Cleveland International Film Festival } March 27 – April 7, 2019 } Tower City Cinemas

Sharing His Story So Others Can Overcome Their Suffering

April 12, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Collier Landry admits his story is “a very, very heavy subject matter.” He also knows it is a story that just may help others who have suffered great trauma see that there is hope.

The documentary, “A Murder in Mansfield,” is the story of Landry’s mother’s murder. And it was his testimony as a 12-year-old boy that put the murderer—his father—behind bars.

“I’m an artist,” he says. “I wanted to do something creative with this situation.”

He didn’t necessarily want to tell his story, but he did think a documentary series about the consequences of violence was a project he would like to undertake.

Landry grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, about a 90-minute drive south of Cleveland. After the tragedy of his youth, he studied at Ohio University and Oberlin College and Conservatory, and then headed west to Los Angeles to become a musician. However, it wasn’t meant to be. He was robbed of all his equipment and recordings, and left with only his laptop. He began dabbling in photography, film, and video editing, and it became his new career.

In 2015, through a girlfriend, he fortuitously met Barbara Kopple, two-time Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature. They talked about his story idea and started collaborating on a one-hour TV pilot. Kopple would direct, and he would shoot it.

The film, though, became his story. “I’m in 87 minutes of the 88-minute film,” he says. “It felt very weird to be in front of the camera.”

But he knew it was what he had to do.

More than 20 years had passed since Landry had seen his father. The film isn’t just about that meeting; Landry talks with others in this small Ohio community to see how this has affected their lives, too. “We don’t look at how [these tragedies] affect the community, friends, and children,” Landry says.

“I lived with this my whole life,” he continues. “I wanted to reach out to people who have also suffered. I’m open about my story, so I hope it helps others get over their trauma and get on with their lives.”

He says confronting his father after all these years was “extremely cathartic.” He concludes, “Not everyone gets to do this. I’m very fortunate.”

Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
04/12/18 @ 7:10 PM – A Murder in Mansfield
04/13/18 @ 12:20 PM – A Murder in Mansfield
04/14/18 @ 2:10 PM – A Murder in Mansfield

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"The Assassin's Code" places Cleveland at the center of the story

April 12, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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When director David A. Armstrong says “The Assassin’s Code” was “a Cleveland project from its inception,” he’s not exaggerating.

First and foremost, the film was inspired by the region’s colorful history—namely, the “Danny Greene era of local Irish and Italian mobs in the ‘70s and early ‘80s,” he says. The film follows young Michael Connelly (Justin Chatwin), the son of a disgraced Cleveland cop, as he enters the police force and gets tangled up in a web of crime, intrigue, and deception.

Edward Lee “Doc” Cornett, a Cleveland native, wrote the original version of the script, while the film’s executive producer and financier, Joseph E. LoConti, is a local entrepreneur and businessman.

“One of the things that appealed to Joe about funding the project was providing work for so many local film crew and actors,” Armstrong says.

The film was shot in various Cleveland neighborhoods, at a whopping 32 different locations—including the Italian-American Brotherhood Club, Severance Hall, Sidari’s Italian Foods, Lou’s Tavern in Little Italy, and Church of the Covenant—in just 20 days. “Fortunately everyone I dealt with in Cleveland in regards to locations went above and beyond the call of duty to assist me in any way they could,” Armstrong says.

In the director’s eyes, what separates “The Assassin’s Code” from other thrillers is “the emotional depth of the characters and their relationships,” as he puts it. That’s the influence of screenwriter Valerie Grant, who built on Cornett’s “original straightforward cop-mobster plot” and added in characters’ “haunted backstories, hidden agendas, conflicted relationships, and emotional growth.”

“It became at its core a grown-up, coming-of-age story,” Armstrong says. “With guns. And a Doberman. . . . It’s a performance piece disguised as a crime thriller.”

Armstrong was also mighty impressed with the city itself, as its versatile architecture and hospitable businesses made shooting a snap.

“I’d spent time in Cleveland developing a previous project and was struck by what a beautiful city it is, so we were glad to film it here,” he says. “It’s cliché by now to say that ‘the city was a character in the film,’ but we loved what a beautiful and organic backdrop it provided for the story.”

Annie Zaleski

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Related Screenings:
04/12/18 @ 8:30 PM – The Assassin's Code
04/14/18 @ 2:50 PM – The Assassin's Code

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Hal, the Genius

April 11, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Amy Scott was eight months pregnant with her first child when she read Nick Dawson’s biography on Hal Ashby, Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel.

“It floored me,” she says. She was familiar with Ashby’s films, and was “an ardent fan of his storytelling and gorgeous artistry,” but she didn’t know much about the man.

“I could immediately visualize his story,” she continues, but assumed that it had already been done. “Miraculously,” she says, “it had not.”

It was time for the story to be told, and she knew she was the one to tell it. Yes, her background was in filmmaking, but as an editor.

This would be her directorial debut.

Hal Ashby was a cinematic genius and quite prolific in the 1970s. “Harold and Maude,” “Coming Home,” “Shampoo,” and “Being There” are just some of his films that cinephiles will recognize. “The fact that he was able to create seven Oscar-winning films in nine years is a crazy feat of creative strength and endurance,” exclaims Scott. She knew, however, that even geniuses are not without fault.

“When you can witness that level of creative output,” she says, “it often comes at a cost—usually in the form of an emotional and personal sacrifice.”

Not only did Scott interview the likes ofJane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Rosanna Arquette, actors in Ashby’s films, she was able to read his letters and corr espondence, which she found fascinating.

“I knew he had a sharp wit from the scripts that he chose to make, and he had a deep understanding of the human condition and dark comedy,” says Scott. “But it was his wry sense of humor that really got me … [he wrote] these hilariously acerbic memos to, like, the head of Paramount!?!”

Although her children are growing up on Disney, her introduction to film was drastically different. “My parents gave us a lot of latitude with the TV and I can remember watching ‘Close Encounters’ and ‘Jaws’ at way too young of an age,” she admits.

In college, she “discovered the world of documentary filmmaking and never looked back.” After her professor made her class watch two documentaries in one day—“Hands on a Hard Body,” an independent film, and “The Sorrow and the Pity,” a war/historical story, she was hooked. “It cracked my brain wide open,” she says.

To other young women trying to follow their dream of filmmaking, she has this advice: “None of this will be easy, and perhaps won’t pay off for a long time—and never in the form you think it will—but it can, and will, be done if you adhere to the stubborn, blind passion that is filmmaking!”

Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
04/10/18 @ 9:45 PM – Hal
04/11/18 @ 6:30 PM – Hal
04/12/18 @ 11:45 AM – Hal

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Cheers! Documentary highlights Scotland's top-shelf whisky industry

April 11, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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The next time you have a nip of Scotch whisky, don’t be surprised if it’s much more satisfying than your average drink. Not only have Scotland’s residents been distilling the potent libation for over 500 years, but the country’s whisky industry is highly regulated, in order to ensure the production of a top-notch product.

Highlighting the unique nature of Scotch whisky is one goal of the documentary “Scotch - A Golden Dream,” which covers the history, heritage, and evolution of the spirit through the eyes of its makers, distillers, and blenders.

“[Whisky] has brought [the Scots] fame and recognition around the world,” says director Andrew Peat. “And, as the makers clearly articulate in our film, they have a passion to produce only the finest product, and work constantly to develop it.”

Peat first became interested in Scotch whisky while spending a year as an exchange fellow at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. After matriculating at USC Film School, he discovered there was “very little in the way of documentaries” covering the libation, and decided to dive into researching.

As a result, his documentary skews toward the educational. It covers the process of whisky-making, from the farm to the factory, and highlights interesting factoids about the spirit. For example, although Taiwan only has a population of 23 million, it’s the only country in the world where single-malt outsells blended whisky.

While making the film, Peat and his crew encountered several obstacles, including Scotland’s soggy weather. “Film equipment doesn’t like rain, so we were constantly dodging in and out of our rented car,” he recalls. Distilling 67 hours of footage into an 84-minute film was also “a real challenge,” Peat says.

“The heart of our film is the characters, the men and women who produce Scotch whisky, from the barley farmers to the bottle makers,” he says. “You can literally see the passion and joy and pride they have in their work and this world-renowned product. They share their amazing stories, and some very humorous anecdotes with us.”

Such effervescent zeal is contagious—and ensures that “Scotch - A Golden Dream” has broad appeal.

“Our film is meant to be enjoyed by anyone, not only by Scotch lovers and people who are interested in Scotland,” Peat says. “It’s a film of the heart. You will laugh—and possibly cry—by the time the credits roll.”

Annie Zaleski

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Related Screenings:
04/11/18 @ 5:00 PM – Scotch - A Golden Dream
04/12/18 @ 9:25 PM – Scotch - A Golden Dream
04/14/18 @ 9:35 AM – Scotch - A Golden Dream

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Making Abusers Take Accountability

April 10, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Attiya Khan doesn’t use the word “brave” to describe herself. But she “would use that word to describe anyone else who participates in a creative project to work through their trauma,” she says.

Khan’s creative project is her film, “A Better Man,” in which she confronts her former abusive boyfriend, Steve, from years past to ask him about how he remembers their relationship and how he justifies what he did to her.

“When I think of when I was in a relationship with Steve, I see myself as incredibly strong and resilient,” she says. “Many people view people who are experiencing violence as weak. I disagree. It takes an enormous amount of strength to live in a violent relationship and to keep going.”

Khan and Steve were in a relationship for more than two years, and she is convinced, although shocked, that talking to the person who hurt her helped her heal.

“By talking in detail about the abuse Steve inflicted on me … and how it impacted me, I started to feel some of the pain release from my body,” she says. Although the relationship ended two decades ago, Khan still had nightmares and panic attacks. “I feel more calm and comfortable,” she says about her life now.

In addition to directing this film, Khan is a counselor, advocate, and healer.

“On a personal level, I feel hopeful because this experience has shown me that people are capable of becoming accountable and repairing harms which leads to healing,” she says.

Although the project was painful and taxing on Khan, once she began, she never thought twice about walking away from it. Initially, she planned that the film would include information with professionals who work with people who use violence. When Steve agreed to participate, she knew she had to “dive deeply” into her own story.

“It was incredibly difficult and painful,” she admits. “At times I felt like my body would explode from the intense feelings our conversations brought up.”

For some, her film may be too difficult to watch, and she doesn’t recommend that everyone who has been harmed confront their abuser. “But it should be a choice that we are given and there should be lots of support when participating in conversations like Steve and I have had,” she says.

She points out that her meetings with Steve were guided by a professional therapist, Tod Augusta-Scott. “He helped us navigate through our difficult conversations and helped to create a space where both Steve and I felt supported, comfortable, vulnerable, and brave enough to dive into our past together,” she says.

Khan concludes, “This film is not about forgiveness. It is about the healing that takes place when the person who hurt me takes responsibility for the harm he created.”

Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
04/10/18 @ 4:30 PM – A Better Man
04/11/18 @ 9:25 PM – A Better Man

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