Fine Arts and Fest

Cleveland International Film Festival Closing Ceremony

Lisa Sanchez
Sunday, March 30 marked the closing ceremonies of the record-setting 38th Cleveland International Film Festival. The 2014 festival broke records and set new standards for the almost 40-year-old Cleveland culture celebration. Sunday's closing ceremony also announced the winners of CIFF's various awards, including the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best film, the newly introduced Music Movies Competition award, and many more distinctions bestowed upon independent film makers featured at the 38th CIFF.

The 38th CIFF bested 2013's attendance by 5-percent, with a total of 97,804 movie-goers strolling through the Tower City red carpet during the 12-day festival. However, not only was the number of attendees higher this year, but it is the highest number of people who have ever attended the Cleveland International Film Festival during its 38 year life span.

The CIFF also exceeded its initial $100,000 Challenge Match donation goal. By the end of the festival, a total of $117, 326 were collected as donations by patrons. The amount will then be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture foundation in support of next year's festival. In addition to the overwhelming attendance and outstanding support from patrons, 2014 was also the first year for Cleveland Foundation Day at the CIFF. The Cleveland Foundation Day was March 24th and allowed free admission to any movie as an opportunity for the beloved CIFF to give back to the community and make the wonders of the festival available to both uneasy first-timers and 30-year veterans. The attendance for the special community day was 7,885, a whopping 82% increase over 2013's attendance for the same day.

This year's CIFF featured a total of 186 feature films and 168 movie shorts from around the world, totaling 68 countries of origin in all. Considering the wide berth of films presented at the CIFF, one can only imagine the harrowing task of attempting to break them down for analysis or study. But, some stood above the rest and were awarded special commendations from CIFF panels of judges and audience members alike. On closing night the ballots were submitted, the votes tallied, and the shining film makers of the festival were awarded accordingly. Some of the standout films that won awards included "The Sax Man", a documentary filmed around a man who has become a staple of Cleveland culture. Directed by Joe Siebert the film chronicles the life and aspirations of Maurice Reedus Jr. of "Sax Man" fame. The film secured the Local Heroes Award and Reedus himself even offered a few comments on stage, saying, "Mama, I think I made it."
Maurice Reedus Jr. doing what he does best.
Another interesting award was the ReelWomenDirect, which is a category specifically created to honor excellence in a predominantly male arena. The ReelWomenDirect award's sponsor, Deborah Bachman Ratner, said that women are appallingly underrepresented in the movie-making industry and the numbers have steadily decreased since 1998. However, Ratner stated that 25% of the films at the CIFF were directed by women. Way to break the mold Cleveland! The award went to "The Longest Distance" directed by Claudia pinto Emperador, a Spanish/Venezuelan film that deals with the complexities of loss and the strength of family ties.

The real standout of the evening was "Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine" directed by Michele Josue. The film won the Greg Gund Standing Up Competition as well as the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film. Matt Shepard's story was told how it has never been done before, with a compilation of personal accounts of his life and a collage of home movies and candid moments from his family. Matt's parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, were in attendance to help support the film and served as a reminder of the legacy their son left behind. Director Michele Josue was truly honored by the privilege to show Matt's story at the Cleveland International Film Festival and was overwhelmed by the huge amount of support from the crowd and popularity of the film. Dennis Shepard said "I'd rather be in Wyoming with my son, but if not, I want to be here to promote this film."

Once all of the "Thank you's" were said and the awards delivered, another wonderful CIFF came to a close. Spanning less than two weeks, the film festival had managed to gather almost 100,000 people in the same space, raised over $100,000, and showed movies from more parts of the world than I can point on a map. To end the ceremony properly, Marice "Sax Man" Reedus Jr. played out the dissipating crowd with his rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

2014 Award Winners

Global Health Competition: The Starfish Throwers
Music Movies Competition: The Winding Stream
Local Heroes Competition: The Sax Man
George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Competition: Life Feels Good
Nesnadny and Schwartz Documentary Competition: A Life in Dirty Pictures
Greg Gund Standing Up Competition: Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine
Reel Women Direct: The Longest Distance
Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film: Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine
For full festival coverage CLICK HERE courtesy of Google Images.