Jumping at a Chance to Fly

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

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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

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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

How Did You Learn about S-e-x?

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

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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

PDF  Download Related PDF [887.5 KB]

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

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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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Revealing Images of the Adult Industry

March 28, 2014, 12:05 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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When Michael Nirenberg was a boy, Hustler magazine wasn’t just something that he and his friends conspired to sneak glimpses of when the bookstore manager wasn’t looking; it was his father’s business. Bill Nirenberg was creative director for Larry Flynt’s notoriously iconic magazine, and several of its spin-offs, throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

“Growing up, my friends were always fascinated with that,” he says.

Although he worked for the magazine himself, as an assistant photographer, in his early twenties, the idea of doing a documentary about Hustler, and its impact on American culture, only occurred to him when he became a father himself.

“I had been hanging out with my parents a bit more when my son was born,” he explains, “and thought it would be great to get some of my Dad’s stories filmed. It slowly turned into a full documentary once I had realized that this entire story hadn’t been fully told.”

Most people have, of course, heard of Hustler and its creator, Larry Flynt. The shooting that left Flynt paralyzed was the focus of national attention again in late 2013 when Joseph Paul Franklin, his shooter, was executed for several other murders. Nirenberg interviewed Franklin on Death Row for the film. His interviews with erotic photographer Suze Randall and former Hustler editor Mike “McBeardo” McPadden, by contrast, “were hilarious,” and he also caught up with ’60s counter-culture icon Paul Krassner.

Of course, as Nirenberg points out, “it’s impossible to pack 40 years into 90 minutes,” so he had to leave out a lot of stories, along with any “dirty secrets that would damage living people.” There will still be lots of surprises for audiences, though. “I think what will mostly challenge the audience’s perception,” he reflects, “will be how normal these people are. Mostly everyone I interviewed was very sweet and didn’t seem as damaged as the media likes to portray people within the adult industry.”

His advice to anyone aspiring to the film industry: “Get ready to work like hell and follow your obsessions. That’s where the most interesting part of the story is likely to be.”

—Lara Klaber

PDF  Download Related PDF [887.5 KB]

Related Screenings:
03/28/14 @ 9:40 PM – Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story
03/29/14 @ 11:25 AM – Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story
03/30/14 @ 4:20 PM – Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story

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