I had two great ideas for this blog—the grant the CIFF received from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and who’s behind the initials at the end of the film descriptions in the guide. But she who hesitates is lost, and Clint O’Connor scooped me on both last Sunday.
For those of you who missed O’Connor’s articles in the Plain Dealer, here’s a summary of what I learned.
This year, four film festivals applied to the Academy for grant money, but CIFF came away with the grant. The Academy will give CIFF $150,000 over the next three years to support the “Focus on Filmmakers” program. The year’s grant money will be used to showcase the work of filmmakers of the African Diaspora, not only of African Americans, but also the work of African, Afro-Europeans, and Black Canadians. Next year’s Focus on Filmmakers will highlight the work of Latinos, and the following year the focus will be on GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender) filmmakers.
Among the films being screened this year are the following: “Colour Me,” from Canada; “Payin’ the Price,” USA; “I Will Follow,” USA; “Gun Hill Road,” USA; “David is Dying,” UK; “A Lot Like You,” Tanzania; “The Rescuers,” USA; “Yelling to the Sky,” USA; and “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” USA. (I’m especially interested in seeing “Gun Hill Road,” referring to a street in the Bronx where my high school was located. I suspect the neighborhood has become more interesting; it didn’t seem so when I went to school there.)
Now, about those initials. The folks behind these somewhat anonymous identifiers are Mallory Martin, Brenda Benthien, and Tyler Whidden.
Benthien is a film scholar who also coordinates the rush of out-of-town filmmakers. She’s been writing these film descriptions the longest. Because the purpose of the descriptions is to promote each film, writing them is sometimes challenging. Benthein warns that if you’re not ready for “bloodthirsty Bohemians” or a “hallucinogenic extravaganza,” stay away from films described as “experimental.”
For Mallory Martin, programming assistant to artistic director Bill Guentzler, working for the festival is her dream job. Martin studied film and scriptwriting at Ohio University before joining the festival in 2010 as a part-timer. She favors the quirky films—the ones that are really different and “off the wall.” After viewing films since last November, Martin reports that her favorite this year is “An Oversimplification of her Beauty” because—and this is a beautiful quote—“It reminds you that film is art.”
Tyler Whidden, a playwright, is the newest member of the description-writing team. Raised in North Olmstead, he recently had a play about cancer and remission produced at Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights.
This year, Benthein wrote about 75 synopses, down from 105 last year; Martin wrote 50; and Whidden turned in 35. Thanks, team!
The adventure begins! Don’t call or e-mail me for the next ten days, I’ll be at the 36th Cleveland International Film Festival. In the meantime, check out this blog site for mini-reviews and recommendations.