Winding Up and Shutting Down

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The film festival ended last Sunday, and after a few days of rest, I’m ready to wrap-up the experience. I began winding down (preferable to going cold turkey) on Saturday, scheduling only two films on each of the last two days. They were all good!

Good Ol’ Freda was one classy lady. An early Beatles fan, co-president of their fan club, and member of a typing pool, Freda Kelly became the Fab Four’s secretary at the age of 17. Is that a job to die for, or what! Always loyal and discreet, never boastful nor gossipy about the enviable position she held, Kelly agreed to tell her story after she became a grandmother. She wants her grandkids to know that for 11 years, she had the best, most exciting job in the world! What a joy it was to hear those early Beatle songs again, see the screaming (and fainting) fans, and get a peek “backstage” in the office. Also loved that Kelly continues to call Ringo by his given name–Richie.

This gorgeously filmed adaptation of François Mauriac’s novel, Thérèse, stars Audrey Tautou in a role that is as far from Amélie as she could get. Thérèse Desqueyroux has been compared with Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina, but Thérèse is actually the antithesis of those two tragic heroines. Instead of turning her discontent inward, she coldly destroys 1,200 acres of family property and attempts to poison her adoring husband. Didn’t anyone notice she always seemed a little strange and detached? Perhaps I need to read the book after all.

Shepard & Dark traces the arc of friendship between actor and playwright Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark. The decades long friendship began in 60’s, when the two met and began exchanging letters and conversations about all manner of things—music, art, philosophy to name a few. They married women in the same family and shared a house for several years. The film follows the men as they embark on a project to publish their 50 years worth of letters. The project tanks and threatens to end the friendship. I chose this documentary hoping to learn more about Shepard, whose plays I admired, though perhaps not fully understood. I left the theater thinking that Dark was the more interesting, admirable and likable man.

Finally, there was From Nothing, Something, a documentary about creativity. Filmmaker Tim Cawley interviews several creative professionals—fashion designer, architect, composer, singer-songwriter, chef, cancer researcher, comedian, political cartoonist, choreographer and novelist—to learn about how each went from the proverbial blank page to the success each now enjoys. With all the creative filmmaking I got to see, this was a fine way to end my movie marathon.

What follows is probably old news for the thousands who attended the closing night celebration, or or those who read the Plain Dealer on Monday. But for the people who missed the gala, here’s what CIFF was all about:

The festival, presented by Dollar Bank, hosted record-breaking crowds during the 12-day event in downtown Cleveland. CIFF 37 welcomed 93,235 attendees (a 9% increase over last year’s record attendance). One of the most exciting moments came on the second Saturday when it was announced that festival fans had contributed more than $140,000 to the fund that will be matched by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. The festival’s goal had been to raise $100,000. The final amount on Sunday was $154,138 in Challenge Match donations. As I wrote in an earlier post, there’s a lot of love out there!

CIFF 37 showcased 180 feature films and 165 short subjects from 64 countries. FilmSlam, the festival’s high school and middle school mini-fest, brought 6,009 engaged and enthusiastic students to Tower City Cinemas.

An estimated 730 volunteers contributed 8,334 hours of their time, and support from 210 sponsors and funders, 165 nonprofit community partners, and 73 media and neighborhood outreach partners, also contributed to the success of CIFF 37.

More than 200 filmmakers from around the world shared their work and offered both local and global perspectives on a variety of topics. The winners of the competitions and awards, announced at the closing night party on Sunday, April 14, were as follows:

The Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award For Best Film ($5,000), sponsored by the Callahan Foundation went to “Good Ol’ Freda,” directed by Ryan White.

The winner of the George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern Film Competition ($10,000), presented with support from the George Gund Foundation was “When Day Breaks,” directed by Goran Paskaljević.

The Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition ($7,500), sponsored by Nesnadny + Schwartz went to “Shepard & Dark,” directed by by Treva Wurmfeld.

“Honor Flight,” directed by Dan Hayes, won the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up “For” Film Competition ($5,000), presented with support from the George Gund Foundation

“In the Shadow of the Sun,” directed by Harry Freeland, won the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film “To” Competition ($5,000), presented with support from the George Gund Foundation.

The American Independents Film Competition ($5,000), presented with the support of Alan and Marta Glazen, went to “Mariachi Gringo,” directed by Tom Gustafson.

“Underdogs,” directed by Doug Dearth, won the Local Heroes Film Competition ($5,000), presented with the support of Mike and Nicki Cancelliere.

The ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman ($10,000), presented with the support of Deborah Bachman Ratner, went to “G-Dog,” directed by Freida Mock.

“Bear Me” won the Best Animated Short Film Award and “Kolona” won the Best Live Action Short Award. Each will receive $1,000 cash prize and will qualify for consideration in the Short Films category of the annual Academy Awards. For a full list of short subject film award winners, please visit

Same time next year!

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