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.