CLE Adventure #6: The Cleveland International Film Festival

Friday, April 15, 2016

I admit: I'm not much for independent films.

I mean, that's a pretty broad statement. Independent films vary broadly in topic, genre, quality... but for some reason, they never seem to appeal to me. Give me a hugely hyped Melissa McCarthy comedy or a Morgan Freeman thriller any day.

And yet, when the Cleveland International Film Festival started up this year, I couldn't wait to get my mitts on tickets to... something, anything! I attended a CIFF event in the fall of 2014, right after I moved back to Ohio, where attendees got to vote on short films. It was the first time I ever really thought about independent films as just, well, films.

My friend Lindsey decided to come up to Cleveland for a 24-hour "Adventure Day," which has become one of our favorite sporadic traditions. We decided we wanted to check out a CIFF film, & we got to work deciding which one. There were dozens upon dozens to choose from, but we narrowed it down to a couple that fit within our Friday-night time slot (leaving us time afterward for an inaugural cone at Tremont Scoops on their opening day of spring!)

We decided on Hunky Dory, described as follows:
"Heart-warming and fun while also tragically bittersweet, HUNKY DORY is an uplifting tale of a wannabe artist changing from his self-destructive nature to becoming the man responsible for the only true thing he’s ever created."
The film was, in a word, incredible. I don't know how else to describe it. It was so good that I feel like it deserves to be famous, like, "Why isn't everyone paying attention this film?!" I liked it so much that I was disappointed to learn that it didn't win any of CIFF's awards.

At the end of the film, the co-directors - one of whom was the star actor, too - came down to the front of the theater for a quick audience Q&A. How often do you get to watch an amazing film & then talk to the dudes who made it a reality? They were passionate & humble, genuinely excited to be there & to share their art with us.

But beyond how much I liked the film itself, I also loved the experience of attending CIFF. All of the films are shown at the movie theater at Tower City Center, which I have fond memories of visiting as a kid. Cleveland's landmark skyscraper is home to offices, shopping, hotels, dining, & more - but its former glory has certainly diminished in time, & it's got a reputation for being a bit sad/creepy these days. But CIFF brings it alive again - alive with people, with color, with noise & excitement. The lines are long & the volunteers are just as enthusiastic as the viewers, who get in line early to snag the best seats to their films of choice.

In short, attending CIFF made me proud of Cleveland & got me even more excited for summer, when this city has so much to offer. I wanted to attend more films, but alas, with a vacation planned right in the middle of it, it just wasn't to be. As it turns out, though, this year's CIFF was pretty darn successful:
  • 102,255 attendees
  • $144,660 in challenge-match donations
  • 192 feature films
  • 213 short subjects
  • 72 countries of origin
  • 300 guest filmmakers
  • 11,000 volunteer hours
I look forward to doing my part next year to increase those stats a little bit by attending more than one film. So much to watch, so little time!

Tell me: Did you make it to CIFF this year? Have you ever been to a film festival? What's your favorite indie film & where can I watch it?

Check out my other Cleveland adventures, which so far include activities like seeing a show at Playhouse Square, buying everything at the West Side Market, & drinking with dinosaurs - &, of course, stay tuned for more to come!

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