Fine Arts and Fest

38th CIFF Continues in Full Force

Hallie Witwer
As many of you probably already know, the international film has returned to Cleveland, and AltOhio has been covering it from day one! I was able to get in on the action myself this past Saturday and, per the norm, was not disappointed. I love spending time downtown when the festival is going on. The city feels more alive than ever and it’s thrilling to see a Cleveland staple like Tower City filled to the brim with patrons. Vendors selling homemade jewelry and other goods were packed around the fountain and filmgoers gladly browsed and bought from them. It truly seemed that people were enjoying the crowds rather than enduring them.
Patrons buzz around the Tower City Fountains during the third day of the 38th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival. (Witwer 2014)
Around noon I took my seat in the theater for the Family Shorts. I felt a little out of place sitting amongst moms and dads with gaggles of children, but I had wanted to try something light and uplifting and a bit different from the serious films I tend to lean towards whenever attending the festival. The announcer for the shorts program spoke about how the festival made a bigger effort this year to include options for the younger age groups, and judging from the packed theater, this was a good call to make. Plus, I think that exposing kids to films from other countries can be extremely beneficial to them. There were eight short films in all, and some were the light fluff I had been expecting, but I have to say that most really surprised me in their depth. There were repeated themes that kids deal with, such as bullying and uninvolved parents. The way the films attacked these issues were very real and didn’t sugar coat the harm that can be caused by them. In the film “Catch” (where a child tries to raise 25 dollars just to pay his father to spend time with him) I was shocked at how hard the tears were streaming down my face. Another film, “The Dam Keeper”, portrays how bullying can completely break an individual. This particular short was so intense I wondered if the kids in the theater were handling it O.K. The set as a whole gave me more than I bargained for and I think those kids in the theater left with more than they would have gotten from watching any Disney movie. It’s good to make little ones think about serious issues. I believe their minds are capable of more than we sometimes give them credit for.

The next film I saw was about as far from the Family Shorts as I could get. “Oliver, Stoned” is a classic stoner comedy about a 26-year-old guy living in his dad’s basement who goes on an adventure after screwing up. Along the way he meets all kinds of quirky characters that end up changing his life. It wasn’t the most original concept, but the acting and writing were well done and it got a good amount of laughs from the audience. The most shocking aspect about attending that film? The breadth of the type of people in attendance. I anticipated it being 99% high school kids and twenty- to thirty-something hippies or hipsters. I was so very wrong. While there was a good amount of younger people there, the number of middle-aged and elderly (yes, I said elderly) people in the audience took me by surprise! Though I think for some it might have been a little raunchier than they expected, as I over heard a conversation in the lobby expressing some disdain for the writing. The language was a bit harsh if that’s not the type of film one is used to. Since I don't mind language and drug references, I’d give the film a B-. It wasn’t the most original, but it still managed to get some laughs out of me.

Stay tuned to AltOhio over the next week or so for continuing coverage of the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival! As in years past and more to come, it truly is the “Home for Stories”!

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