Is College Really Worth It?

March 20, 2014, 12:05 AM   |   posted by in Filmmakers


1120%. $1.1 trillion. These astronomical figures seem fictional, but they are unfortunately the harsh reality of today’s higher education system. The former reflects the price increase of college in America since 1978. The latter is the nation’s staggering student loan debt. Andrew Rossi’s film, “Ivory Tower” asks, “Is college still worth it?”

While prices of other industries receive the media limelight for their steady increases, like food and healthcare, “Ivory Tower” takes a deeper look into the growing costs of higher education and what that means for students and the future of these institutions.

“When I began thinking that an investigation into the value of college would make for a dramatic documentary, one of the key inspirations was the theme of disruption,” says Rossi. “Institutional change has been at the core of almost every movie I’ve made, from the upheaval of the newspaper business, to the death of grand, formal dining, to the advent of legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.”

As expenses increase for universities to stay relevant amongst their competition, much of these costs are shouldered by students. Some institutions are leaning on advances in technology to provide more cost-effective solutions.

“When we started preproduction on “Ivory Tower,” Massive Online Courses (MOOCs – free, digital versions of some of the world’s best college classes) were just beginning to capture the imagination of technologists,” Rossi recalls. Universities were implementing more online tools to encourage virtual learning to offset costs of a lecture environment. While these methods were potentially useful to some, many educators did not want to discredit the importance of in-person learning and engagement.

Amidst some glaring problems facing universities, Rossi could not ignore the positive role higher education had played in his own life.

“Teachers, professors and classmates have been some of the most important influences, and ‘school,’ as a physical space, has provided a nurturing environment sometimes rivaling even home and church.”

Still, organizations across the country are developing alternatives to the typical four-year stint at a university. These groups are challenging those graduating high school to think differently about their future education and consider other options that may prove to be more economical and worthwhile in the long run.

“There are great achievements in the nation’s research universities, public schools, community colleges and unique, one-of-a-kind programs throughout higher education to celebrate,” Rossi reminds us. “But every parent who is thinking ahead for their children and every student who believes they can go to college and begin their “real lives” after they graduate should empower themselves with an understanding of how this four-year investment will impact their futures. My hope is that “Ivory Tower” will prompt us to rethink the social fabric that positions college as the key to social mobility and the American dream.”

Amy Kersey

PDF  Download Related PDF [1,019.8 KB]

Related Screenings:
03/20/14 @ 6:45 PM – Ivory Tower
03/21/14 @ 11:50 AM – Ivory Tower
03/22/14 @ 2:00 PM – Ivory Tower

Permalink  [Permalink]

Traveling for answers

March 20, 2014, 12:00 AM   |   posted by in Filmmakers


Bart Van den Bempt’s tumultuous flight home to Belgium from Kyrgyzstan ignited his initial storyboard of what would become his first feature-length film, “82 Days in April.”

“People were really in panic, and to ease my mind,” he says. “I started to think about my parents and how I hoped they would cope with my death if it would eventually all go wrong. I could imagine them traveling to gorgeous Kyrgyzstan to reconstruct the final happy weeks of my life.”

In prior years, travel by boat made a lasting impression on Bart before he embarked on his career in film.

“My father worked for a shipping company in Antwerp, and I had worked there on summer holiday since I was 16 years old,” Van den Bempt recalls. “When I graduated film school at 26, I had the opportunity to take a boat from Belgium via Israel to Singapore. After many months in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia, I was in North Burma and running out of money.”

To prolong his homecoming, he boarded another ship in Singapore to continue his travels to Australia, New Zealand, Panama, USA, Canada, and the UK. “It was a formative experience, and many things I did afterwards were somehow related to this experience. My love for slow-travel over land is one of them.”

To tell the story of Herman and Marie, a couple retracing the steps of their son’s last cross-country journey before an accident took his life, Turkey served as the ideal backdrop for Van den Bempt as he had visited many times throughout his travels.

“I wanted to use the landscape as a metaphor for the relationship between my two main characters,” he says. “We shot the winter part near the Iranian border and the spring part near the Syrian Desert. The loneliness of these desolate places reflects the state of mind of the two parents. They are lost in a sometimes beautiful, sometimes drab world, but it is their deceased son who sort of leads their path.”

Beyond the visual setting, Van den Bempt encourages audiences to listen carefully to the music score of the film, composed by Norwegian jazz trumpet player Arve Henriksen.

“I discovered his work by coincidence during the writing of the script, and I used it as a background while working. Eventually, I found it seemed to match the text perfectly. We contacted Arve, and he almost immediately agreed to work with us. The fact that he was involved from such an early stage benefited the result. For me, the music of Arve is like the soul of 82 Days in April.”

Whether by plane, boat, or theater cushion, Van den Bempt’s request is a simple one. “I just invite the viewer to be taken on a trip. I hope they come on board and experience something in those 90 minutes of their lives that they give to me.”

Amy Kersey

PDF  Download Related PDF [1,019.8 KB]

Related Screenings:
03/20/14 @ 6:00 PM – 82 Days in April
03/21/14 @ 2:50 PM – 82 Days in April
03/22/14 @ 11:40 AM – 82 Days in April

Permalink  [Permalink]

CIFF Opening Night Film Is a 'Very Happy-Go-Lucky Little Movie'

March 19, 2014, 9:00 AM   |   posted by in Filmmakers


Scottish Director and Writer John McKay recently returned to Glasgow after living in London for 20 years. He loves the city. And that’s where his latest film is set.

“I’d wanted to make a movie in Glasgow for a long time,” McKay says. Once he read David Solomons’ “kind of charming” script, he knew the time was right. “I fell for it, and three years later, I’d made the movie.”

His movie, “Not Another Happy Ending,” opens the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival on a light note.

“It’s just a very happy-go-lucky little movie,” explains McKay. “It’s not complicated or deep. It’s just kinda daffy and fun, and we hope it gets CIFF off to a great start.”

The story is about a writer, Jane, played by Karen Gillan, with writer’s block. After a successful first novel and a new romance, she’s too happy to finish her next novel, which she must do to fulfill her contract. Does a writer have to be miserable to be creative? Her publisher, French actor Stanley Weber, tries to dampen her spirits, but ends up falling in love with her. Not necessarily a story specific to Scotland, but one that could happen anywhere.

At one point, though, producer Claire Mundell discussed with McKay whether to “take this great script, charming, upbeat, witty, fun and put it in New York or Chicago because it would probably get financed quicker,” Mundell tells ReelScotland, a publication with news and reviews of Scottish films.

But the two Scots stuck to their guns and kept the film in Glasgow to showcase the city—its “upbeat, contemporary, witty, European, dynamic and creative side,” Mundell says. Other Scottish films focus on the gritty and grim side of Glasgow.

McKay knew that making an independent film “about young people in urban locations who are having misadventures in love and life” had broader appeal.

In fact, the director sees similarities in Glasgow and Cleveland—both, he notes,
have an industrial past and a “newfound funky present day.” His film portrays the unique character of the city and a place where the personalities in the story shine through.

Gillan, a “six-foot daffy redhead,” has been compared to American actress Diane Keaton. And it just so happens that McKay is a Woody Allen fan.

“I have to admit I love those movies from the late ’70s, where Woody and Diane would just stroll around Manhattan being neurotic,” he says. “They’re so funny and perfect.”

Although he says the characters in his film “can’t really compare” with Allen and Keaton, he does agree that Gillan has “an amazingly off-centre dress sense,” similar to Keaton’s Annie Hall character.

Anne M. DiTeodoro

Related Screenings:
03/19/14 @ 7:00 PM – Not Another Happy Ending

Permalink  [Permalink]

Celebrate all year long with Film Feasts

March 19, 2014, 8:55 AM   |   posted by in Festival Events


The party didn’t stop when the 37th Cleveland International Film Festival ended in April 2013. Cleveland film fans kept it going by attending CIFF’s Film Feasts, a series of parties, soirées and gatherings to celebrate all that is film and art in Cleveland. This year’s Film Feast season was sponsored by Hyland Software.

The 2013-2014 season marked the Film (and other arts) Feasts’ 11th year, and ran from October to February. The season kicked off with a rollicking scavenger hunt through multiple Cleveland neighborhoods—the wildly popular RoadFest—and featured a range of exciting events designed to showcase Cleveland at its best.These included a Karaoke event at Beachland Tavern, a journey through Terminal Tower and a trip into the home of local philanthropist Umberto Fedeli for a night of amazing stories.

While Cleveland’s fine cultural resources make it easy for film buffs to continue watching independent cinema all year long, these Feasts recreate one of the Festival’s most important elements: the camaraderie.The Feasts give Film Society members opportunities to get to know the remarkable people who orchestrate the event every year, and to build upon the friendships that formed during the Festival.

Lara Klaber

Permalink  [Permalink]

Download The Daily

Check out the latest festival highlights and goings on in the print edition of The Daily.

View Now

CIFF Tweets

A very cool moment last night at #Sundance: 2015 Golden Globe Winner Jeffrey Tambor receives an IMDb…

about 11 hours ago   .   Reply   .   Retweet   .   Favorite

CIFF Facebook Posts

The CIFF artistic team is currently attending #Sundance, and while they're taking in lots of films they couldn't help but take in last night's sunset. For more photos, follow us on Instagram at @CleFilmFest!

a day ago   .   Link

CIFF on YouTube All Videos


Between Two Films.


CIFF 38 Daily Buzz Day 13 Wrap Up


Meet the Filmmaker with Michele Josue, Judy & Dennis Shepard from "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine"

Become A CIFF Member >

Become A CIFF Member

We have five different levels of membership to choose from, so find the one that best fits your film appetite!

38th CIFF Award Winners >

38th CIFF Award Winners

Look through the complete list of award winners from the 38th CIFF!

Sign up for our email newsletter

  • facebook
  • twitter
  • instagram
  • youtube
  • flickr
  • foursquare
  • iphone
  • android