A Preview

Chad W. Lutz
Ah, springtime. Magical, inspiring; the kind of time each year that stirs the soul and reignites summer’s fires. The weather warms, the snow melts, the winds bite less, and the Cleveland International Film Festival makes its triumphant, annual return. O.K., while not everybody is standing around waiting on borrowed time for the festival, the Cleveland event has been a staple of the community for nearly 40 years, and for many marks the return of warmer weather with juicy movies.

The 38th inception of the Cleveland International Film Festival offers up the same cinematic thrills as per usual, along with some new adventures for patrons to enjoy. Building on the successes of last year’s Knight Out at the John S. Knight Center in Akron and the doubling of showings in area theaters outside Tower City Cinemas serve as just the icing on the cake. Just over 185 feature-length films and nearly 170 shorts programs will show over the course of the twelve-day event, with an awesome 68 countries represented in cinema. There will also be more after-hours showings taking place 10:00pm or later, which provide free admission for college students with the presentation of a valid school ID.

The festivities kick off with Not Another Happy Ending, a Scottish film a about a writer who can’t write when she’s happy, and life is going well. The weeklong picture party ends with Don Hemingway, directed by Richard Shepard and starring Jude Law in a role you probably wouldn’t believe without seeing. As far as Jude Law is concerned, that is. After the final showing, directors and actors and film lovers alike gather in the Tower City commons for a one-off fest and awards ceremony.

Another newbie for the year is a full free day of cinema. Yes, you read that correctly. March 24 is completely free to the general public. Attend any movie, in any theater, at any show time for free. Cleveland Foundation foots the bill for the offer in celebration of 100 years of philanthropy and community backing. Tickets may be purchased in advance for showings, but remember seating still remains subject to availability.

One of the hardest parts of attending a film festival is choosing which movies to attend. Not all of us can afford access passes. So, what does the average human do? Leave it to us. The following is a list of ten movies to pique your interests:

1.) Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Directed by Declan Lowney – United Kingdom/France 2013

Many of you know leading actor Steve Coogan from the 2009 comedy The Other Guys starring Will Ferrel and Markie Mark…er Mark Wahlberg or his part as the fictitious director of Tropic Thunder. However, what many of you may not know is that Coogan is a hilarious physical comedian whose wit and subtle delivery makes him a star across the pond. Reprising a fairly popular role featured exclusively on British television and radio, Steve takes to the big screen in the first, full-length Partridge project. The plot pits the self-indulged DJ against a giant corporate conglomerate aiming to take over his small radio station. Think Airheads.

Screenings: Friday, March 21 @ 7:20pm and Saturday, March 22 @ 1:45pm

2.) Wetlands

Directed by David Wnendt – Germany 2013

Some people just don’t fit into neat little boxes. Helen is one of those people. Through vivid cinematography and excellent casting, Wetlands brings to life the odd and sometimes absurd fantastic realities of a young woman with a taste for, well, the unsavory. Along the way, our heroine experiences a health scare that brings out her inner insecurities. Existential, provocative, and sure to entertain.

Screenings: Thursday, March 20 @ 4:10pm and Friday, March 21 @ 8:40pm

3.) The Sax Man

Directed by Joe Siebert – USA 2014

Odds are, you’ve probably seen Maurice Reedus Jr. before. In fact, most Clevelanders have almost undoubtedly seen the man known as Sax Man lighting up the streets with renditions of classics outside of The Jake or Playhouse Square. What many probably don’t know is that Maurice Reedus Jr. was born the son of Grammy-winning Maurice Reedus. He also played sax for the 70s funk band Sly, Slick & Wicked. Now, Maurice simply plays on the streets of Downtown Cleveland for whatever he can scrap. The Sax Man chronicles the rise and fall of Maurice Reedus Jr. and his attempts to get back on top. Keep the Kleenex handy and a few bucks ready for the walk back to your car.

Screenings: Saturday, March 22 @ 8:45pm (Hanna Theatre); Sunday, March 23 @ 7:45pm; Monday, March 24 @ 12:10pm

4.) Before The Revolution

Directed by Dan Shadur – Israel 2013

Conflict in the Middle East is about as commonplace as peanut butter on jelly. What Before The Revolution tells is the story of how conflict unfolded during the 1970s between the Iranian and Israeli nations. Director Dan Shadur uses first-hand testimony from the people who lived through one of the rockiest eras in Middle Eastern history to capture the pure terror and violence of the epoch, resulting in the current political landscapes and overall social unrest present in the area today.

Screenings: Wednesday, March 26 @ 7:20pm and Thursday, March 27 @ 5:00pm

5.) Jingle Bell Rocks!

Directed by Mitchell Kezin – Canada 2013

We all have some pretty silly idiosyncrasies. Some of us tap our fingers. Some of us pop our lips. Some of us open doors a certain way or put things back in specific orders. Some of us collect things. Jingle Bell Rocks! shows the latter in grandiose style. Meet Mitchell, record collector extraordinaire. A lover of all music, Mitchell finds a particular genre of music above the rest. That genre? Why, Christmas music, of course. Enter Wayne Coyne and Joseph “Run” Simmons of Run DMC and you have yourself a merry little movie.

Screenings: Friday, March 28 @ 4:50pm; Saturday March 29 @ 8:00pm; Sunday, March 30 @ 1:50pm

6.) The Cooler Bandits

Directed by John Lucas – USA 2013

It’s no secret Akron, Ohio, boasts some rough standards of life. In some neighborhoods, the Rust Belt has completely oxidized, leaving impoverished communities ravaged by methamphetamine and other street drugs. In the early nineties, a group of young teenagers robbed a series of restaurants and were ultimately caught and sentenced for their crimes. Filmmaker John Lucas revisits the crimes and the trials of the young men in hopes of putting the past to rest and perhaps shine some light on what appears to be injustice on behalf of the courts. Despite killing no one, collectively, the boys face up to 175 years per person for the crimes. And that’s just the average among the four.

Screenings: Wednesday, March 26 @ 2:00pm; Friday, March 28 @ 11:20am; Thursday, March 27 @ 4:45pm (Akron Summit County Public Library)

7.) Chasing Ghosts

Directed by Joshua Shreve – USA 2014

Last we heard of Tim Meadows, Will Ferrell was chasing him all over town with a giant pair of hedge clippers to cut his balls off in the 2000 comedy The Ladies Man. Well, his days of portraying sex-crazed Leon Phelps are over. Now Meadows appears to be throwing is hand into dramatic circles, and apparently the work is coming off well. The aforementioned Ladies Man stars as a writer who encounters a brush with death, which inspires an avid filmmaker to make amends with his own darker personalities. The movie deals with themes such as losing loved ones, obsession, and redemption. But you should still drink some Courvoisier. Yeah.

Screenings: Monday, March 24 @ 8:30pm and Tuesday, March 25 @ 5:30pm

8.) Lesbiana – A Parallel Revolution

Directed by Myriam Fougère – Canada 2012

For lesbians in the 1980s, and the LGBT communities in general, life was a far cry from the communities as they exist today. Due to social stigmas, few, if any, real documentation, video or otherwise, exists of the gay cultures during the time period. Director Myriam Fougère takes you on a liberal journey through the U.S. and Canada to acquaint modern generations with life as a gay woman in the 1980s and the camaraderie that existed even then, despite overt social obstacles faced back then.

Screenings: Tuesday, March 25 @ 8:00pm and Wednesday, March 26 @ 12:15pm

9.) Monsoon Shootout

Directed by Amit Kumar – India/United Kingdom/Netherlands 2013

Alright, I’ll admit, chose to highlight this film because, look, we all love a good action movie from time to time, right? Of course we do. And Monsoon Shootout provides enough action needed to fill 88 minutes (wink). The plot follows rook cop Adi, who has understated trust issues with not only his beat, but also those in uniform around him. The movie is nonlinear and gives viewers three different versions what happens as a result of Adi’s actions involving a murder suspect.

Screenings: Saturday, March 22 @ 9:50pm and Monday, March 24 @ 4:15pm

10.) Mood Indigo

Directed by Michel Gondry – France 2013

We find Colin unhappy and resentful. Then Colin meets Chloe. Chloe and Colin hit it off and fall madly in love. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Michel Gondry fires on every cinematic cylinder he can muster in this existential, highly surreal drama about love and reality that promises to bend and twist and excite the imagination in each and every frame. The mise-en-scène alone is worth the price of admission; not to mention exceptional performances from the principal cast and the story of love itself, which Godry takes to new, and very weird, places. Strap in for this one.

Screenings: Saturday, March 22 @ 7:15pm and Sunday, March 23 @ 1:45pm
So, there you have it. Ten films to start with. But don’t let these be your only window to the Cleveland International Film Festival. Pick up a program at Tower City or area coffee shops, restaurants, and many other reputable businesses throughout Northeast Ohio throughout the next two weeks to find full listings of movies and available show times. AltOhio.com faithful should make sure to use the promo code ALTOH when purchasing tickets online. The promo code gives ticket buyers $2 off the total purchase.

Be on the lookout for trivia throughout the rest of the week (3/17 – 3/22) for voucher giveaways. All vouchers are redeemable for free admission to any movie, any showing. Good luck, and, as always…


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...pictures courtesy of Google Images.