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April 3, 2014

CIFF concludes with record attendance

By Travis Raymond

Michelle Josue’s documentary “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine,” about the highly publicized murder of a gay college student in 1998, won the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival’s closing night ceremonies March 30th. 

For 12 days, the CIFF screened 186 feature length films and 168 short films from 68 countries at Tower City Cinemas.  Films from the festival were also screened at nine additional locations in the area, including the Capital Theatre, Beachland Ballroom, Hanna Theatre, and the Apollo Theatre.

By the film festival’s closing night, more than 800 volunteer workers had volunteered 10,178 total hours to make the CIFF happen.  The CIFF had its biggest year to date, finishing with a total attendance of 97,804 and set a new single day attendance record on March 29, when 11,875 people attended screenings.  Cleveland State University also hosted well attended discussion panels on campus with filmmakers from the festival March 29th. 

The festival kicked off with the opening night gala where guests screened the first film of the festival, Scottish romantic comedy “Not Another Happy Ending,” in seven theaters at Tower City.

While introducing the film, the director John McKay immediately remarked to guests about the festival’s friendly atmosphere and said that his stay in Cleveland reminded him of home.

“I feel at home here because being in Cleveland feels a lot like being in Glasgow,” McKay said.  “It’s misty, rainy, cold, and neglected, but also resurgent and proud.”

After McKay’s film opened the festival March 19th, screenings of the rest of films began March 20th. 

A single screening of “For No Good Reason,” a British documentary about artist and political cartoonist Ralph Steadman, writer Hunter S. Thompson and narrated by Johnny Depp, was among the festival’s first full day of films. 

Directed by Charlie Paul, the intimate documentary explores the tumultuous synergy that marked so many of Steadman and Thompson’s collaborations and brings to life via animation Steadman’s iconic illustrations from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

From South Korea, Park Hoon-jung’s “New World” drags viewers through all the high tension, low morals and brutal violence expected of a film about organized crime.  Fans of the popular 2010 revenge film “I Saw the Devil,” written by Park, will recognize in “New World” the writer and director’s emerging trademark for onscreen brutality from the very first scene and throughout.

Providing some local flavor, Cleveland's own Chris Kasick debuted his raunchy Christmas comedy “Uncle Nick” at the festival.  Shot entirely in Cleveland and finished just weeks before the festival, “Uncle Nick” pays loving homage to the 1974 riot known as “Ten Cent Beer Night,” the most infamous night in the history of the Cleveland Indians.

“A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times” is an American documentary that revisits the infamous scandal that rocked the most prestigious newspaper in the world.

Brittney Shephard, one of the co-producers for “A Fragile Trust,” came to Cleveland to present the film. 

“The CIFF has been amazing,” Shephard said.  “The attendance is great, the community is involved, and the seats are full, so that means the word has really gotten out.”

Shephard interacted with festival attendees and answered questions from the audience about both her film and the filmmaking process during Q-and-A sessions and panel discussions held after the film’s screenings.

“And all the people in Cleveland have just been so friendly,” Shephard said.

Veteran director and producer Gordon Quinn also voiced special appreciation for the CIFF.
“I have found that at this festival, it is easy for me as a filmmaker to meet and interact with other filmmakers and to just see films,” Quinn said.

One of the founding members of the nonprofit documentary production company Kartemquin Films, Quinn produced Usama Alshaibi’s latest documentary, “American Arab,” which screened for audiences twice at the festival.

In addition to participating in a discussion panel at the CIFF, Quinn joined one of Dr. Kim Neuendorf’s film classes at Cleveland State University to speak with students about documentary filmmaking.  Quinn addressed a number of subjects, including copyright law and ethical concerns in filmmaking.

“The students had good questions,” Quinn said.  “They were not shy – that’s a good thing, an important thing for people interested in this field.”

Filmmakers at Cleveland State's panel discussions included directors Michael Lee Niremberg, PJ Raval, Tracy Droz Tragos, Blake Robbins and Jesse Roesler, whose documentary “The Starfish Throwers” won the festival’s Global Health Competition this year.

Students had the opportunity to hear filmmakers speak candidly about documentary filmmaking, editing and post-production, independent film production and distribution and exhibition at film festivals. 

Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine

George Gund III Memoirial Central and Eastern European Film Competition

Life Feels good

Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition
The Sarnos: A Life in Dirty Movies

Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine

Global Health Competition
The Starfish Throwers

Local Heroes Competition
The Sax Man

Music Movies Competition
The Winding Stream

RealWomenDirect Award for Exellence in Directing by a Woman
The Longest Distance

Cleveland State University Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film
Fool's Day

Best Live Action Short Film Award
For the Birds

Best Animated Short Film Award
The Numberlys

Best Documentary Short Film Award
My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech

Best International Short Film Award
The Landing

Best Student Short Film

Tobacco Burn

Best Women's Short Film Award
Reporting on The Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust

Best LGBT Short Film
A Last Farewell

Best Ohio Short Film Award
Globe Trot

The Clover and Maggie Award

Young Americans

The Spalding and Jackson Award
The Choice