Closing Night is Closing In!

March 29, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events

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Photo by Nanekia Morgan. Volunteer Kirby Broadnax collects a ballot from Festival regular Leslie Alperin.

Everyone in attendance at any of the films showing in the last round is invited to join us for the Closing Night dessert reception and awards presentation program around The Fountain at Tower City Center. The reception will include a brief program announcing the winners of:

  • The American Independents Competition,
  • The George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Film Competition,
  • The Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition,
  • The Global Health Competition,
  • The Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition,
  • The Local Heroes Competition,
  • The Music Movies Competition,
  • The ReelWomenDirect Award, and
  • The Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award.

While some of these awards, such as the George Gund III Memorial, are decided by juries of specialists, many are voted on by audience members whose ballots are collected after each screening. Two new awards have been added this year, allowing high school students in the Festival's FilmSlam program to vote on their favorite short and feature-length films.

Each year of the festival, we choose a prominent local artist to design the awards presented to the winners of these categories. This year, we have the privilege of working with Mark Brabant, an award-winning screen print artist and independent graphic designer. A Cleveland native, Brabant shows and sells his work in various art festivals, galleries and shops all across the Midwest. For more of Brabant’s work, visit his website.

Amy Brown and Lara Klaber

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The Man Behind the Gruff

March 29, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Audiences may recognize Barry Crimmins as the blunt, rough-around-the-edges standup comedian and outspoken political satirist, both of which are seemingly true. However, with context, which is very important to Barry, there is a much more complex character than what meets the eye (or ear).

Comedian-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait had plans to create a narrative film of the life of Barry Crimmins, but it was the late Robin Williams, an old friend of Barry and Bobcat’s, who suggested making a documentary instead. Thanks to Williams’ support, Goldthwait was able to bring “Call Me Lucky” to the big screen.

As the sole subject of the film, Crimmins insisted on staying in the background and only contributing to the film’s production when he was needed to confirm minor details.

“The film is about me, but it’s Bob’s movie,” Crimmins says. “Bob’s a genius filmmaker, and I’m not. I literally trusted my friend with my life, and I think I made a good bet.”

61-year-old Crimmins experienced a very difficult upbringing and is a survivor of child abuse. Although his past has played a major role in shaping the person he is today - for better or for worse - he refuses to be defined by it.

“I’m an essayist, political satirist, I love dogs, I’m a sports fan, I’m a bunch of stuff,” Crimmins says. “I don’t run away from it, but it’s not the center of my identity. But, it could’ve been if I hadn’t dealt with it.”

Some have approached Crimmins to tell him he is brave for sharing his story, but from his point of view, since the crime is so common, it should be a more common topic of conversation.

“If more people knew how prevalent these problems are, we would be talking about it more,” Crimmins says, “and doing more to get justice. We need to encourage people to speak up and not look the other way.”

Crimmins’ first viewing of the film was at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where a number of people approached him with their own stories of pain and suffering, many of whom were breaking their silence for the first time. As for Cleveland audiences, Crimmins expects others may do the same.

“People now have context for me. It explains why I’m a softie and would do anything for anyone, but I’m gruff because I was scared of people,” Crimmins says.“You’ve got to go through things and not around them. Otherwise, you’re just walking around in a circle,” Crimmins says.

Plans are in the works for Crimmins to do a comedy special next year. The format will be in true Crimmins form with blatant content, but with a line of respect for those in the audience.

“I tell them about a bunch of stuff they don’t want to hear about – child abuse, how patriotism is nonsense – but I try not to pile on the little guy,” Crimmins says of his comedy. It has never been his mission to tear down the underdogs.

Amy Brown

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Related Screenings:
03/28/15 @ 7:20 PM – Call Me Lucky
03/29/15 @ 3:45 PM – Call Me Lucky

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Inspired to Find the Truth

March 29, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Ever since his teenage years, documentary filmmaker Justin Weinstein has been fascinated with how people can deny real evidence when it contradicts their beliefs.

Tyler Measom, another filmmaker, was raised as a devout Mormon until he decided he was being “deceived” by the church and left religion.

When the two started discussing the idea of making a documentary on James Randi, the magician and escape artist turned skeptic, these personal reasons made the story meaningful for each of them. They decided on the spot to make the film together—the result is “An Honest Liar.”

“We both deeply believe many of the fundamental problems our society suffers are due to a lack of proper education in critical thinking and basic science education,” Weinstein says.

To make the film, Randi provided thousands of hours of archival footage, which covered his frequent television appearances on shows such as Happy Days and his 32 appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.

It also included a segment from The Tonight Show where the staff turned to Randi for advice in advance of an appearance by Uri Geller. When Randi’s guidance prevented Geller from being able to demonstrate his alleged psychic powers on the show, the two became sworn enemies.

Weinstein calls the abundance of footage both a blessing and a curse, which made editing a challenge to integrate the past and present stories into a cohesive whole.

The film took three years to make and was funded in part by a very successful KickStarter campaign. Weinstein credits the campaign’s success to Randi’s huge and avid following all over the world who were hungry to see a film about him made.

He believes people recognized that there was a compelling story to tell and it would make a fun and entertaining film.

“Randi is an amazing character,” Weinstein says. “He was a joy to work with. Some of the time he’s an 86-year-old man, irascible and opinionated, but much of the time he’s like a 12-year-old boy, playful, curious, and fun-loving. He’s invigorated by an audience, and can be hard to keep up with!”

People who watch the film are sometimes surprised that the filmmakers were able to interview Uri Geller for the film since he and Randi were such vicious enemies for so long.

“The fact is we just asked, and he was very generous and gracious with us,” says Weinstein. “He himself says that he didn’t care what kind of publicity he got—it was all good for him. He wouldn’t read the articles that were written about him, but measure them with a ruler.”

Weinstein and Measom hope their film will inspire audiences to think more critically, to ask questions to probe deeper before accepting things as truth, and to be open to questioning even their own beliefs, however difficult that may be.

Lisa Curland

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Related Screenings:
03/28/15 @ 4:20 PM – An Honest Liar
03/29/15 @ 11:35 AM – An Honest Liar

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Brothers to Watch: Combining Strengths for a Better End

March 29, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Bill and Turner Ross are returning to their home state of Ohio to receive the Cleveland International Film Festival’s “Someone to Watch” honor.

The brothers’ first feature in 2009, “45365,” was shot in their hometown of Sidney, Ohio.
It got rave reviews—the late Roger Ebert, well-known film critic, called it “An achingly beautiful film,” and at SXSW, the film won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature.

They followed that with “Tchoupitoulas,” a “music travelogue” that shadows three young boys through New Orleans. For feature number three, “Western,” a “non-fiction western,” the brothers move even farther south to the Mexican border.

In an interview with Filmmaker magazine, the brothers call these three films “a sort of regional Americana trilogy,” but note that there won’t be another in the series. “This is the end of a chapter that we feel pretty good about,” they say.

It is obvious that these brothers work well together. They talk in terms of “we,” not “he” or “I,” and admit they make very good partners.

“We both pick up where the other leaves off with very little need for communication,” they say.

From Sidney, they moved to Los Angeles and worked for several years on other people’s projects. Then in 2007, they realized “that our passions were being invested in the dreams of others—so we split.”

They quickly discovered that working together was a great creative collaboration where their “individual strengths could be combined for an even better end.”

Although they say that they wouldn’t trade their small town upbringing for anything else, they do note that there was not much support for aspiring filmmakers. “What we do now was never discussed as an opportunity,” they say. “There were no real examples in our periphery. It’s meant finding our own way, and inherently our own voice.”

CIFF heard that voice and knows that these brothers are indeed filmmakers to watch.

“Recognition is always an honor,” they say. “We exist in a bit of an undercurrent, and any attention we can garner helps to motivate our future projects.”

Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
03/21/15 @ 3:45 PM – 45365
03/21/15 @ 6:20 PM – Tchoupitoulas
03/21/15 @ 8:30 PM – Western
03/29/15 @ 4:35 PM – Western

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The Candid Couple: A Love Story

March 28, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Every relationship has its quirks, most of them only charming to the ones who are in it. For co-creators Paul Ashton and Katie Page, the nuances of their own relationship served as the inspiration for their film, “This Isn’t Funny,” a romantic comedy loosely based on their story.

“I was offered a small amount of seed money to produce/direct a micro budget feature by an EP, but he was looking for completed scripts only,” Ashton recalls. “I told him I had one (I didn't) but needed six weeks to polish. Then I went home to Katie and told her we had six weeks to write a feature.”

With such a tight turnaround, writing about themselves, a fairly familiar topic, seemed like a natural place to start. Fortunately, the couple already had some experience in this arena and had thrown around some ideas before this opportunity presented itself.

“We had created a web series together called “Don’t Try This at Home,” which was very much just an exploration of our pet peeves about each other,” Ashton says. “It made sense to start with ourselves and our relationship and then extrapolate fictionally from there.”

Thankfully, after sifting through plotlines - some true and some fictional - the script was accepted and production began.

“We wrapped the shoot exactly nine months after we first sat down to write it,” says Ashton. “She was literally our baby. Mum and Bub are doing great, by the way. Photos to follow.”

Plenty of challenges arose with said baby including financing, completing the shoot in fourteen days in more than ten different locations, and finishing the post-production process with lean resources. However, there seemed to be a consistent silver lining.

“We were blessed by the film gods - in the sense that whenever something went wrong, it led to a superior alternative,” comments Ashton. “And we had Lije Sarki producing. He's a magician. An indie-whisperer, I like to say. We were lucky with the whole crew. A generous and talented bunch for sure.”

Ashton is looking forward to working with this same core team when he directs his next feature, a story of two teenage friends set in 1970’s Southern California. Until then, he is confident “This Isn’t Funny” will be well-received.

“I hope they are literally never the same again. It should completely change their world view in every way.

“Not really…

“I hope it makes them laugh, for sure,” Ashton says. “I hope it makes them think. Perhaps sometimes feel uncomfortable, but good-uncomfortable. And I hope it leaves them debating what happens in the end...”

Amy Brown

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Related Screenings:
03/27/15 @ 7:00 PM – This Isn't Funny
03/28/15 @ 2:20 PM – This Isn't Funny
03/29/15 @ 9:30 AM – This Isn't Funny

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