Jumping at a Chance to Fly

March 29, 2014, 12:00 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


Documentarian Catherine Gund has known performance artist Elizabeth Streb for 25 years, since Gund was a college student and Streb was a visiting professor, but their worlds didn’t fully collide until two years ago. Gund was attending Streb’s annual gala when she found out that a necessary component of the performance needed some help: someone had to climb up a 35-foot truss and drop a bowling ball down to Streb’s emcee, Zaire, as part of the show. Gund volunteered.

“I literally jumped at the chance and climbed up the truss,” she recalls, “posed and terrified with a bowling ball heavy in my lap. Just then on either side of me, two other bowling balls were automatically released, hurtling down and plainly eviscerating the cement blocks beneath them. By the time I let the bowling ball fall out of my sweaty hands, I was primed.”

When Streb saw how big a thrill it had been for Gund, she invited her to film the team at London’s Cultural Olympiad. For the second time in one night, Gund jumped at the chance and proposed an idea of her own:
 a full-length feature film.

The result is “Born to Fly,” a documentary that showcases the vivid and frequently dangerous acrobatics that Streb and her troupe perform.

“I don’t think of her pieces individually,” Gund says. “They’re constantly evolving across time as well as in the space of her studio, her stage, her mind. I think of Streb’s work as process, her drive, her unwavering demand, and a willingness—the effort—of the dancers to risk everything and use their bodies in response to each other in the most extreme way possible.”

Gund takes the same approach within her own filmmaking, and in her advice to aspiring filmmakers. “I would definitely say just go for it ... try something you haven’t tried, push yourself, go further than you imagined possible, no matter where you start, you can always risk more. Filmmaking is a risk . . . My advice is don’t follow rules, don’t hesitate.”

She and the CIFF go way back—her uncle, George Gund III, was one of its founders, and the other three films she has directed, “What’s On Your Plate,” “Making Grace” and “Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story of Deliverance,” have all played here. She was a Someone to Watch Award recipient in 2005 at the 29th CIFF.

“CIFF is a terrific, exemplary, powerhouse of a festival with so many quality films, awesome energy, and [a] vital downtown presence in a dynamic city. I love it,” she enthuses, adding that the festival “grows and innovates with the times and that makes showing films here feel satisfying and celebratory at once.”

—Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
03/28/14 @ 6:00 PM – Born to Fly
03/29/14 @ 9:35 AM – Born to Fly
03/30/14 @ 5:30 PM – Born to Fly

A Fair and Balanced Film about Conflict

March 28, 2014, 12:25 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


Yoruba Richen loves the creative process—from the conceiving of an idea, researching it, finding characters, shooting and post-production.

"It is one of the most satisfying things ever," she says. "[It] engages me intellectually, emotionally and artistically, in a way like nothing else does.

Her latest creative endeavor, "The New Black," is screening at the CIFF and examines the black community's diverse responses to the issue of gay marriage. The idea for the film started in 2008, explains Richen, when was watching the historic presidential election of Barack Obama. At the same time, Proposition 8, which opposed same-sex marriage, was on the ballot in California.

The euphoria from Obama’s win, was "countered by dismay and anger over the loss of marriage equality," she says. Richen recounts "an erroneous" CNN exit poll that placed the blame for the passage of Prop 8 on California’s black voters, "and by extrapolation, the African-American community in general."

Although the number of African-American voters quoted in the report was inaccurate, the "stereotype of black homophobia" became a national issue.

"As a member of both the gay and African-American communities, it was a disturbing and disheartening turn of events," Richen says. "A low point in the struggle for civil rights for all."

"The New Black" was the result of "my refusal to see marriage equality and African-American civil rights as competing struggles," says Richen. She decided to delve further into the topic to find out "why these two freedom struggles were continually coming into conflict," she says.

The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage and examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar—the black church.

Although the movie centers on conflict, Richen's film remains balanced and fair. She will never forget when she was approached by a self-proclaimed "homophobic" woman after the film's premiere in Los Angeles. She told Richen that she really appreciated the film and that it "opened up her views in a way that hadn’t happened before." This woman even took it a step further-- she was going to recommend the movie to her fellow church members and her sorority sisters. After their discussion, Richen realized, that's exactly what she was trying to accomplish with her film -- opening up minds and having them "shift to a more open, accepting place."

The film has screened at several festivals and won audience awards at AFI Docs, Philly Q Fest and Frameline LGBT Film Festival as well as a special jury mention at Frameline. She loves the recognition, and admits that "the audience reaction is fuel – to see your work making people laugh, cry, feel upset or hopeful – is an amazing thing."

It's also a personal challenge. "But with each film I want to do better and surpass myself artistically," she says.

--Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
03/26/14 @ 2:20 PM – The New Black
03/27/14 @ 5:50 PM – The New Black
03/28/14 @ 9:00 PM – The New Black

Related Events:
03/28/14 @ 7:00 PM – Evening at Shaker Square Cinemas

Uncle Nick: Drunk Again and Looking to Score

March 28, 2014, 12:20 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


Chris Kasick grew up in Cleveland and now directs commercials in Los Angeles. But he can’t seem to get Cleveland out of his mind. He has always wanted to tell a story about the city. So he and writer Mike Demski, another Cleveland native, teamed up and created “Uncle Nick.”

“Our main character, Nick, is Cleveland personified,” says Kasick. “He’s struggling with past memories of love and prosperity.”

The movie centers on Nick, a drunk uncle, who attempts to score with his brother's flirtatious stepdaughter on Christmas Eve. Using 10-Cent Beer Night as the vehicle, the filmmakers make “a fun, drunken mess of a story about Cleveland.”

For those of you not familiar with this infamous 1974 Cleveland story, it was a promotion during an Indians baseball game. Beer was sold for 10 cents a cup, the crowd rioted and the Indians ended up forfeiting the game.

“The reenactments we shot are based on true accounts of the night, some of which are shocking,” says Kasick. “You can't find footage of 10-Cent Beer Night anywhere and there's only a handful of stills available. I think we do a good job of highlighting one of the most bizarre events in baseball history.”

Kasick left Ohio when he was 19 years old hoping to work for his favorite filmmaker, Errol Morris, the Academy-Award-winning documentarian.

He moved to Boston blindly, got a free internship at his producer's office, and eventually landed on the set of Moriss's TV series, "First Person." Shortly after that he began working for Morris.

"One of the most important lessons I learned from Errol was about patience in post [production]," Kasick says. "Let the story unfold over the course of editing."

Although he admits, patience is tough when when you're trying to finish a film. "Making new discoveries in the edit is the most rewarding part of the process for me," he says.

— Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
03/28/14 @ 9:25 PM – Uncle Nick
03/29/14 @ 9:30 AM – Uncle Nick
03/30/14 @ 5:15 PM – Uncle Nick

How Did You Learn about S-e-x?

March 28, 2014, 12:15 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


Parental chat, instructional filmstrip or porn? How did you find out about sex? If it was a film you saw in school health class, chances are you may have gotten incorrect information.

Filmmaker Brenda Goodman's documentary, "SEX(ed) The Movie," examines sex education over the years, and what she found may surprise you -- not a lot has changed.

She grew up in the south, “where there was a certain etiquette to most situations, including how to comport oneself in sexual situations,” she says, but inspired by "The Atomic Cafe," a collection of 1940s and 1950s U.S.- government-issued propaganda films made to reassure Americans that the atomic bomb was safe, she started to wonder what viewing sex education films through the ages would turn up.

Goodman, a professor of the Practice of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, had access to an "amazing archive" housed in the basement of the theater at the university.

"My co-producer, Caitlin Krapf, and I spent a lot of time in that basement," she says. They pored through films from the 1920s up to the present day. Her desk is still stacked with about 300 sex education films.

Those clips, along with on-camera reflections from various folks about their own sex education memories, make up her film. (One of the film's editors is Thomas Miller, a Cleveland native.) Whether she was talking to a pre-teen or someone in their 80s, the same thing kept coming up, she says,"no one received the right information." It "was almost universal ... that surprised me."

Want to share your story about how you formally learned about sex? The film's website, sexedmovie.com, encourages you to do so. Stories submitted may make their way onto the site or to the movie's social media pages.

— Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
03/28/14 @ 8:00 PM – SEX(ED) The Movie
03/29/14 @ 4:50 PM – SEX(ED) The Movie
03/30/14 @ 7:25 PM – SEX(ED) The Movie

Treating filmmakers to a taste of Cleveland

March 28, 2014, 12:10 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events


What do you do when you’re a guest in a strange town? If you’re in town to promote your new film, you probably do some press, attend your screenings, and talk to the people who came to your film… but you still need to unwind and explore the town you’re visiting. When the day winds down and the films stop screening, it’s time to go out and have a little fun, but where? Everybody on the CIFF staff who interacts with visiting filmmakers has inevitably been asked, “so… where do you go to have fun?”

Enter our Cultural Caravans program, coordinated by Deb Ramsey-Moor. Guest filmmakers are given the opportunity to explore Cleveland in group tours of various landmarks. This year, filmmakers visited the West Side Market, the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Quicken Loans Arena.

“When we visited The Q,” says Ramsey-Moor, “the filmmakers got to see everything, even the enormous shoe collections of the players.”

Not only did the visitors see the stadium, a few even shot hoops on center court. Thursday they toured the Rock Hall.

“It was like drinking from a firehose,” says Ramsey-Moor. “There is so much information and so many artists that they [the filmmakers] didn’t know that much about.”

“The filmmakers are all extremely amazed that we’ve provided them with this service,” Ramsey-Moor continues. “Especially being picked up in a limo!” The visitors were fascinated by the architecture of MOCA Cleveland and were comparing the Coventry neighborhood to places on the west coast, Oregon in particular.

“We are giving people the highlights, flavors and tastes, sights and sounds, of what you normally wouldn’t see,” Ramsey-Moor says. “Most of them have never been to Cleveland and had no idea what to expect. But they are exceedingly grateful for the opportunity.”

The biggest compliment Clevelanders receive regularly is our accessibility, familiarity, and down to earth nature. “People are just friendly,” Ramsey-Moor concludes simply. Which will hopefully entice the first time visitors to return for another round.

Lara Klaber and Molly Drake

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