March 31, 2016 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Growing up as an Asian American in University Heights, Ohio, Matthew Hashiguchi and his family faced challenges as minorities in Middle America. Many in the generations before him were more apt to leave unpleasant memories well enough alone. His grandmother, however, an internment camp victim of WWII and charming narrator of the film, was always uncommonly comfortable sharing the good, the bad, and everything in between.
“My grandmother is a unique voice in the Japanese American community because she voices her experience,” says Hashiguchi. “I think many wanted to forget their WWII years, but my grandmother talks about it and shares it with others.”
Although Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, Hashiguchi feels they are still often seen as foreigners and not-yet-American.
Documenting the personal experiences of his loved ones in his film “Good Luck Soup” brought about its own set of challenges requiring him to disconnect himself as kin.
“At times, I was no longer the grandson, son, cousin, or sibling,” he says. “I was a filmmaker and had to ask them questions, often uncomfortable ones, and sort of dig beneath the surface. That was very hard to do.”
Audiences viewing the interactive web documentary, “Good Luck Soup Interactive,” in the CIFF’s Perspectives program, will not only meet Hashiguchi’s family but also many other Asian Americans from across the country. This version captures the journey of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians before, during, and after WWII.
Regardless of the platform, Hashiguchi challenges audiences to look inward and evaluate what they’re learning from those around them and passing on to younger generations about diversity in our society.
“Are they teaching their children to hate and bully? Or to accept and appreciate differences?” Hashiguchi questions. “I do believe it’s important to preserve your own culture, but we can do that without belittling the cultures of others.”
March 31, 2016 | posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events
According to the Urban Dictionary, “Cleveland is called Believeland because it’s all about comeback.”
Many fans of the Browns, Indians, and Cavs are just waiting for that comeback and hoping it’s soon after so many, many years of heartbreak. The last championship the city hosted was the 1964 Browns, and it was followed by over 50 years of hoping and never giving up.
“Believeland” makes its world premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival at Connor Palace as the 40th Anniversary Signature Event. The venue has 2,800 seats—about ten times the average size of one of the theaters at Tower City Cinemas. An encore screening moves to Tower City on Tuesday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m. A third screening was added to meet the enthusiastic demand and advance tickets were swiftly snapped up.
The film takes a look at Cleveland’s near misses when it comes to sports championships. The audience will relive The Drive, The Fumble, The Move, The Decision, and the blown save in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
The film’s director, Andy Billman, knows these stories all too well. He grew up in Elyria and has been a big Cleveland sports fan ever since. Although he now lives in Connecticut, directing a film about the state of Cleveland sports has been a dream come true.
“I have always felt Cleveland has a unique story to tell when it comes to sports,” says Billman, who will be making his directorial debut for ESPN with “Believeland.”
In 2014, he got the nod to direct, and the timing was right.
“When LeBron left [in 2010] and came back [in 2014], I felt it was time to tell the story,” says Billman. (Although The Decision and LeBron James’ return is part of the story, James did not agree to be interviewed for the film.)
Billman, who started with ESPN after graduating from the University of Toledo, has been a producer and associate producer of the sports network’s “30 for 30” documentary series. The series began as a commemoration of ESPN’s 30th anniversary in 2009 and continues today with compelling stories focusing on sports and culture.
The film includes vintage game footage as well as interviews with former players, coaches, reporters, politicians, historians, and fans. You’ll see tears and cheers throughout the film.
Billman notes that his film is a story that “rides a wave of emotions” … some happy, other times sad. There will also be “frustration and anger.” But, he says, “… at the end it will show how sports play a key role to Cleveland in multiple ways.”
The film is about Cleveland, but “Believeland” also shows “how sports can bring people together,” Billman notes. Although the many years of frustration have made Cleveland fans resilient and tough, they always have hope. If there is any sports fan who wonders, “Why would anyone be a fan of Cleveland?” Billman says, “Buckle up … the film will help answer that question.
March 30, 2016 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
When Frank Lotito, director of Opening Night film “Good Ol’ Boy,” first stepped on the stage he had to put out a fire. Literally. The theater curtains onstage were in flames. He quickly got over his stage fright, grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the fire … all while he was in his 16th century costume. The audience loved it!
The acting bug bit him, and he continued to work in theater and TV for years in his native Australia. But he was always “very interested in what was happening behind the camera,” he says. He then started writing, which led to producing, and finally directing. “It was a natural transition for me working on film and TV sets and learning every part of filmmaking first-hand,” he continues.
About 20 years ago, while Lotito was acting in a U.S. film, “Silver Strand,” that was shooting in Australia, he met Anjul Nigam (“Bhaaskar Bhatnagar”) and Tim Guinee (“Officer Bob”), who both appear in tonight’s film. They became friends, but lost touch, until they reconnected through Facebook. In 2012, Nigam sent Lotito a script he was writing.
“I just couldn’t put it down,” Lotito says. “I laughed and cried and decided then and there … that this film had to be made!”
The script is based on a true story and some of Nigam’s experiences. Lotito appreciated its nostalgia.
Although Lotito’s family immigrated to Australia from Italy, not east India, he felt that the story still “had a profound effect on me … I could relate to the trials and tribulations of growing up in the ’70s as a boy from an immigrant family.”
He continues, “I experienced first-hand the cultural intolerance of others.” Most importantly, he remembers the “longing to just fit in, to belong.”
Although the film is about life in the 1970s, “it touches on issues that are very contemporary—friendship, first love, and how to appreciate each other’s differences,” he says.
He can’t wait for audiences here to see the film. “It’s an honor to be selected as the Opening Night film at the Cleveland International Film Festival,” Lotito says. “You can bring your 10-year-old daughter or your 80-year-old grandfather ... what better way to open CIFF but with a feel-good, entertaining film about family, love, and tolerance.”
March 30, 2016 | posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events
This year, Film Festival passholders will hear a familiar “beep” when they enter the theater. Each pass will include a bar code which a staff member will electronically scan at the theater doorway. This, along with the electronic signage in the lobby and theater hallways, is part of this year’s digital makeover and will make for a more streamlined process into the theaters.
“All passholders will enter a passholder queue in order to be scanned before entering the theater,” explains Bill Guentzler, artistic director, Cleveland International Film Festival. “If they need to leave the theater before showtime, they will exit and receive a readmit ticket (ticket holders will receive one as well), so they won’t have to be scanned twice.”
The new system will help with crowd control, provide more accurate attendance numbers, and allow for data collection. Guentzler says that the staff will use this data “to better schedule the festival in the future.”
Those of you who have grown fond of the CIFF volunteer clickers, don’t worry. Guentzler says that clickers will still be at each theater to count ticket holders and as a back-up, in case of a system malfunction.
Over the years, there have been multiple technical advancements for the Cleveland International Film Festival. This year, guests will notice something new as soon as they head toward the Tower City Cinemas walkway.
“The design of the lobby is now spilling out into the walkway, with grid, lights, and TVs,” explains Mallory Martin, director of programming and projection, Cleveland International Film Festival. “The Daily Schedule and Stand By Wall are now digital and will be displayed on multiple flat screens.”
Wayfinding has gotten easier, too. “Patrons will see a cleaner, easier-to-read display in the walkway and lobby” to help them get to the right color-coded theaters. Monitors in the walkway and above the box office will clearly display the theater colors. Look left and right for two additional screens displaying only those films playing on that side of the theater.
The information is pulled directly from clevelandfilm.org, so screens will mirror the schedule that patrons see online. Picture them looking … “more like airport departure displays than scoreboards,” says Martin.
Patrons are sure to find the updated, shiny new look easier to follow, but Martin also notes, “going digital dramatically makes operations easier on CIFF staff. For years, a staff member would have to manually re-alphabetize and tape updates to the Stand By Wall a few times a day. “Digital means real time,” she says, “which means more accurate and updated information.”
Martin sends a shout-out to the partners—web design firm FORM and audio/visual company Colortone Staging & Rentals. “We’ve had long, outstanding relationships with both, and without them, none of this would have happened this year,” she says.