Toxic Shock

March 25, 2014, 12:20 AM   |   posted by in Filmmakers


Did you ever think that cleaning your sink, washing your floor or dusting your furniture could be toxic? Toxic chemicals are in use every day in our homes.

“This issue was not on my radar,” says documentarian Dana Nachman, who at the time was a television news producer. “Someone I interviewed for [a TV news] series told me that products are not vetted by any government agency before they get onto store shelves and into our homes.”

She was shocked. So much so that she turned the topic into the film, “The Human Experiment.”

The film focuses on the impact of man-made chemicals on human health and examines the U.S. regulatory system that allows these chemicals on the market without any testing for health effects. The film’s website states, for example, that two of the sudsing agents used in some all-purpose cleaners contain substances that when in contact with nitrites “react to form nitrosamines – carcinogens that readily penetrate the skin.”

She is still shocked by what she finds out -- even after more than four years of working on the film and researching the topic.

Her audiences are shocked as well, and angered. But she also knows that watching the film is empowering. She now makes healthier decisions for her family and so can her audiences.

“People tend to go straight home and throw away products,” she says.

Although most are moved to action, her main goal is to inform and educate. “I … want to make sure that they have the resources they need to make changes so that they don’t feel helpless and just throw their hands up after seeing the film.”

The film is narrated by actor and activist Sean Penn, who is also the executive producer. The two were introduced by a mutual friend and worked together on Nachman’s previous film, “Witch Hunt.”

“The fact that he thinks we are good enough filmmakers to align with really gives us a boost, for sure,” she says.

She admits, though, that sometimes the life of a filmmaker isn’t always that exciting. “… These films take a very long time to make and often you feel like you are all alone in the dark at difficult times of production,” she says. “So when you do get emails from people who the film resonated with or awards from film festivals it does feel good!”

— Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
03/25/14 @ 6:45 PM – The Human Experiment
03/26/14 @ 1:50 PM – The Human Experiment

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Harmonic Duo: An Interview with Maggie Baird and Finneas O'Connor

March 25, 2014, 12:15 AM   |   posted by in Filmmakers


Maggie Baird and Finneas O’Connor star together in “Life Inside Out,” a story of the shared musical awakening of a mother and her disaffected teenage son. The film just finished its run at the CIFF, but filmgoers on Monday got two wonderful surprises. First, Baird and O’Connor performed on the Grand Staircase by the Fountain after their screening, in a delightful last-minute addition to the scheduled musical acts. As for the second surprise…

CIFF: So you are actual mother and son?
Maggie Baird: Yeah, we are. Finneas is sixteen now. He had just turned fifteen when we shot the film.

CIFF: What was the inspiration for the film?
MB: The film started because, like in the movie, I had a struggling teenage son – it’s not autobiographical, but I also had put away music for many years, and I took songwriting back up again and started doing open-mic nights with friends, including my co-writer, and along the way Finneas started singing as well. He would go with us to the open-mic nights, and very quickly was writing amazing songs, and finding that music was the most important thing to him, so that inspired the story.

CIFF: You got to perform today out in the Fountain area. How was that?
Finneas O’Connor: That was really cool. As a performer, I just kind of love any chance I get to be onstage. It’s always great to perform to people who have never heard you. And I’m in Cleveland, so yeah, no one had ever heard me before, which is great.
MB: Finneas has a band in L.A. called “the Slightlys,” so today he was doing more of his solo stuff, which is kind of fun because usually he’s up with a whole band doing rock’n’roll.

CIFF: So, would you say that you’re an actor first, or a musician first?
FO: Musician first, but I love anything that I get to perform. I dance, and I act. But yeah, musician first.
MB: I suppose I’m probably a mom first, at this point in my life, and have been for sixteen years, and I’m an actor, and a screenwriter, and a songwriter, and I’m an aerialist—I do wear a lot of hats!

CIFF: Is it your first time in Cleveland, or have you been through here before?
FO: It’s my first time, yeah.
MB: It’s my first time, too, which is shocking, because I started in regional theater, so I worked in a lot of cities—Cincinnati—and I toured a lot. I don’t think I was ever in Cleveland, so this has been really fun. We took in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Christmas Story Museum. Sadly, we have to leave tomorrow, so we got to be here for our two screenings and see a bunch of other movies, and have very little sleep, but we feel like we really got a taste of Cleveland, and it’s pretty cool.

CIFF: What is your advice to someone who is just starting out in the business?
FO: (laughing) I am just starting out in the business.
MB: I think the main thing you should have, as a filmmaker, is a story you want to tell. I think if you really have a story that you believe in . . . then that will inform everything you do. If you’re in it for different reasons, then you’re going to have different complications that arise, but if you are really focused on story, it’ll keep your path much clearer. As an actor… learn your craft, try to stay real, and get brave, and do improv, and be aware, and take chances, and say yes. That would be my big advice for everything: filmmaking, songwriting, acting… just say yes. Say yes, and go do it. Get up on stage, sing, somebody asks you to go onstage in Cleveland, do it. Somebody asks you to get up and improvise a scene… whatever crazy thing it is, just do it, say yes.

Interview by Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
03/23/14 @ 4:50 PM – Life Inside Out
03/24/14 @ 12:15 PM – Life Inside Out

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Sweet Sounds By the Fountain

March 25, 2014, 12:10 AM   |   posted by in Festival Events


In celebration of Cleveland Foundation Day, CIFF staff member Mary Brown organized special entertainment around the Tower City Fountain. Three different remarkable musical groups performed on the Grand Staircase for enthusiastic crowds, who were treated to a variety of musical styles throughout the afternoon.

The first band to play was a group of teaching artists from Roots of American Music, or ROAM. Mike Periera, Sheela, Das, Deborah Van Cleef, and Kevin T. Richards performed songs by the Carter family in support of “The Winding Stream.” Richards’ documentary about ROAM, “First Voice,” played at the CIFF four years ago.

“They thought of us when the film came up . . . because that’s part of our heritage,” says Das. “Our mission is to bring traditional American music into the community, to connect people with our history, but also to teach academic subjects and help other organizations fulfill their missions.”

ROAM does outreach in schools and institutions providing music education to underprivileged youth, the elderly, and the disabled. On Easter weekend, they will travel to New York to perform in the Brooklyn Folk Festival.

Second in the line-up was a jazz duo of Kip Reed of Oberlin College, and Dan Wilson, who teaches Jazz studies at Cuyahoga Community College. Tri-C is the community sponsor for “Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound,” a documentary on Miami’s R&B scene in the 1960s. It seemed only fitting for Reed and Wilson to bring their talents to the Tower City stage to bring some of that soul sound to life.

“My influences have been all the jazz greats,” said Wilson. “Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and a lot of George Benson.” The two musicians have been playing together for ten years in the Cleveland area, anything from jazz, R&B, funk, and Afro-pop.

Real-life mother and son, Maggie Baird and Finneas O’Connell, who portrayed Laura and Shane in “Life Inside Out,” rounded out the afternoon’s events with a vibrant session after the screening of their film. Baird has done a variety of work on and off stage, TV, film, as well as a voice over artist and singer/songwriter. When O’Connell is not acting, he is leading his band, “The Slightlys,” where he plays a variety of different instruments.

Amy Kersey and Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
03/23/14 @ 4:50 PM – Life Inside Out
03/24/14 @ 12:15 PM – Life Inside Out
03/25/14 @ 8:55 PM – The Winding Stream
03/26/14 @ 5:10 PM – Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound and Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film
03/26/14 @ 7:00 PM – The Winding Stream
03/27/14 @ 11:25 AM – The Winding Stream
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

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Always Hopeful

March 25, 2014, 12:05 AM   |   posted by in Filmmakers


One of the best ways into the film industry is surprisingly simple: make friends.

Coraly Santaliz has been working in the business since 1998, when she took a small acting role in one film and a production assistant position in another. Since then, she has become an accomplished script supervisor for films in both Puerto Rico and the mainland U.S., including high-profile titles like “Fast Five” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” Now she has worked her way up to directing her own feature-length film, “La Espera Desespera,” or “Hopeless Hopeful.” She credits both her long experience on film sets, and all of the friends that she made during that time, with the success of her film shoot.

“All the crew I worked with knew me because we worked together on so many movies, so it was working with my friends,” she explains. “My workmates all supported me and gave 100% on this project, so it was an awesome experience.”

At first glance, the premise of “Hopeless Hopeful” looks like an unlikely site for a comedy: a man coping with his wife’s potentially terminal illness, and his inability to pay for her medical care, hatches a plan to rob banks to pay the bills. Santaliz takes the health-care crisis very seriously.

“It always bothers me that if you don’t have money, you can die,” she says. “I didn’t want to make a huge drama, because we all know the situation, so I made it a little bit funny.”

The humor is not found in the problem itself, but in the hare-brained solution her protagonist comes up with.

“Trying to rob a bank is not as easy as he had thought,” she says. “This is not really a bad guy, and he doesn’t know how to do it. In the process, he complicates things even more, and that’s when the funny part really comes.”

Her role as a script supervisor helped her when it was finally time to write and produce her own script, because she had thoroughly absorbed the rules and conventions of visual storytelling. She also had an enormous pool of talent to draw on from her colleagues over the years.

Her advice to aspiring filmmakers is straight-forward enough: “Work in the film industry, even if you work as a production assistant or something, because you’re starting out with people, and you start getting to know the film set, and that really helps you by the time you really get to do your own.”

— Lara Klaber

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.1 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/24/14 @ 5:00 PM – Hopeless Hopeful
03/25/14 @ 7:00 PM – Hopeless Hopeful
03/26/14 @ 2:15 PM – Hopeless Hopeful

Related Events:
03/25/14 @ 6:00 PM – Evening at the Capitol Theatre

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Visit Ireland with Multitasker Sean Lackey

March 25, 2014, 12:00 AM   |   posted by in Filmmakers


Rocky River native Sean Lackey is a certified public accountant that always wanted to make people laugh. So he got involved with Second City in Cleveland in the late 1990s.

He took classes there with people who had no theater or acting experience—just like him—and his class consisted of salesmen, teachers and Sam Kinison impersonators.

“As I took classes, I became better,” he says. “And when I stunk, I tried to make myself better.”

He admits that the people that make it to the stage are the people that work the hardest and don’t give up.

“I have never given up, never will,” he says.

In addition to being a CPA and a comedian, Lackey is also an actor, writer, producer and director. He began writing “The Yank” in 2004.

“I’m proud I can multitask, but it isn’t easy,” he admits.

The film takes place in Cleveland and Ireland. Lackey, as lead character Tom Murphy, heads from Cleveland to the Emerald Isle for a friend’s wedding. While he’s there, his Irish-American parents encourage him to find a bride of his own, a nice Irish girl.

“The people of Ireland wrapped their arms around us and gave us a big hug,” he says. The cast and crew worked hard while there, but also played hard. “When we finished each day, we celebrated to all hours.”

His screening at the Cleveland International Film Festival will also be a cause for celebration.

There will be family, friends, cast and crew in the audience to cheer for Lackey. They will also be looking for themselves; many of them are also in the film.

“It’s a dream for them as well as myself to see ‘The Yank’ on the big screen,” he says.

He’ll be in the audience with everyone else watching their reactions.

Even if you are not related to Lackey, or Irish, you may enjoy the film. It is a light-hearted film that doesn’t use “below the belt” humor, Lackey explains.

The movie was funded entirely by local investors, with the help of the Ohio Film Office.

“The people who invested in ‘The Yank’ invested in me,” he says. “They could see my passion in the project and knew that I wouldn’t stop until the movie succeeds.”

—Anne M. DiTeodoro

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.1 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/23/14 @ 9:45 PM – The Yank
03/25/14 @ 9:15 PM – The Yank

Related Events:
03/25/14 @ 6:00 PM – Evening at the Capitol Theatre

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