Cleveland International Film Festival } March 25 – April 5, 2020 } Tower City Cinemas

Years in the Making: Co-directors Tell Gay Actor's Horror Story

April 05, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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“I blame ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge’ for my love of the horror genre,” says Roman Chimienti, co-director of “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.” When fellow co-director Tyler Jensen learned about the film that Chimienti was working on that was based on that cult classic, he says, “I knew I had to be a part of it.”

Their film, “Scream, Queen!,” follows the story of Mark Patton decades after he starred in “Nightmare 2” which is known for its blatant homoerotic undertones.

Patton was a gay actor in the ‘80s during the AIDS crisis and rampant homophobia, and he began to live his own nightmare. Back then, being gay in Hollywood could cost you your career. In the film’s trailer, Patton states, “I wake up in the middle of the first movie that I’m the lead actor in, and realize that there’s a gay subtext in it.” After the film, he fell into obscurity.

Respect for “Nightmare 2” has grown in recent years with the gay rights movement. Chimienti decided to track down Patton a few years ago. After some research and a few emails, Chimienti found more than he expected, and he was “quickly learning that there was a bigger story that had been kept secret for decades.”

The film fleshes out and discusses this bigger story and how it relates to today. “Today we have gay subculture exploding into mainstream and pop culture and it’s easy to take comfort in the victories we have made as a community,” remarks Jensen. “But in 2019 it’s still extremely important that we acknowledge and heal the wounds that were inflicted on us not very many years ago.”

The film captures broader relevance beyond Freddy Krueger and horror. It delves into how the struggles of homosexuals in 1985 relate to today. Jensen called these parallels, “too similar to ignore.” The story is more than interesting. “Mark’s Hollywood story is fascinating and unique--and, at the same time, it speaks for all of us,” Chimienti says.

Chimienti and Jensen had nothing but admiration for Patton. The co-directors followed the “scream queen” for more than a year with regular follow ups for a few more years. “Mark was incredibly generous with his time and his story and gave us full access into his life,” Chimienti comments.

Jensen continues the praise, “(Patton) maintains an upbeat and joyous energy when he's interacting with the fans, but isn't afraid to talk about the dark periods of his life and the obstacles he's had to face in order to be a survivor.”

The filmmakers conclude, “Sometimes it’s through our stories and experiences that we discover our similarities. “We hope that ‘Scream, Queen!’ can offer that rare glimpse of Hollywood, homophobia, and Freddy Krueger to all audiences.”

--W. Connor Drake

PHOTO: Roman Chimienti, left, a sound engineer based in NYC, initially contacted Mark Patton through Facebook. Tyler Jensen, right, is a director and editor based in NYC. He has a tattoo of the “Freddy Krueger telephone” on his arm.

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/05/19 @ 9:40 PM – Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street
04/06/19 @ 11:45 AM – Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

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Creating a Food System That Is Equal for All

April 05, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Green grass. Farms. Lots of cows and barnyard animals. Those words conjure up a quaint picture of rural America—a great place to raise a family away from the smog and ills of the big city.

Not quite.

Today we have “factory farming,” where hundreds of animals are raised and housed for food. These farms are typically found in rural, minority, and low-income communities.

Filmmakers Annie Speicher and Matt Wechsler met and interviewed Dr. John Ikerd, an agricultural economist, during the making of “Sustainable,” a film about the pressures of big agribusiness on local farmers.

“During the interview [with Dr. Ikerd], John opened our eyes to the importance that livestock plays in our current system,” say the filmmakers. “Furthermore, he told us about the communities that are suffering because they have to deal with the waste from all these animals.

“Most shocking to us,” they continue, “was the fact that these facilities are all legally protected by government regulations that support the industry over the welfare of people who live in these communities.”

According to the film’s website, 90-95% of all animals raised today for consumption are housed in confinement buildings known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs. That means gallons of waste from these animals. That waste, or manure, is used to fertilize fields. It’s also known to contaminate groundwater and spread toxins to the air. Those living nearby suffer.

The filmmakers worked with the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, or SRAP, to identify appropriate stories and subjects for their film. They travelled to eight states doing research and interviewing subjects. Once Wechsler and Speicher were in the communities, they got to know the residents and “were able to tell their stories in a very organic way,” they say.

The independent filmmakers were up against big business and, at first, were “a little anxious” about the reaction from CAFO owners and operators. They had heard stories about intimidation from these folks, but “got surprisingly little resistance from them while filming,” they say.

There were just a few dicey instances during filming. “One of the first times we filmed in Wisconsin, our car was followed until we left the CAFO zone,” they recount. While in Iowa, someone fired a gun at their drone as it flew over a hog confinement. “Thankfully they missed,” they say.

Then, while in North Carolina, a local lawyer called the two a “nuisance” for filming a public hearing and questioned them about flying their drone. Again, someone followed their car for several miles.

“Other than that, we would classify the treatment from CAFO owners and operators as silent,” they say. The filmmakers even offered to tell their side of the story on camera. At first, one of the CAFO owners agreed to be interviewed on camera, but then never returned the filmmakers’ calls.

The two clarify that their intent was never “to incite any conflict with CAFO owners,” they say. “For the most part, they are abiding the law. Many of them are barely making ends meet.

“We have always viewed the government regulatory system and large corporations as being the ‘enemy,’ not individual CAFO owners. The reality is that this system of industrialized agriculture is benefitting very few people and we need to change that,” they continue.

It comes back to their initial conversations with Ikerd, who grew up in a time where rural America was a place parents wanted to raise their children.

“There was a connection with the land and the farmers who feed us,” says Speicher about her conversation with Ikerd. “He is hopeful that we can create a regenerative agriculture system that brings prosperity back to rural America. There are already a lot of people out there figuring this out. We just need a few more.”

Wechsler agrees, “Regulatory change is not only possible, it is necessary to create a food system that is equal for all. That requires citizens to demand change and politicians to talk about food production, which hasn’t been the case since the 1960s.”

—Anne M. DiTeodoro

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/04/19 @ 4:50 PM – Right to Harm
04/05/19 @ 6:15 PM – Right to Harm
04/06/19 @ 11:20 AM – Right to Harm

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Caring for the Most Vulnerable Patients

April 05, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Healthcare costs and access are two of the most pressing issues facing Americans today. For those living in rural areas, these concerns are even greater, since many residents live far away from medical professionals or hospitals.

The riveting full-length documentary "The Providers" views these issues by following the lives and work of three healthcare providers, including Matt Probst, a physician assistant and the medical director of El Centro Family Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center serving 23,600 square miles of northern New Mexico.

El Centro is different from many other hospitals or health centers, as they treat all patients who come to them.

"The Providers" also spotlights five patients and, as a result, puts a human face on the challenges involved with navigating the byzantine U.S. healthcare system.

In some ways, co-directors Laura Green and Anna Moot-Levin have been working toward making their debut feature film, "The Providers," their whole lives.

"We are both the children of healthcare providers ourselves and have a long-standing fascination with medicine," the women shared in a joint interview. "We grew up with dinner-table discussions about the unequal American healthcare system."

Across three years, Green and Moot-Levin filmed more than 100 days in New Mexico, which gave them unique insights into modern healthcare.

"We saw the ways the healthcare problems in these small towns are entwined with the broader challenges facing rural American communities, and witnessed firsthand the insidious connections between poverty, hopelessness, illness, and addiction," they say.

"We learned that building long-term trusting relationships with healthcare practitioners can have a profound impact on quality of life for individuals and communities."

However, the women were surprised to find that their "somewhat idealistic/romantic notion" of what they call the "'old country doctor' going door-to-door with a little black bag" was far different than the reality facing the trio of providers they met.

"Their warmth and connection to their small-town communities, and the breadth of the medicine they practice—they are true generalists in an era of specialists—is very much in keeping with the country doctor tradition," Green and Anna Moot-Levin say. "At the same time, we learned that many of today’s 'country docs' aren’t actually MDs; they are now nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who are working to meet small-towns’ primary health care needs."

The challenges are also different, the women add, and include an abundance of paperwork and intertwining substance use disorder treatment with primary care.

Still, Green and Anna Moot-Levin’s film speaks to the timeless power of compassion, and "the profoundly positive impact of human connection within healthcare, particularly for people who have been marginalized," they share.

"In different ways, each of the providers in the film connects deeply with their patients and the communities they serve. While nobody disputes that clinicians must excel at the 'science' of medicine— diagnosis and prescription —the film illuminates the ways that the 'art' of patient interaction can itself be healing.

"It is sometimes feeling cared about that makes the greatest difference for the most vulnerable patients."

—Annie Zaleski

PHOTO: Director Anna Moot-Levin on Camera and Director Laura Green on Sound filming at a patient's home in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Photo by Adria Malcolm.

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/05/19 @ 4:25 PM – The Providers
04/06/19 @ 3:00 PM – The Providers
04/07/19 @ 9:10 AM – The Providers

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Female Filmmaker Focuses on the 'Complex and Fascinating Female Nature'

April 05, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Finding realistic, complex cinematic portrayals of women going through seismic life changes can be challenging.

Tonia Mishiali's "Pause" is a notable exception. The haunting film pulls no punches as it tells the story of Elpida (Stela Fyrogeni), a Greek housewife approaching menopause and finally getting fed up with her insensitive husband and stifling life.

In disorienting scenes that blur the lines between fantasy and the real world, Elpida explores illicit romance and her secret daydreams, which leads to questions centered on identity and desire.

"At a time when women in cinema are misrepresented, I wanted this film to depict a female character that is very much real," says the director, who also co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced the film.

"I have always been sensitive to women's issues and equality, while I have been particularly interested in exploring the decadent relationships in marriage. Dealing with this subject in my debut seemed right because it was also very personal."

In particular, Mishiali says her upbringing in Cyprus—where she saw firsthand how the country's patriarchal society affected the women in her direct orbit—had a major impact on "Pause" and how the character of Elpida evolves.

"[I watched] the women in my family and all other women around me living on the sidelines, with the main purpose of their lives serving their spouse and children," she recalls.

"So I wanted to make a film that is viewed through the prism of the complex and fascinating female nature, about the loss of one’s voice, the longing for love and unquenchable desires."

To capture these intimate feelings, Mishiali made a conscious decision to use a hand-held camera, which meant that the movie's perspective was inextricably tied to Elpida's own worldview.

"The audience would only see what she sees," the director adds. "There was no shot without Elpida around. This way I wanted to make the audience immerse into her inner world and really get into her shoes as much as possible."

The end result is that "Pause" is deeply felt— Mishiali dubs the movie "a cautionary tale about a woman at the end of her tether, but without the courage to save herself"—and Elpida is the kind of character that lingers long after the movie ends.

"My protagonist is an original cinematic persona," she says. "She is passive and submissive, but still carries within her hope and freedom.

—Annie Zaleski

PHOTO: Tonia Mishiali was born in Cyprus and studied in the UK. The character of Elpida in her film “Pause” was created to show the reality of women's “everyday lives, and enter their true inner worlds."

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/05/19 @ 9:20 AM – Pause
04/06/19 @ 1:00 PM – Pause
04/07/19 @ 4:40 PM – Pause

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A Glimpse into Decades of Broadway History

April 05, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Producer Jeff Wolk met Leonard Soloway a decade ago from family connections that went back further. “I found him fascinating to talk with as his experience in the theater is simply incredible,” says Wolk. “Not only does Leonard have the longevity, he’s a great storyteller, and his firsthand stories of iconic Broadway stars are amazing.”

Wolk went on to produce “Leonard Soloway’s Broadway,” which covers both Soloway and Broadway.

Soloway is a legend in the theater community, and, at 90 years old, he continues to produce shows. He is known for his “cut-to-the-quick” ability, as Wolk puts it. Soloway has the unique talent of effectively dealing with a Broadway executive, while still treating a waiter with equal respect.

Wolk remarked that there are broader lessons in the film that can be learned from Soloway, and he says, “In my mind, they are even more important.” Out of many, Wolk cites “perseverance and dedication to one’s craft.”

The film displays Soloway’s perseverance in continually challenging himself; in fact, Wolk states that Soloway is “driven for the next success, not relying on the past.”

“Leonard Soloway’s Broadway” also shows audiences a behind-the-scenes look into the Broadway process. Although Wolk says that Soloway “wasn’t thrilled” about filming rehearsals, “those moments that we did capture turned out to be some of the most compelling to watch.”

In fact, Wolk said that a common comment from early test audiences was that “...they had no idea of how brutal the process of putting together a production can be.” Not only is this movie a look at a fascinating person, it also shows aspects of Broadway that audiences do not normally see.

Wolk sums up his film thusly: “Not only do you get a rare behind-the-scenes look atdecades of Broadway history, you get inspiration from an individual with a unique take on following your dream, and becoming the person you want to be.”

W. Connor Drake

PHOTO: Leonard Soloway’s illustrious career started right here. He began as a volunteer at the Cleveland Playhouse. His 70-plus-year career is truly amazing—he has produced over 100 shows, received more than 40 Tony awards, 62 Tony nominations, and 3 Pulitzer Prizes.

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/05/19 @ 8:30 PM – Leonard Soloway's Broadway
04/06/19 @ 1:15 PM – Leonard Soloway's Broadway

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