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Cleveland International Film Festival 2010: Preview

CIFF2010

Growing up in the wilds of northeastern Ohio (and I mean that only slightly tongue-in-cheek), my exposure to independent and art film during my teenage years was limited to IFC and the painfully small local library selection. So it was a fairly exciting thing for me to finally, in my early twenties, make it to my first Cleveland International Film Festival. Barring weather or family emergency, I've gone back every year since. And, every year, I sit down and make a list of the films I'm interested in beforehand.

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Cowtown Film Series: Interview with Peter John Ross

cowtown film series

After a couple of chance encounters with local independent filmmakers and a production company recently, I decided that I could do more to support and spotlight independent film in central Ohio. With first run of the Cowtown Film Series happening tonight, it seemed like a good opportunity to make good on that intent. So I got a hold of Peter John Ross, filmmaker and one of the main forces behind the series, to talk about not only this event but the independent film scene in Columbus.

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ZOOM Family Film Festival

zoom family film festival

There's a lot to recommend the ZOOM Family Film Festival this weekend, December 3-6, at the Wexner Center, and the fact that you're encouraged to show up Saturday morning in your pajamas for cartoons and cereal is the least of it. Well, you're encouraged if you're a kid. If you're not, you can still show up thus uniformed, but the results might not be as cute.

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Cleveland International Film Festival Round-Up

Melissa Starker from the Columbus Alive movie blog The Bad and Beautiful, round-ups the films she saw at the CIFF in posts one and two.

Film Festivals To Which I'm Not Going

So not only am I not in Austin to catch the films of SXSW (I don't care how many people keep saying it's already jumped the shark, I'd like to make it there at least once in the near future), I had to cancel my annual short vacation to the Cleveland International Film Festival. I had to cancel first because of unforeseen, insanely expensive car repairs, but it turns out I wouldn't have been able to make it anyway because of the blizzard with which Mother Nature decided to bless us on the same weekend. I thought I would try to make up for it by heading to the Wexner Center for their Out @ Wex Festival, but aforementioned blizzard preempted that as well.

Anyway, here's the word about other independent film festivals taking place soon in the area:

Plus, the CIFF goes on until next Sunday, so check out what films are screening over at their website.

CIFF 08

Tickets are available today to the general public for the Cleveland International Film Festival. I have learned, however, that films are added to the schedule right up until the actual screenings, so if you're interested in going, I recommend waiting a bit to buy tickets. I'll be in Cleveland for the first weekend of this year's festival, 8 March through 10. I will of course be boring everyone with my reviews (my schedule, even with socializing factored in, looks like I'll be catching at least eight films), and if anyone in the area is interested in tagging along, let me know.

Speaking of Women in Film, Part II

I may have decried the lack of female filmmakers among the Oscar nominations, but Women Make Movies points out that, as far as Sundance goes: "Although only 25 percent of the films in the festival’s four feature-length Documentary and Dramatic competition categories were directed by women, they won 50 percent of the top prizes." The full press release is posted at Feministe. Not bad.

Also, this type of success at the independent level emphasizes that the lack of women directing and producing mainstream movies is due less to the availability of competent female filmmakers and more to the biases of the system in which they're working. Just sayin'.

Sundance Panel: Women in Film

Cinematical covers the panel just held at Sundance about Women in Film. I'm glad to hear some more positive takes from female filmmakers about the importance of talking about and identifying as female filmmakers, especially after the negativity that happened at the Telluride Film Festival, where the women's film panel almost collapsed under the weight of some of the participants' heavy-handed insistence that they were just filmmakers, and the female part doesn't matter at all.

I understand their point. It's something I've seen in a lot of male-dominated fields, including technology. I even used to feel it myself. I used to think that it's insulting and ridiculous to tie my gender to my accomplishments, and that the fact I am a women shouldn't have anything to do with my work - whether it's a film, a web application, or a scientific experiment.

And if women always worked in a fair, just, and level playing field, that would be true. But they don't. Ignoring the discrepancies between successful women directors and successful male directors (or programmers, or scientists, or politicians) is the same type of behavior as claiming race doesn't make a significant difference in the lives of members of our society. People who call themselves "colorblind," or "genderblind" are effectively disregarding those of a different race or gender as individuals, and, by extension, the challenges and injustices they still in fact face.

Women directors who don't want to talk about the status of women in the film industry today - you're not doing anyone any favors with your ridicule of being labeled a female filmmaker, as well-intentioned as that ridicule seems. The more you talk about it, the more it's normalized, the more it's easier for other young women to participate, and the farther we get to the point where it's not necessary to talk about it anymore. Then, we can shut up about it.

But we're not there yet. So speak up.

Sundance Coverage

If, like me, you're not in Park City, here's a few of the outlets I'll be checking in with to get the best Sundance Film Festival news and reviews:

  • IFC @ Sundance - Video dispatches from the IFC podcast hosts, accompanied by IFC News and the IFC Blog.
  • Filmspotting - The hosts of one of my favorite podcasts have already started sending out their audio coverage.
  • Anne Thompson - From Variety's reviewer, news and reports.
  • GreenCine - As always, Sundance posts mixed in with the daily news.

Go See 'Juno' for Free

There's been a ton a festival buzz surrounding the new quirky film Juno, and in effort to build up more buzz, Fox Searchlight is offering a ton of free screenings across the country. I'm not too sure how good this is going to be - some people have called it as one of the future best movies of the year and others have absolutely loathed it. If it's really the next Little Miss Sunshine, then my reaction will most likely be a shrug. I didn't hate that film, but didn't think it deserved half of the attention it got either. But a free screening I'm totally down with. Not a bad marketing move. If I'm wrong and the movie turns out to be awesome, I'll own up to it.

2007 Insomnia Film Festival

2007 Insomnia Film Festival

Have a camera, crew, and nothing better to do on October 13? Why don't you make a movie? But you only have twenty-four hours.

This Apple competition is aimed at students, but qualifying entries will be judged by industry professionals and prizes include brand-new MacBook Pros. Check out the site for details.

CIFF - Part II

King and the ClownAnd now, a good couple of months after the fact, here is the last half of my Cleveland International Film Festival viewage.

King and the Clown (2005, dir. Jun-ik Lee). According to the ever-helpful Wikipedia, this film is apparently one of the highest grossing films ever in South Korea, which leads me to the conclusion that South Korean movie audiences are awesome. I wish we had American films of this scope and quality crowning our mainstream multiplexes on a regular basis. Plot outline from IMDB reads: "Two clowns living in the Chosun Dynasty get arrested for staging a play that satirizes the king. They are dragged to the palace and threatened with execution, but are given a chance to save their lives if they can make the king laugh." Well, yes, but that's rather like describing Romeo and Juliet as a couple of kids who off themselves. This film reminded me a great deal of Shakespeare, in fact. Very rich character and story. And the historical setting of old Korea, with the detail on both the rural and royal ways of life, was fascinating to me. The King and the Clown is really the first South Korean film I've ever seen; obviously, I'm not very well-versed on Korean cinema. However, if what I saw in this film represents in what direction their contemporary film scene is moving, I'm going to be looking for many, many more.

Boxers (2005, dir. Joanna Kohler). After the screening of Boxers that I attended, they held a forum that included its director, Joanna Kohler. She spoke about her background in social work, and how she approached film as a tool for social justice. Which I respect and appreciate. However, it takes her film out of the realm of artistic criticism. At the beginning of the viewing, I was disappointed with the low production quality, and the lack of creative framing. But I soon realized that none of that is what the film wanted to accomplish. What it wanted was to tell the story of a group of female boxers, and what their story meant in the context of our society as well as to them individually. Kohler delves into all the reasons these girls decide to step into the ring, and the consequences of that decision. Towards the end of the movie, when the boxer who had progressed to the final round of the lost, the entire audience gave a collective gasp/groan. By that point, we were all definitely on board with these women. Boxers is not a groundbreakingly innovative documentary. It's simple and forthright, and it does what it sets out to do. It might even change some people's minds about things. Which I believe Kohler would consider an absolute success.

Relative Obscurity (2007, dir. Jeff Rosenberg). I jumped on this one, because it's by a local boy, set and shot at Ohio University. Supporting your local film scene is always a good call, especially on world premieres. Plus, it's set among characters almost exactly my age, so I figured it had some built-in sympathy. Which it did, although I can't say I was completely crazy about it. Overall, the film was well produced, and well-acted. It suffered only from trying to do too much at once. There are a ton of main characters and twisting storylines. More than that, I got the feeling that this movie wanted to be The Voice of Our Generation, and sought to express absolutely every detail the director had ever thought about growing up and learning to live in the world. That's a pretty tall order. And I ended up vaguely disappointed at the end, since it was almost impossible to live up to the ambition that permeated the film. But it was a sincere ambition, a true, inspiring ambition, so it led me forgive a lot of its attendant faults. Relative Obscurity is a very clearly a film made by a young, hopeful person. Which is not at all a bad thing. It simply is what it is.

No more local festivals until fall, it seems, and none on the level of Cleveland. Back to Greencine until next year.

CIFF - Part I

Deadpan ValentineSo it's been over a month ago now, but I did in fact make it to the 31st Cleveland International Film Festival. Unfortunately I didn't have more time than a day to devote to it - but I did get in four films, as well as some low-key vacation time, so I consider the trip a success. Moreover, I enjoyed the films as a whole. There were a ton I wish I could have been in town to see, but so it goes.

I intended to post about all the films at once, but once I got done with the first, I realized I went on longer than I thought I would. So I decided to break it up. Hey, instant post topics for the rest of the week!

Deadpan Valentine (2006, dir. Robin Lindsey). Dark comedy and British comedy - my two favorite types. So with both of those attributes, it didn't take much to charm me into seeing this film, which turned out to be basically a funny, sweet little movie. It seemed to connect really well with the audience, which unfortunately included the hungover girl next to me who kept burping beer fumes and making helpful comments to the characters on screen. We were stuck in the very first row - maybe she just thought that, being so close, they could actually hear her. I'm sure every one else in the audience, however, was reasonably sober and intelligent enough that their evidence of approval can be taken more seriously.

As for the film itself, it's all about Jamie, a chronically depressed ex-stand-up-comedian, who hasn't left his apartment in two weeks and who decides that Valentine's Day is finally the perfect day to commit suicide - and about his roommate, Scott, an actor who spends most of his time styling and posturing like a combination of James Dean and Marlon Brando. As Jamie is failing comically in a series of attempts to off himself, he's interrupted by by a hysterical, gun-wielding Bruce, who is convinced Scott is having an affair with his girlfriend and ends up holding Jamie hostage. While the set-up is a bit fantastic, it doesn't matter because the focus is on the characters, cutting back and forth between Jamie and Bruce's own private miseries, and the misery that Scott inflicts upon pretty much everyone else around him. It comes down to the rich topics of identity and happiness and late-20's malaise, and, of course, love, and does a interesting job of depicting all the sorts of confusion those topics can create.

Deadpan definitely has dark, serious matters running underneath it the entire time, but up until the end, it treats them comically - not lightly or callously, but with a dryness and a distance that is just as effective than directness. When the end comes, with Jamie's epiphany and re-dedication to his life - well, it's just not funny, and becomes almost maudlin. Is it too brutal of me to wonder how someone who fully appreciated the sarcastic humor of the movie's first three quarters could suddenly turn all heartfelt and sincere? The shift was jarring to me. It's also just plain depressing, because with the laughter gone, you see clearly that none of the characters are really that much better off, and in fact some are much worse.

All in all, though, I thought it was great first-time independent effort. It's the type of film you go to festivals to see and enjoy.

Oh, and I don't have the slightest bit of a crush on Jamie. Not at all.