I had the most interesting morning. Dan Moulthrop, co-host of Civic Commons Radio (yes, we are related), invited me to sit in on the taping of next Tuesday’s show, in the recording studio at John Carroll University. The topic: the FilmForums for the 36th Cleveland International Film Festival
Dan had also invited Bill Guentzler, CIFF’s artistic director, and Mallory Martin, programming assistant for the festival. They were the “talent,” asked to talk about the FilmForums. I was there to gather information about how films are chosen for the forums and how the panels are booked.
The FilmForums are special sessions that follow select documentary screenings. They are moderated panel discussions that enable festival-goers to hear filmmakers, community leaders, scholars, and others who are knowledgeable about the film’s topic. The forums give audience members the opportunity to learn more about, and to take action on, relevant social issues.
Dan began this morning’s taping by describing Bill Guentzler’s job: “travels around watching movies.” Well, yes . . . that, and a whole lot more. There is probably no aspect of the film festival that is not affected by the work Bill does. He runs the festival—programming, scheduling, tickets, managing staff and volunteers, and more. He is especially proud of the fact that the entire staff is present—on the floor and available to answer questions—for the duration of the festival. And the question he is asked the most—What should I see? What should I see?
The number of documentaries selected for FilmForums varies from year to year. CIFF 36 will feature 12, chosen because they have a Cleveland connection (“Bill W.”), because the issues examined in the film connect to the broader community (“Of Two Minds”), or because it’s the type of film that people will want to talk about (“Under African Skies”).
The process: Bill and Mallory view all the documentaries chosen for the festival, then meet with Dan, Noelle Celeste (radio co-host), and several other CIFF staffers. They talk about the films, possible discussion topics, and from there compile a final list. The next step is coming up with the “framing question” of the discussion—again, a collaborative undertaking.
Booking the panelists turns out to be easier than I would have thought. Dan and Noelle contact the festival’s community partners and other organizations, then the people they know—and that’s a long list! Because CIFF is so well regarded, they receive very few rejections. Lucky for us.
The complete listing of FilmForums—and their framing questions—is on p. 24 of the 36th Cleveland International Film Festival program guide. If you want to hear the enthusiastic and inspiring conversation that I heard this morning—and Be Carried Away—the program airs on March 13 at 12:30 p.m. on WJCU, 88.7 FM. (If you listen really carefully, you might hear me reading the closing credits.)