39th Cleveland International Film Festival

​Cleveland Film Fest 39: A Preview

Lisa Sanchez
It's my favorite time of year; when the Cleveland International Film Festival rolls into downtown and brightens up my late winter/early spring with a myriad of wild cinematic entertainment and intriguing perspectives. Every year I pour over the CIFF film booklet, circling and scheduling like a woman possessed. I always try to formulate a strategy in order to watch the most movies, get at least four hours of sleep at night and not lose my job. Inevitably, I plan to see more movies than human eyes can reasonably encounter, but it's all worth it in the end. This year, I've chosen ten must-see flicks to put at the top of my ever-growing must-see list in no particular order because at this point I'm all out of organizational skills.

1.)​ Xenia

Greece/France/Belgium (2014)

​Although there is no real order, Xenia is pretty close to a true number one. It's a soul-searching story about two brothers, Danny and Odysseus, journeying to find their father after their mother has passed away. The pair have to simultaneously keep their Albanian ethnicity a secret while maintaining a low profile despite Danny's fanciful outbursts. Xenia looks like a fun, if not emotionally riveting, movie about the power of family and truly understanding oneself.

More Info on the Film Here

2.) Dreamcatcher

United Kingdom/USA (2015)

​I'm a real sucker for a woman-positive inspiring documentary, and Dreamcatcher seems to have all of those attributes in spades. The film follows the interactions of Brenda Myers-Powell as she talks with students, current and former sex-workers, and victims of sex trafficking. Dreamcatchers gives audiences a chance to listen to these women's stories and see their positive evolution for the future.

​More Info on the Film Here

3.) The Incident (El Incidente)

Mexico (2014)

​I like to think of The Incident as a combination of Groundhog Day and Cujo. The movie details two separate groups of people falling into time loops and desperately trying to claw their way out as their situations get progressively worse. The Incident looks like one mind-fuck that I would truly enjoy.

​​More Info on the Film Here

4.) The Tribe

Ukraine (2014)

​There is no dialogue or subtitles in The Tribe, all of the conversations in the film are conducted using sign language. I totally don't speak sign language. The Tribe details the extremely insular society of a Ukrainian arts school, but the speechless premise alone makes me want to watch the film. I can't wait to see the wide array of emotions that are conveyed just by using body language and facial expressions. 

​​​More Info on the Film Here

5.) Teacher of the Year

USA (2014)

​Oddly enough, I tend to gravitate toward gritty hyper-realistic movies or in-depth documentaries, but Teacher of the Year provides a nice foil to other genres featured at CIFF 39. Teacher of the Year is a goofy school-based comedy featuring Keegan-Michael Key as a high school principal and Randy and Jason Sklar as school counselors. If those roles alone don't draw you to the film, consider it's shot in a similar mockumentary style as Parks and Recreation.  

​​​​More Info on the Film Here

6.) Ice Poison

Taiwan/Myanmar (2014)

​Toxic drugs infect and encompass many people's everyday lives. Ice Poison provides a realistic look into the lives of a couple who sell methamphetamines ("ice poison" in Taiwanaese slang) while becoming increasingly addicted. I know this movie will be devastating, but I want to see how drug addiction is portrayed outside of euro-centric perspectives.

​​​​​More Info on the Film Here

7.) La Salada

Argentina (2014)

​La Salada follows the lives of diverse immigrants in the bustling marketplace of Buenos Aries. Each person has their own set of struggles, linguistically or otherwise, and I'm excited to see where assimilation to a new country will take them.  


​More Info on the Film Here

8.) Slow West

United Kingdom/New Zealand (2015)

​Slow West has already won Dramatic World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival. The film is a 19th-century western filled with desperados, cash schemes, and Michael Fassbender riding horses. All combined to make a winning movie. 

​​More Info on the Film Here

9.) Frame by Frame

Afghanistan (2015)

​I know literally nothing about the photography movement in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, which is precisely why I can't wait to watch Frame By Frame. The documentary follows several people who use photography to promote social change inside Afghanistan as well as chronicling the lives of its citizens and war refugees. 

​​​More Info on the Film Here

10.) Now We're Alive

France/Belgium (2014)

​Tom, a young man, is blindfolded and required to choose a mate solely based on the sound of their voice. No, this isn't some bizarre beginning to an auditory fetish porno, this is the premise for Now We're Alive. Eventually, the pressure of finding his soul-mate and coming to terms with the imaginary girl he's made up causes serious kinks in the voice-based marriage system. Who knew?

​​​​More Info on the Film Here