Cleveland International Film Festival fan re-caps this year's stellar event
By MARTHA TOWNS
It's the images that stay with you long after the screen goes dark. It's the stories and the sights you have seen, stories you never have heard and places you never have been. It is an experience that takes your totally out of your everyday surroundings and throws you out into the world.
The 37th Cleveland International Film Festival is just a memory now. The small but mighty staff that makes the festival happen every year has rested up and is already hard at work planning for 2014. Those of us who just have to show up every year have gone back to our normal lives. Those of you who are "film fanatics" know what I am talking about. The rest of you probably think anyone who watches 18 movies in 11 days is nuts and that's not anywhere near our record. We didn't even get down there for two days, three for me. But who's counting?
Serious festival fans don't do much else during the festival. The idea is to see as many movies as you can. We think three a day is about right though we did four one day this year and lived to talk about it. One man saw more than 60 which is seriously amazing and can be done if you don't want to eat or sleep much. The serious movie-goers just try to see as many as possible. Many people come from out of town and others take their vacation during the festival.
If you don't go to the movies much or maybe just once in a while, you probably wonder what the big attraction is. And, despite the warnings that parking at Tower City was going to be a problem what with basketball and baseball and everything else going on, parking wasn't any more difficult than usual. Besides, it's free if you see a movie. So there's really no excuse unless you are just one of those people who just won't go downtown for anything. Do you know what you are missing?
So here's what the big attraction is: the Cleveland International Film Festival gives us a chance to see how the rest of the world lives and what they are thinking about. The movies came in this year from 65 countries (how they get here and are taken care of is one of the festival miracles). You see how people live and how they deal with their problems. You see fine actors from other countries; you see humor and pathos and love and misery and every other human emotion. Not all the movies are fabulous, not by a long shot, but when they are good, they are very, very good.
If there's a trick to choosing the best movies, I haven't discovered it yet. This year there were 180 features and 164 short subjects from 65 countries. Trying to pick the best from the catalogue descriptions is daunting indeed. This year we chose by time slot, easily seeing three a day with time for happy hour which, these days, makes quite a nice light meal. No sense eating too much if you are going to be sitting in the dark. I only dozed off once.
Over the years we have learned that our favorite movies are documentaries in which you see real people, dealing with real issues. More than simple entertainment, they are education in a way that is easy to swallow. Now I understand more of what is going on in Syria and how truly tragic it is as the country is being demolished. Irreplaceable antiquities are being destroyed much as they were in Iraq. Lives are being ruined. "God Loves Uganda" was a hair-raising look at the considerable damage that is done by those who think they are doing God's work. "Rebels with a Cause" celebrated the people who fought to save Point Reyes in California from being developed. "Reject" dealt heartbreakingly with teen suicide and a boy from Mentor who was bullied.
We missed award-winning "Good 'Ol Freda" and Freda herself, the Beatles' secretary in the early days but saw a wonderful Canadian film about a couple struggling with the issues of aging. At the opposite end of the spectrum we saw a fit and vital Mariel Hemingway in person, Ernest's granddaughter, whose film dealt with the family history of suicide.
There are as many wacky movies as their are serious ones and you can choose, as a ticket buyer, to go for mindless entertainment or seriously challenging subjects that will make you think and will stick with you for more than five minutes after you leave the theater.
The Cleveland International Film Festival may not be exactly your cup of tea but how will you know until you try it? The people-watching alone is almost worth the price of admission, but the opportunity to see some of the best movies being made all over the world is certainly worth a trip downtown.
Watch out though, no matter what movies you choose, someone else is going to choose one you wish you had seen. We saw some terrific movies this year but not one of them won a cash prize. There are a couple I wish we had seen, but there's always the chance they'll show up at the Cinematheque or the Cedar-Lee.
I can hardly wait for next year.