Family Values for the new millennium

March 27, 2014, 12:15 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events

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There is no family cookie-cutter. Just as no two snowflakes are identical, every family unit looks differently, acts differently and operates differently. The common denominator, nonetheless, is love.

Family Diversity Projects presents their touring photo exhibit, “Love Makes a Family,” on display at Tower City through April 3, 2014. The exhibit is comprised of twenty family portraits that have lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members, including quotes that share particular families’ messages to passersby. The unassuming display features families from all walks of life, young and old, and in all shades of humanity with the goal of debunking the myths and stereotypes of what it means to be a part of a family that has members of the LGBT community.

“Love Makes a Family” has traveled to schools, churches, museums, hospitals, and various other public establishments all across the nation to encourage onlookers to view these diverse families as if they were their own. Film audiences are encouraged to stop by and browse this positive imagery and read about their everyday challenges and successes. Family Diversity Projects is challenging people of all ages to embrace diversity and understand that these families face the same circumstances as any other family make up.

Presented by The Foundation Center Cleveland, “Love Makes a Family” is in Cleveland for the first time, thanks to the following co-sponsors: The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Equality Ohio, Movement In Black, PFLAG Cleveland, GLSEN Northeast Ohio, and Gay Games 9. Spectators can view the photo exhibit at Tower City through April 3, 2014, located on concourse level 1 next to Payless. For more information, please visit www.familydiv.org.

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Miami's Soul Scene: An Interview with Dennis Scholl

March 27, 2014, 12:05 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Dennis Scholl, Vice President/Arts of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and one of the team of directors who brought “Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound” to life, pays homage to Deep City Records, who was once the lifeblood of Miami’s soul scene.

CIFF: What inspired you to bring “Deep City” to the big screen?
DS: A friend sent me a re-issue of the Deep City music put out by Numero Records in Chicago. When I read the liner notes and found out that the music was all made in Miami, my home for the last 50 years, I was blown away. How could it be that something this extraordinary happened in my 305 and I knew nothing about it? So, with the partnership of two incredible African American filmmakers, we began to explore the legacy of [Miami Soul music].

CIFF: What were the first impressions of your main characters when you told them you wanted to share their story?
DS: The musicians were a bit reluctant at first, as their dreams and aspirations in the 1960s hadn’t been fully realized and they were not anxious to revisit that time in their lives. But my co-directors, Marlon Johnson and Chad Tingle, were relentless. They knew the Overtown and Liberty city community well, and they kept going back and letting the musicians know that the film was going to be an attempt to acknowledge and honor their contributions to American music. And little by little they came around, led by the irrepressible Willie Clarke, co-founder of Deep City, with Johnny Pearsall, who had passed away in 2000. Willie, Helene Smith and Clarence Reid signed on to the project and began to take us back to the 1960s in Miami, and the creation of the first black-owned record production company in Florida.

CIFF: What does it mean to you to have Deep City shown in Cleveland?
DS: To have the film shown at CIFF is a huge honor for the three of us. First and foremost, the festival is one of the most important independent film festivals in the world. Also, Cleveland, like Miami, had a scene like this led by Boddie Records, so I think audience members will respond to that.

CIFF: What important message would you like CIFF audiences to take away from the film?
DS: CIFF’s theme, “Home for Stories,” reminds us that we all have an internal narrative waiting to be expressed. Our neighborhoods are full of stories, and we want every single person to get a chance to tell their stories through the magic of filmmaking.

Interview by Amy Kersey

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Related Screenings:
03/26/14 @ 5:10 PM – Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound and Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film
03/27/14 @ 8:15 PM – Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound and Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film
03/28/14 @ 11:15 AM – Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound and Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film

Related Events:
03/27/14 @ 1:30 PM – Day and Knight in Akron

Neither Film School Nor School Film

March 27, 2014, 12:00 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Robert Lemon has been bitten hard by the film bug.

Initially, when he began researching taco trucks, his focus was on dissertation work rather than a film. His original idea of exploring Mexican agriculture and cuisine soon developed into “how these taco trucks are considered across the United States in different cities.” While doing graduate work at Ohio State in 2004, he had become familiar with a controversy regarding the spread of taco trucks in lower-income neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio, and decided to research the topic further. Soon, Columbus became the center of his story, and the dissertation had transformed into a documentary.

“I was always a photographer, so I’ve always taken photographs of everything I do anyway,” he explains. He swiftly amassed a large collection of pictures, but getting people to talk to him on video about the controversial issues connected to taco trucks—issues of race, poverty and immigration—proved difficult, until he made friends with Lidia Labra and decided to base a short film around her truck and her story.

“Transfusión” is actually a collection of six short films, an approach inspired by the common screening practices of film festivals Lemon attended. This approach freed him to tackle different issues and controversies that might not otherwise have fit together. “Every time the topic changes, it feels like you’re watching a different film,” he says.

The construction of the films was also influenced by his teaching position. “The whole time I was filming and editing I was thinking, ‘How am I going to use this in the classroom?’” His students were his first target audience, which has made the film a tough sell to mainstream festivals.

“I’m getting a lot of contacts from university libraries and Latin-American Studies departments to show the film,” he observes, but “the only [film festivals] that are accepting it are the ones that have more of an intellectual audience base or have immediate experience with the issues.”

Lemon has decided to treat that as a challenge, and hopes to produce an alternative cut that will have broader mainstream appeal. He says that there will definitely be a next film for him, too, although he isn’t sure if it will be “a documentary or a narrative or something in between.” Whether film complements his academic career, or steals him away from it entirely, remains to be seen.

—Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
03/23/14 @ 4:45 PM – Transfusión
03/25/14 @ 2:10 PM – Transfusión
03/27/14 @ 8:00 PM – Transfusión

Related Events:
03/27/14 @ 1:30 PM – Day and Knight in Akron

The Weight and Texture of Memory

March 26, 2014, 12:20 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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It’s an iconic image for many: an enormous quilt spread out across the Washington Mall, seemingly endless, in memorial to everyone who had been lost to the AIDS epidemic, which Nadine Licostie calls “the most devastating pandemic in human history.” That epidemic was still new in 1987, when the NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt made its first historic appearance. Hysteria and misinformation still ran riot; many funeral homes refused to handle HIV-positive remains and a memorial panel was the closest thing to a funeral service that many victims received.

After 1996, the quilt wasn’t displayed on the Mall again until the Smithsonian Institution organized its return for its 25th anniversary in 2012. When Licostie joined the team to help coordinate the exhibition, she immediately realized that a once-in-a-lifetime documentarian opportunity was unfolding. “We had to begin filming right away,” she says. Ultimately, this resulted in “The Last One,” a film that examines the Quilt’s inception, its rise to prominence, and its envisioned ultimate conclusion.

Twenty-five years after the Memorial Quilt first appeared in Washington, both it, and the devastating epidemic it represents, have receded in many memories. For Licostie, who specializes in documentaries about social justice issues, this was a chance to help revive both those memories and public awareness of the devastating toll that the HIV virus still takes.

Licostie suspects that most people will be surprised to realize that AIDS is still a major threat in the U.S., with 50,000 new infections per year. “For many people,” she points out, “HIV/AIDS is happening somewhere else, but the reality is that it is happening everywhere.”

Just as most people underestimate the current relevance of the Quilt, they may not be aware of how much stigma and discrimination remains attached to AIDS victims. Many remain under the impression that contracting AIDS is a sign of moral weakness and poor choices. “Ironically,” Licostie observes, “HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. We all suffer from the effects of this disease.”

The Quilt, however, remains one of the bright and vibrant aspects of what might otherwise seem like an unrelentingly bleak story. Through it, the film “honors all the people we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS and also all of the people that fought for those that were suffering. The public outcry broke through so many barriers and we became a better nation and a better world because of it.”

That legacy is something that she hopes audiences will come away with a better understanding of, even as they also realize how much work is left to be done, and how public awareness is still crucial to defeating AIDS completely. The story, she says, is woven into every aspect of our contemporary lives.

“This film gave me the chance to look at an issue that had many intersections: politics, media, health policy, social justice. All of it is there stitched into fabric.”

Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
03/26/14 @ 6:15 PM – The Last One
03/27/14 @ 12:15 PM – The Last One

'Israeli Paradise' in Iran lost but not forgotten

March 26, 2014, 12:15 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Most cannot remember a time when the Middle East was not suffering from a reputation of violence, danger, and political unrest. Yet, history books tend to skip over the fact that there was such a thing as the “Israeli Paradise” in Iran only a handful of decades ago. Dan Shadur’s family experienced the dichotomy of life as Israelis before and after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and the stark contrasts of the way life was and exists today were reason enough to shed light on not only a personal account of family history, but of a bigger, untold story of Israelis in Iran.

“The 60s and 70s were a golden age for foreign expats in Tehran, Israelis included,” Shadur comments. “My parents were there from late 1975 until early 1979, and I spent my first year there before diplomatic relations between Israel and Iran were cut and all Israelis were expelled from Tehran.”

Dan’s mother often reminisced about the family’s glory days and held on to stunning and mysterious photo albums that documented their lives in Iran before the revolution.

However, as Dan got older, he remembers, “The image of Iran for an Israeli growing up in the 80s and 90s became more and more intimidating and alien, and this contrast - between the utopian images and the dark reality - always fascinated me. When I started researching a few years back I realized that the story of the Israelis in Iran contained some aspects very different from the narrative laid down to me.”

Besides the typical trials associated with creating a project, Shadur’s major struggle for his first feature film was larger than finances or creative influences.

“The biggest challenge was striving for the right balance between the personal and political story in the film,” Shadur recalls. “Both contain extremely delicate and explosive components. I dealt with personal materials in my shorts, but none of them were intended to reach such a vast audience, and none had such a strong political aspect.”

After interviews and research conducted to complete “Before the Revolution,” Shadur has received a wide spectrum of opinions on the outlook for life to exist as it was before the revolution between Iran and Israel in his lifetime.

“I have had many encounters with Iranians, especially since the film was released, and most of them filled me with hope regarding the bond between the two people,” he says. “But, on a more strategic level, it's hard to be optimistic about the political climate in the Middle East, Israel and Iran included.”

“Before the Revolution” illustrates the life of an Israeli in a controversial era, but Shadur inspires viewers to look at the bigger picture. “I hope the audience will contemplate on the fragility of life, political hegemonies, the deceiving nature of nostalgia, and our responsibility for atrocities taking place under our nose.”

Amy Kersey

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Related Screenings:
03/26/14 @ 7:20 PM – Before the Revolution
03/27/14 @ 5:00 PM – Before the Revolution

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