this side of the Atlantic took some major risks by singing jazz greats in Swedish, her country of origin.  While the film didn’t break much ground in terms of movie making, the story was first rate and lead actress Edda Magnason was simply amazing singing and acting in this movie.  If the world were a fairer place, she would have a Oscar nomination under her belt.  It shows again on Saturday March 22 at 11:30AM and at the Cedar Lee on Wednesday March 26 at 9:15 PM.  ****

Umma Among Friends was both a feel good movie and dealt with racial profiling better than I have seen in any film.  Daniel is an undercover secret service man who is temporarily relieved of his duties after a questionable shootout.  He is moved to a heavily Arab location where he begins to become friends with the locals.  When he witnesses how his new friends are treated, primarily based on their ethnicity, he begins to see his role in a different perspective.  ***1/2 Saturday March 22: at 9:30 PM and Sunday 9:15 AM

See you at the movies.  We have 10 more days to go!

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The Movies Are Coming! The Movies Are Coming!

Yes! CIFF 38 is only two days away . . . and I’m almost ready. I’ve been through the catalog, checked all the films that interest me (85), and plotted them on the schedule pages. Even seeing six a day, which is only barely possible, would not get me in to all 85.

Having a director’s pass, however, will enable me to change plans at the last minute. And although I’m a relative newcomer to the festival (attending only since CIFF 32), I’ve made several once-a-year friends who seem to like the same films I do. They will, no doubt, influence some of those last-minute switches.

Perhaps as the result of an especially long and nasty winter, my intent is to see more upbeat films and fewer downers this year. Although the following list may not reflect that goal, here are the 10 films I absolutely—at this moment—plan to see:

The Ferry
Club Sandwich
Le Week-End
Ernest & Celestine
War Story
Code Black
Ivory Tower
Peace after Marriage

While we’re contemplating CIFF 38, here’re some questions to ponder:

Will attendance at 38 surpass 37’s record-setting attendance of 93,235? (I expect so.)
Will the festival make its matching goal of $100,000? (Probably)
Is CIFF 38 The Place for Stories? (You bet it is!)

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Official link to School Facilities activities: future and past

Many things are happening. Often this linked page is behind on the details, but it is the most official source. Attend meetings to be current.(62 are coming as known so far)

By early June 2014 the definition of what the refurbished HH should do is to be complete. This is the most crucial stage to get the right curriculum and building and grounds functions settled. No small task. Words to describe every room, closet, hall, wall, roof, parking, and field will be written down.

June through early September is when sketches, that describe the size and location of all the rooms (spaces) and equipment of the building and grounds, are made. One can still adjust some things as this design documentation unfolds.

Starting in September 2014, for 3-4 months, the construction drawings are to be made. Design is frozen as each drawing is completed. These drawings are the basis for final costing and contractor bidding to take place perhaps starting in February 2015. Early Spring is seen as the most cost effective time for contractors to do bidding and negotiating for work to start in June 2015.

If you have concerns about the quality of the outcome, please raise them now, as our two communities’ futures may well rise or fall with the quality of this effort. There has been no bigger capital investment in our district than now, perhaps this is bigger than any project in the history of either of the cities of UH or CH.

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