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

Promoting a Life Without Regret

April 07, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Simon Hunter doesn’t want anyone to have to look back on life with regret. That’s the theme of his new film, “Edie.”

He describes his third feature film as the story of “an 83-year-old woman who, after a lifetime of bitterness and unhappiness, heads to Scotland to climb a mountain and to rekindle the magic and excitement of her childhood.”

It might seem an odd choice of subject matter, given Hunter’s two prior feature outings: “Lighthouse” (1999) is a pulse-pounding thriller about a group of castaways shipwrecked on a small island with a bloodthirsty serial killer, and “The Mutant Chronicles” (2008) is an experimental science fiction film starring sci-fi-action film veterans Thomas Jane and Ron Perlman. But the theme strikes a special chord for him.

Hunter, who frequently lectures on digital filmmaking at universities, was approached by a student who was worried that their studies were taking the wrong trajectory. When he advised them to change course, however, he was stunned when the student said that it was too late. “They’re twenty-two!” he marvels. “The reality in life is it isn’t too late at any age.”

He began to wonder just how many people end up locked in that kind of cycle. “It’s just a mental thing stopping them from going and doing something that they’ve really always wanted to do,” he points out. “How many people, at the very end of their lives, look back on their lives and are just full of regret?”

His answer is “Edie,” who rebels against being put in a nursing home by taking off to have the grand adventure she’s always longed for. He drew from his own adventures in the process: Hunter is a veteran backpacker who has traveled the world, recently taking a four-month trek across both islands of New Zealand along the Te Araroa Trail.

Ohio, as it turns out, has a special place in his heart as well. He spent a year as an exchange student attending Cincinnati’s Seven Hills High School. This return to Ohio is one of “Edie’s” final stops on the Festival circuit before a wide release planned for May. What comes next, exactly, is unclear, but it will be some kind of adventure; as he says in his blog, “I’m always off somewhere or getting into trouble somewhere else.”

It’s a great way to live without regret.

Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
04/06/18 @ 9:20 AM – Edie
04/07/18 @ 3:50 PM – Edie
04/08/18 @ 1:55 PM – Edie

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Be Curious with Dee

April 07, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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You may not recognize her face, but once you hear that voice, you’ll know it’s Dee Perry. And she’s inviting you to be part of her “Embrace Curiosi-Dee” audio program—a first for the Cleveland International Film Festival.

“I’m SO excited!” she says. “I have watched in awe as, each year, the Festival’s dedicated staff has sought out powerful films from around the globe, and brought home cinematic messages that connect us to worlds outside of our own, while illuminating our inner worlds as well. To have a chance to be even a small part of that mission is thrilling!”

Although Perry has retired from her full-time public radio program on ideastream, she is still as busy as ever. “I’ve taken on a number of projects that I wouldn’t have had time and/or energy for otherwise,” she says. You will still find her working on several oral history projects as well as researching, writing, and hosting programs for such clients as Tri-C, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and Cleveland Public Theatre.

“I always wanted to maintain the friendships and relationships I built in the community over almost three decades in public broadcasting, and in the past couple of years what that’s meant is saying ‘yes’ to projects that challenge and intrigue me,” she says.

Want to share a Festival story with Dee? Loved a film and want to tell others about it?

Then stop and see Dee in Chat Room 2, Level 2 of Tower City, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 7-8 and 11-13. Those who do can share their CIFF story, have it recorded, and then uploaded to StoryCorps.org, an online platform for collecting, sharing, and preserving people’s stories.

This year’s theme is Embrace Curiosity and Dee is “curious to hear what stories audience members will share about the impact the

Festival has had on them,” she says. “I’m also a film lover and I look forward to chatting about past and present onscreen favorites with other fans.”

She admits, “I have NO idea who’ll stop by to chat, but that’s part of what I like about this project: the element of surprise.”

Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Cleveland's Bone Thugs-N-Harmony take center stage in new doc

April 07, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Cleveland audiences are already on their feet for their hometown boys, Grammy award-winning rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Director Tim Newfang’s “Sons of St. Clair” brings the story of two of the group’s founding members from the recording studio to the movie theater.

“Initially, I was inspired to tell a more biographical story of Bone’s career, and we still have hopes for that project progressing,” says Newfang. “As we were simultaneously filming and building a relationship with the guys, Krayzie and Bizzy decided to create a duet record, ‘New Waves.’ We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pivot and tell a story about what they were up to currently, as well as the plan for the future.”

And as if fans had any doubt of what it would be like to document the creative process of Krayzie and Bizzy, Newfang confirms our suspicions.

“They’re the best,” says Newfang. “I’m grateful they allowed us access into the studio and their world and trusted me to tell their story. It’s a special thing to be able to witness masters of their craft create art.”

Formed on Cleveland’s east side in 1991, Bone Thugs’ body of work has made a lasting impression on the music industry and continues to inspire new generations of rap and hip-hop artists. While many music careers are fleeting, Bone’s grit and passion have helped them endure.

“I hope [the film] lets artists know that no matter what age you are, or how long you’ve been doing something, that you can always continue to evolve and progress and create new art,” says Newfang. “There is no expiration date on creativity. I hope that the film makes Clevelanders proud of their city and of those from the larger community that have accomplished great things like Bone and LeBron.”

—Amy Brown

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Related Screenings:
04/07/18 @ 9:15 PM – Sons of St. Clair
04/08/18 @ 4:20 PM – Sons of St. Clair

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Light and hope found in even the darkest concepts

April 06, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Dana Nachman is a natural storyteller. She’s been doing it for most of her life.

She started out in journalism, rising in the NBC news ranks and winning an Emmy for “Close To Home,” a 2002 documentary about families impacted by the 9/11 terror attacks. Making that documentary was a life-changer.

“I thought ‘wow, this is so much better!’” she told the Philippine Star in October. Soon she would find herself moving away from journalism and focusing more and more on filmmaking. It helped that a filmmaker’s schedule was more compatible with raising three children. “I knew as time went on, I would see my kids less and less.”

After her first feature-length documentary, “Witch Hunt,” was released, she was finally ready to cut the cord with journalism altogether, switching to full-time filmmaking in 2009. A string of highly acclaimed films followed, including prior CIFF entries “The Human Experiment” (2013) and “Batkid Begins” (2015).

This year, Nachman is bringing the CIFF two exuberant films. “Pick of the Litter,” her feature-length documentary, follows the journey of five puppies as they train to be guide dogs for the blind. “The Final Show,” meanwhile, is her first narrative film: “A 98-year-old woman who dies at the breakfast table . . . gets transported to a place called the Between,” she explained. Reunited with prior loves, the woman must decide which one she wants to spend eternity with.

Nachman has a deft touch with topics and concepts – disability, mortality – that, in other hands, could be depressing and melodramatic. Instead, her stories are suffused with optimism and hope. “The Final Show” was actually inspired by cleaning out her grandmother’s apartment and finding an 80-year-old letter from a first love carefully tucked away. “It just made me think, ‘who would she choose now?’” she recalled.

For Nachman, finding inspiration is “sort of like finding love,” as she explained to Rogue Media. “As creative people, we just have a lot of ideas, and some just stick with you . . . it’s like they choose you, and you can’t let them go. I do think that in general, I like the story of an underdog.”

“Pick of the Litter,” which has been earning glowing reviews as it tours the Festival circuit, definitely qualifies. While not all of the puppies will make the cut to become guide dogs for the blind, all of their journeys get a sympathetic exploration. It’s “very light,” she explained. “We get into the isolation and being blind and other issues, but it’s also inherently a dog competition movie, so there’s some ease in that.”

Lara Klaber

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.1 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/05/18 @ 9:15 AM – Comedy Shorts Program 1
04/05/18 @ 2:35 PM – Pick of the Litter
04/05/18 @ 6:35 PM – Hollywood Shorts Program
04/06/18 @ 7:00 PM – Pick of the Litter
04/07/18 @ 9:30 AM – Pick of the Litter
04/07/18 @ 9:40 PM – Comedy Shorts Program 1
04/14/18 @ 9:20 AM – Pick of the Litter

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Yes, Chef: Cameron Yates' Doc Explores Food and Family

April 06, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Child prodigy Flynn McGarry was foraging in backyards and cooking his findings in elaborate menus in his mother’s living room since he was 10 years old. Sounds like a great premise for a film. Bonus: his mother actually had been filming him for years.

Not only was Cameron Yates fascinated by the story, he wanted to try his food, and he wanted to meet the family.

“We can listen to a prodigy violinist perform a concerto or watch a prodigy gymnast do a back handspring,” explains Yates. “But cooking is generally a much more subjective art form, unless you’re able to taste the results or see the plating in person.”

Audiences shouldn’t think that this is another episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Junior.” “Chef Flynn” is much more than a cooking show.

“I hope that foodies will be drawn into Flynn’s story … but then come to realize the film is a much larger story about boyhood, motherhood, and the sacrifices parents make every day for their children,” says Yates.

Yates filmed the young McGarry for five years. That footage, along with family interviews and the film Flynn’s mother Meg shot, became the documentary.

“Over the years I filmed, Flynn began pushing against the label of prodigy, and I was excited to explore his quest to be seen as an individual and, eventually a chef, despite his age,” says Yates.

“Chef Flynn” had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Yates is no stranger to documentaries or film festivals.

“I’ve always been curious about eccentric people, outsiders in particular and untraditional family dynamics,” he says.

His first film, “The Canal Street Madam” was the story of a New Orleans madam who got busted by the FBI for running a brothel with her mother and daughter.

Filmmaking was his side interest. His real job was as a programmer for several film festivals. He credits Basil Tsiokos, who worked as a program director for several film festivals (Nantucket, DOC NYC, and Sundance) as the person who got him involved in the festival world. First as a submission screener for NewFest: The NY LGBT Film Fest, and then its documentary programmer. From there, he went on to program the Hamptons International Film Festival. He also was a long-time volunteer for Sundance and the New York Film Festival.

“I love the screening and selection process, but had always wanted to make films more full-time,” says Yates.

Knowing the drill of programming and seeing several film festivals behind-the-scenes workings, hasn’t jaded him. He’s thrilled to bring his latest film to CIFF.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Cleveland’s curatorial acumen and Bill Guentzler’s leadership and guidance,” Yates says. “Our entire film team is beyond excited to be bringing ‘Chef Flynn’ to screen in Cleveland and especially to be a part of the FilmSlam student screening series.”

--Anne M. DiTeodoro

Photo: Cameron Yates followed young Chef Flynn McGarry for five years, shooting film footage of food and family, all to get at the heart of what this prodigy’s life is like. Photo by Philipp Engelhorn

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.1 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/06/18 @ 9:30 AM – Chef Flynn
04/06/18 @ 6:45 PM – Chef Flynn
04/07/18 @ 12:00 PM – Chef Flynn

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