Martin Shore Brings Together Musicians to Create Community

March 23, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Martin Shore, who has been a musician since the age of six, comes from a rich creative background. His mother was a fashion illustrator who loved music. He grew up listening to the Big Bands, and was a fan of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Louis Armstrong. He was also fortunate to see many of them perform in person.

As a 14-year-old, he went with his brother, a student at New York University, who was working on a student project – a film about famous hardcore and punk rock club, CBGBs. Now he was hanging out with musicians like the Ramones and getting more and more interested in movies.

From music to the director’s chair “was a natural transition,” says Shore. “That happened over a long period of time.”

His film, “Take Me to the River,” is a tour of American soul music. He and the film’s producers brought together legends of soul and paired them with some of today’s popular singers and musicians in recording sessions. These day-long sessions usually occurred with less than 24 hours to prepare, or as he called it, “chaotic organization,” and put performers together who had never met before.

The sessions happened in a three-act play set-up. The first act, he explains, was where musicians met each other and decided what they were going to do. The second act, they learned the song and about each other, sharing common experiences. The final act was the performance and recording.

“Everybody was learning at the same time—the legacy musicians to the stars of today, and in reverse, too,” he continues. “It’s about communication, cooperation, and then collaboration. Once that happens, you create community.”

Pairing the older generation with the young “puts together wisdom and energy,” says Shore. “And that is an omnipotent force.”

— Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
03/22/15 @ 7:00 PM – Take Me to the River
03/23/15 @ 8:00 PM – Take Me to the River
03/24/15 @ 11:50 AM – Take Me to the River

Related Events:
03/23/15 @ 5:45 PM – Two Evenings at the Beachland Ballroom

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Conversation Starters: FilmForums at CIFF

March 23, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events

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Photo by Tim Safranek. L-R: Erica Robinson, Jenita McGowan, Diana Fuller, Christopher Beaver, and moderator Mark Simpson, for the Film Forum connected to "Racing to Zero."

The Cleveland International Film Festival is committed to using film as a catalyst for thought-provoking conversations and ideas that address issues faced by our world today. FilmForums are moderated panel discussions that offer Film Festival audience members the opportunity to learn more about the issues brought up in the film - to ask questions and to share their ideas. FilmForums take place immediately after the conclusion of selected film screenings. Panels include filmmakers, educators, and people who have experienced issues addressed in the films.

This year, CIFF offers a variety of FilmForums to start conversations about compelling issues. Today, following a screening of “The Hand That Feeds” a panel including the film’s co-director, Robin Blotnick, Colleen Cotter of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Veronica Dahlberg of HOLA Ohio, and Amy Hanauer of Policy Matters Ohio will discuss the impact of low prices on the economy. Andrew Samtoy of Ideastream will moderate this panel.

Be sure to be a part of the conversation with upcoming FilmForums at CIFF!

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Related Screenings:
03/19/15 @ 6:00 PM – Racing to Zer0 and Transforming Waste Into Wealth
03/20/15 @ 11:50 AM – Racing to Zer0 and Transforming Waste Into Wealth
03/23/15 @ 6:20 PM – The Hand that Feeds
03/24/15 @ 2:25 PM – The Hand that Feeds
03/25/15 @ 12:20 PM – The Hand that Feeds

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Nowhere to Go After School

March 23, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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What happens when teenagers find themselves with no place to live? Filmmakers Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly answer this question by following three homeless Chicago teens in “The Homestretch.”

“Five years ago, we were fortunate to meet young people who trusted us to tell their story,” says de Mare.

As the filmmakers researched the topic, they found that there are tens of thousands of kids registered in the Chicago public school system classified as homeless with nowhere to go after school. And the problem is growing, not only in Chicago, but across the U.S.

“This film will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you think,” says Kasey, one of the subjects of the film. “It will warm your hearts.”

The film was featured in a February 2015 article in The Atlantic. “Where ‘The Homestretch’ most succeeds as a film lies squarely in its authentic, no-frills portrayal of what it means to be young and homeless in America,” writes Terrance Ross. “It doesn’t overload the screen with tear-jerking montages of young panhandlers tethered to street corners, begging cup in tow. Instead, it reveals that, in the U.S., youth homelessness is as subtle as it is insidious—and that disagreements over what ‘homelessness’ looks and feels like, and over the role schools should play in conquering it, have perhaps been the greatest obstacle to finding a solution.”

The documentary debuted at the Hot Docs Canadian Film Festival and has also made the rounds in public screenings across the country. The film is sparking “meaningful, forward-moving dialogue” about the homeless youth crisis amongpolicymakers in Washington, D.C.

The filmmakers encourage others who see the film to also get involved. The film’s website lists a number of ways to “take action.” Among other things, they suggest donating emergency supplies to homeless students and youth and urging your U.S. Senators and Representatives to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHYA) by passing the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S. 262).

—Anne M. DiTeodoro

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/22/15 @ 6:45 PM – The Homestretch
03/23/15 @ 4:10 PM – The Homestretch

Related Events:
03/23/15 @ 4:10 PM – Cleveland Foundation Community Day Anniversary

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Honoring a Lesser-Known Music Titan

March 23, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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It was a haunting, quiet song that was upstaged by power ballads and the sheer glitter of the Oscars, but anyone who watched the 70th Academy Awards may still be able to hear a quiet croon in their heads: “Do you miss me, miss misery, like you say you do?” It was, technically, Elliott Smith’s most widely-seen performance, of which he only said, “I wouldn’t want to live in that world, but it was fun to walk around on the moon for a day.”

Seventeen years later, and more than a decade after Smith’s death in an incident that still perplexes and divides his fans, producer and cinematographer Jeremiah Gurzi has released a tribute film, “Heaven Adores You,” which explores the full depths of the talent that the world lost.

For Gurzi, the journey of bringing Smith’s music to the screen began in the summer of 2009.
“I had coffee with [director] Nickolas Rossi in Los Angeles,” says Gurzi. “He had mentioned a recent groundswell of enthusiasm for a short memorial video he had made commemorating Elliott Smith on YouTube.”

When they met again a few months later, they discussed the video again and decided that they wanted to make a feature film honoring Smith’s work.

Soon their team swelled, with Kevin Moyer and Marc Smolowitz joining the production crew along with four executive producers and three associate producers. Gurzi shies away from referring to the work as a documentary, however, instead calling it “a long-form project honoring a lesser-known music titan.” Their intent is not to rehash the more sordid details of Smith’s life and death but to focus on the music, the sometimes tormented, but always creative, mind behind it, and its impact on the world.

“I was flabbergasted at the amount of unreleased Elliott Smith music safely preserved in the official archives,” he says. Testimonials, meanwhile, “highlighted the therapeutic power of Elliott’s music. Cathartic feelings consistently and overwhelmingly characterized personal experiences when referencing Elliott.”

The music’s transformative power struck home for him while he, Rossi, and Moyer were at the Jackpot! Recording Studio in Portland. Engineer and archivist Larry Crane was playing some of Smith’s unreleased and unfinished tracks for the trio, “and it literally sounded like Elliott was in the other room laying down a live recording. This was such a powerful and moving moment.”

That moment is what he hopes to share with Elliott Smith’s fans, old and new alike.

— Lara Klaber

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/22/15 @ 9:30 PM – Heaven Adores You
03/23/15 @ 5:45 PM – Heaven Adores You

Related Events:
03/23/15 @ 5:45 PM – Two Evenings at the Beachland Ballroom

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Big Filmmaker on Campus

March 22, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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“I’m addicted to the documentary art form,” says Abhay Kumar, director of “Placebo.” This addiction is quite new for the former director of fiction short films who used to make fun of documentaries—they were “synonymous to ‘boring, activism-oriented, issue-based reportage,’” he says.

All it took to change his mind was for him to make one.

“I’ve used elements of fiction to tell a real story,” says Kumar. “I believe I’ll be using elements of the documentary to narrate fiction!”

Typically this filmmaker starts shooting first, and along the way realizes that “there’s a story in there.” “Placebo,” he claims, “had chosen me to tell its story.”

His story follows four college students in India. Each coming from a different background and dealing with different conflicts. While he was “hanging out” at the university, he talked with several students, but four stood out. “These guys took to the camera,” Kumar says. “Also, all of them represented a very relatable, yet distinct, archetype of the Indian student, or probably college students all over the world.”

The filmmaker, who is in his late 20s, “become real friends first” with his subjects. Because of that, the film took almost four years to make. Surprisingly, two of those years, Kumar spent shooting. “I thought I’d be in-and-out and complete the film in a year,” he says. “I mean how much could I talk with these guys? Apparently lots.”

But did he get too close to his subjects during that time? “There is always that dilemma [with documentaries], of how far to go,” he admits. “To be fair, I always gave the characters a choice that they could let me know if they didn't want something to be included in the story.”

During the time he was filming, it was like he was living another life. “I was one of them,” he says, “even if for a brief period. They still call me ‘Docsaab,’ or Senior Doctor.”

The four students have yet to see the film. “I’m working on it though,” Kumar concludes. “I hope they will be proud of what they helped create.”

— Anne M. DiTeodoro
Photo by Tim Safranek

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.2 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/21/15 @ 11:20 AM – Placebo
03/22/15 @ 6:00 PM – Placebo

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