​CIFF 40: A Preview

Chad W. Lutz
​Before Lebron, before Michael Symon, before Bernie Kosar or the Horseshoe Casino (but after 10-cent beer night), one of Cleveland’s main attractions outside of The Flats was an annual festival that gave filmmakers from all over the world the chance to light up the silver screen in one of America’s largest cities. The once-scant, eight-movie operation premiering in 1977 now boasts around 200 films from 60 different countries and takes up the entire Tower City Cinemas Complex downtown. Each year, a small city’s worth of people makes the trek to The Forest City to watch films made by directors and actors from the far reaches of the planet. It’s become one of Cleveland’s timeless treasures, and entering into its fifth decade of existence, the Cleveland International Film Festival is still just as entertaining as it is inspirational and captivating all these years later.
Unlike the original eight-week, one-film-per-week format, the festival now shows films from morning thru noon and on into the evening for twelve consecutive days, beginning with an opening night gala and concluding with a closing ceremony, both held at Tower City. Patrons can buy tickets online, attend preview parties, buy memorabilia, and interact with actors, directors, producers, and event staff through social media. Tickets are also available for purchase same-day at the Tower City Cinemas box office. You can even become a member of the festival through donation and receive all-access passes to the hospitality suite located in the Ritz-Carlton, pre-pay for movies and by-pass wait lines, enjoy special CIFF gifts, and, more importantly, make a commitment to the arts and surrounding communities.
This is my seventh year covering the Cleveland International Film Festival in some manner or another. I think back to blogging for the event in 2010, the first year I got involved, with nothing but a fond heart. That opportunity with the CIFF organization turned out to be one of my first professional writing gigs, and whenever I think about the festival, I think about how deeply this event touched my life (albeit unbeknownst to me at the time), and how so many other people have, no doubt, had similar experiences doing something as seemingly ordinary as watching movies.
Below are descriptions of ten movies appearing at this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival. Don’t be shy. You’ll be sure to find something to pique your interests. The event hosts documentaries, kid’s animated programs, short-film series, feature-length pictures, and everything else in between. Pick up an event program around town or simply log on to the Festival's website for complete listings and scheduling:

1.) 91% - USA (2015)

Directed by John Richie

Not for the faint of heart, the film examines the rise in gun violence in American culture. The name comes from the percentage of citizens in favor of comprehensive background screenings for gun purchasers. If documentaries about serious social issues get your blood pumping, don’t miss 91%. The three showings at the CIFF will be the film’s world premiere.
Show times:
Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 11:45am
Friday, April 8, 2016 at 1:50pm
Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 4:00pm

2.) BELIEVELAND - USA (2016)

Directed by Andy Billman

Losing comes as no surprise to Cleveland sports fans, but, then again, neither does hope. The new ESPN 30-for-30 film directed by Andy Billman examines the close calls and falls-short of greatness across the three major sports teams in Cleveland. This movie might also be cringe-worthy, but for obviously different reasons. As much as no one wants to watch footage of shootings, I’m sure there are enough Clevelanders out there who would rather shovel dirt than watch John Elway drive down field with time remaining or Michael Jordan hoist another game winner ever again. At least there’s always next year!
Show times:
Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 7:00pm
Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 6:30pm

3.) Krisha - USA (2015)

Directed by Trey Edward Shults

As if you didn’t need any more reason to see the chilling character piece by director Trey Edwards Shults, Krisha received the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award at last year’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX, and competed at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Released just about a week ago internationally, the film follows the titular character, a burnout Summer of Love hippie, who returns home for Thanksgiving, despite her horrible addictions, in hopes the past has been buried between her and her family. Critics have been raving about the experimental approaches the filmmakers used to capture the depths of her addictions but also the humanity of them, as well.
Show times:
Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 1:45pm
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 8:40pm

4.) Paulina - Argentina/Brazil/France (2015)

Directed by Santiago Mitre

This is a movie for anyone who’s ever given up on one dream to pursue another. In the film, Paulina, the title character abandons her career in law to teach impoverished kids in disadvantaged neighborhoods. She soon finds out just how hard the hard-knock life can be, but it never deters her, and she keeps pursuing what her father warns is a dangerous path in life.
Show times:
Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 11:40am
Friday, April 1, 2016 at 9:25pm

5.) Winnetou's Son - Germany (2015)

Directed by ​André Erkau

Ever wonder the take Germans have on Native American culture? Look no further than this cheery comedy about a young boy who’s obsessed with the indigenous peoples of the United States that gets a lucky break when the TV son of his favorite television actor falls injured and needs replaced. Max, also known as “Chief,” decides he’s going to try out for the role, despite the protestations of his entire family and pretty much everyone around him. Das gut.
Show times:
Monday, April 4, 2016 at 5:15pm
Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 2:15pm

6.) The Art of Burning - USA (2016)

Directed by Arnaud Paris

Filmed during the 2015 Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, The Art of Burning carries spectators through the wild and weird, near-fetishist, post-apocalyptic happenings known simply as Burning Man. It’s an artist’s take on artists’ takes. Say that five times fast. Or simply see the movie. Did I mention it’s in 3D? Because it’s filmed in 3D.
Show times:
Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 9:25pm
Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 1:45pm

7.) April and the Extraordinary World - France (2015)

Directed by ​Frank Ekinci and Christian Desmares

It’s easy to get caught up in the modern world of technology. Every day, we’re surrounded by gizmos and gadgets created by faceless inventors and seldom do we ever stop to think about the people who toiled away to make our lives a little easier, or a little safer, or a little cleaner. April and the Extraordinary World explores a universe in which the greatest minds of our era have been slowly disappearing, leaving the world to slip into a state of decay and dismantle. The messages are clear, family-friendly, and poignant in this animated feature. However, if you want tickets, you may have to do some begging and pleading. The film’s two showings are already on stand-by.
Show times:
Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 7:10pm
Sunday, April 3, 2016 at 1:40pm

8.) Can You Dig This - USA (2015)

Directed by Delila Vallot

Urban gardening is on the rise, and 2015’s Can You Dig This highlights this unique phenomena using the efforts of a South Los Angeles man as it’s vehicle. The film exposes the strangleholds fast food chains have and the resulting difficulties urbanites have in certain neighborhoods accessing healthy and organic groceries. It’s every vegan, environmentalist, climate-change savvies cinematic wet dream, and it’s one of a handful of movies with a neighborhood screening at the Capitol Theatre on April 7. There’s also a Film Forum after the April 8 showing. Grab your hoe.
Show times:
Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 7:00pm
Friday, April 8, 2016 at 3:50pm
Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 9:25am

9.) Left On Purpose - USA (2015)

Directed by Justin Schein

Left On Purpose follows the anti-war, counter-culture movements of the 1960s, and one figurehead in particular. Mayer Vishner is one of the only remaining absurdist protestors from the Yippies. Sure, the war ended, but not all has been flower power and sunshine for Vishner, and especially his former contemporaries. This powerful documentary exposes the prices people often pay for their ideals and the tolls standing up to an entire nation sometimes has.
Show times:
Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 4:15pm
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 9:20pm

10.) Parched - India/USA/United Kingdom (2015)

Directed by ​Leena Yadav

Calling all gender deconstructionists; this is the movie for you. Splicing traditional Bollywood art direction with Academy Award-winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter, Parched captures the feminist movements taking place in India against the patriarchal design of arranged marriages. The plot begins to move when the main character is tasked with finding a bride for her whiny, over-privileged son. Depending on how this movie is done, it could either be really poignant or really flat. There’s only one way to find out!
Show times:
Monday, April 4, 2016 at 9:40pm
Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 4:45pm
​As the Cleveland International Film Festival turns 40 this year, I’d like to invite anyone who has even the slightest bit of interest in film or Northeast Ohio to attend this truly one-of-a-kind event and find out just what kind of special magic watching a movie can really hold. Don’t forget to use the promo code ALTOH to receive $2.00 off on ticket purchases and stay tuned to the AltOhio.com Facebook page for ongoing trivia throughout the contest for chances to win vouchers redeemable for FREE ADMISSION. Don’t say we never gave you anything!
For your cinema…