Cleveland Film Festival kicks off 37th year April 3Written by James A. Molnar | The Gold Knight | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a long way to Sundance and even farther to Cannes. But film enthusiasts don’t have to travel quite so far for a peek at up-and-coming films and filmmakers.
On April 3, the lights will go dark and the projector will illuminate the big screen as the 37th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) kicks off.
The 12-day festival will showcase 180 feature films and 165 short films from 65 different countries.
More than 200 filmmakers are traveling to Cleveland for the festival, according to Patrick Shepherd, associate director of CIFF.
“Their countries of origin include Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Canada, France, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, United Kingdom and of course the USA,” he said. “We’ll also have a filmmaker from Puerto Rico.”
CIFF kicks off its opening night gala April 3 with screenings of “The Kings of Summer,” a coming-of-age film that was shot last summer in Greater Cleveland.
The festival begins at full steam on April 4. On a typical day there will be more than 30 films screened between 9 a.m. and midnight. On Fridays and Saturdays, there are late-night screenings that start around 11:30 p.m.
For those traveling from Toledo, Shepherd said they could make a day trip out of it or spend the whole weekend in Cleveland.
“The program is spread very evenly throughout the festival so you can get a sampling of the different types of films from around the world and all of the various documentaries that we bring in,” he said in an interview with Toledo Free Press.
For those who have never been to a film festival before, most operate out of theaters of varying shape and size. CIFF benefits from having one main location for almost all of its screenings: Tower City Cinemas in downtown Cleveland.
“We’re lucky to be in the heart of downtown,” Shepherd said.
“We’re very fortunate to have a very attentive film-going community in Northern Ohio,” he said, “and we’re most lucky about having everything under one roof.”
Organizers spend all year looking for films around the world, he said. There is also a call for entries launched every summer. Shepherd said there were nearly 2,000 films submitted for consideration.
Once films are selected, CIFF works closely to connect specific films with nonprofit organizations in Northern Ohio. This was the first year CIFF reached out to Toledo organizations, said Shepherd, a 1993 Bowling Green State University graduate.
“I noticed that there was a trend of more people coming to the festival from the [Toledo] area,” he said.
The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library is partnering with CIFF for screenings of “Google and the World Brain” on April 6 and 7.
Shepherd said he reached out to the library because of the film’s story about Google’s mission to digitally scan and preserve every book ever written.
Tracy Montri, manager of the Main Library’s audiovisual department, said the partnership is a great opportunity to remind the community of the library’s commitment to film.
She noted that individuals who enjoy movies can borrow from the library’s film collection for free.
Montri has gone to CIFF several times and recommends attending.
“If you’re really into film, it’s a great investment to surround yourself with it. The folks who attend film festivals are like-minded individuals,” she said. “Film festival crowds are just there for the right reasons. It’s a really great community experience.”
Montri also organizes the library’s Film Focus series, which is a twice-annual, six-week independent film program at the Main Library, 325 N. Michigan St.
Equality Toledo is also partnering with the festival. The nonprofit organization that works to end discrimination in the region is connected with “God Loves Uganda,” which screens April 11 and 12.
“The festival has always made a commitment to LGBT films and the LGBT community, especially with its 10 percent cinema series,” said David Mann, spokesman for Equality Toledo. “We thought it was a great opportunity to help tell our collective stories.”
The film tells the story of LGBT Ugandans, who are risking their lives to fight for basic equality, Mann said. It also features certain forces in America that are exporting antigay hate and fueling violence in Africa.
“It’s a story that fits well with what we do here locally,” Mann said. “Whether here in Toledo or in Uganda, all of us are fighting for basic equality for LGBT people.”
What to expect
Audiences can expect to see filmmakers from films screened at CIFF.
“What makes a film festival special is the ability to engage filmmakers,” Shepherd said. “Anybody can watch a film on an iPad or even on your smartphone these days.”
Audiences at festivals have an opportunity to connect directly with directors, producers, writers or actors of a film, he said.
“Last year we had a little over 200 filmmakers come in for the 11 days,” Shepherd said. “I think we have at least 130 feature filmmakers coming in” this year.
One program at the festival is Focus on Filmmakers, which is sponsored by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
CIFF received a three-year $150,000 grant in 2011 — the only festival in the country to receive the grant from the Academy, which is known for its Oscars.
“Getting support from the Academy is like getting a Good Housekeeping seal of approval from the industry,” Shepherd said.
In 2011, the focus was on African Diaspora films and filmmakers. This year, the focus is on the Latino community. Next year, the focus will be on the LGBT community.
Another tie-in with the Academy, two of CIFF’s short film award winners — Best Animated and Best Live Action Shorts — are automatically eligible for nomination consideration for the Oscars. Last year’s Live Action Short winner, “Curfew,” went on to win the Oscar in the same category in February.
CIFF is the largest film festival between New York and Chicago, according to Shepherd.
“There’s no other festival in the region that matches us in attendance,” he said.
CIFF has been at Tower City Cinemas since 1991, according to Shepherd. Back then, the attendance for the festival was around 15,000. In 2012, attendance for CIFF was more than 85,000, a record.
More are expected to attend this year after organizers added another day to the festival.
“There wasn’t any more room to grow, space-wise,” Shepherd said. “This is the first time in over 20 years that we’ve extended the length of the festival.”
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor for the 37th Cleveland International Film Festival. More information and a schedule for the festival can be found online at clevelandfilm.org. (For a $2 ticket discount, use code: TOLEDO). For a chance to win tickets, visit Facebook.com/ToledoFreePress.
Tags: CIFF, Cleveland, Cleveland International Film Festival, David Mann, Equality Toledo, Film, Film Festival, Film Focus, God Loves Uganda, Google and the World Brain, James A. Molnar, LGBT, Midwest, Movies, Ohio, Patrick Shepherd, The Gold Knight, The Kings of Summer, Toledo-Lucas County Main Library, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Tracy Montri