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20 Must See Films at the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, it’s not Christmas. It’s the 39th annual Cleveland International Film Festival! Growing bigger and bigger each year, the fest has over 425 films playing this time around. That’s a pretty giant number, so narrowing down your choices can be pretty tricky. Due to my superhuman abilities*, I’ve been able to see a bunch of the films already. There’s lots of good flicks, so coming up with a list of twenty isn’t an easy task. But whether you’re a fan of documentaries, drama, action, animation, comedy, romance, or [insert genre here], there’s definitely something for you below. If you’ve never been to the festival before, come see why attendance keeps rising (last year’s number: 97, 804!). Forget about Lebron and the Republican National Convention, everything awesome about Cleveland happens March 18-29th at Tower City Cinemas. For showtimes, head to http://www.clevelandfilm.org and be sure to use the code “CELLAR” to get $2 off each ticket.

 

20 YEARS OF MADNESS

Directed by Jeremy Joyce, this documentary follows one man on his quest to revive his old public access sketch comedy show, 30 Minutes Of Madness. The film also examines the disappointment we feel about the dreams we leave behind. Many will relate to such regrets, inspired by the thought that maybe there’s still time.

 

THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED

A mysterious suitcase will become the catalyst for a series of events that will lead an 100-year-old man on an epic adventure filled with fun, new friends, and extreme danger. This hilarious thrillride could easily be called Sweden’s Forrest Gump, but grittier. It’s pure fun, and proof that age is just a number.

 

ABOVE ALL ELSE

Above All Else documents high-wire artist David Daniel’s tumultuous experience trying to prevent TransCanada from ruining his land to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite whether or not it stopped construction, Daniel’s brave antics ignited a fire under grassroots climate change activists, who have continued the work he started. You’ve heard the heated arguments on the subject, but this film gives it a human face.

 

 ATIS 

An incredibly sad tale of a mom and son looking for food in postwar Kosovo. [SHORT]

 

ALMOST THERE

Two filmmakers randomly stumbled onto the art of Peter Anton at a Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana. After discovering he was living in deplorable conditions as a hoarder, the pair set up an art exhibition for him. While promoting the event, a reporter uncovers a very disturbing part of Anton’s past. Almost There is a documentary about outsider art, but also an unexpected tale of forgiveness and regret that explores the dark side of a creative mind.

 

 DOO DOO’S REVENGE 

You’ll be rooting for this brave young boy as he takes revenge on his mother’s absolutely awful boyfriend. [SHORT]

 

FORCED PERSPECTIVE

Clevelanders will appreciate this documentary about local artist, Derek Hess. From his early days drawing flyers for the Euclid Tavern, to international fame as a t-shirt designer and artist, Hess has always stood out for his deeply expressive work. The film also explores how he uses art to deal with his struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder.

HEAVEN ADORES YOU

Presented by Cellar Door

Rather than focusing on the tabloid details of his death, this terrific documentary offers a personal and more balanced view of indie hero, Elliott Smith. The film also takes you inside Smith’s creative process, from his early days in Heatmiser, to his uncomfortable brush with fame, rubbing elbows with Celine Dion at the Academy Awards. Heaven Adores You is not a film about death. It is a beautiful tribute to one of our generation’s most gifted and brilliant musicians.

HOTWIRE

A shy guy must bring find the strength to finally make his daydream a reality. [SHORT]

IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT

An emotional and haunting WWII film about a father who must make a very difficult decision for his family. [SHORT]

KICK IT!

A young tomboy struggling with cancer has to face the fact that her soccer days are through. As she fights for her life, her classmates rally together for her, including an unlikely advocate who will leave a lasting impression on her young heart. It’s doubtful that Kick It! will leave a dry eye in the theater. But even in it’s darkest moments, this incredible film shines a light on the beautiful side of humanity, and the relationships that make the unbearable bearable.

 

THE LITTLE DEATH

Focusing on the sex lives of four couples, The Little Death goes behind closed doors in the otherwise vanilla suburbs to uncover a world of taboo fetishes. Director Josh Larsen effectively uses comedy to contrast the theme of forbidden sexuality; the thoughts and urges that lead us searching for those short bursts of ecstasy. Sex is weird. Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh about it.

 

LONG WAY TO THE TOP

Long Way To The Top chronicles the journeys of several underground artists (including Clevelanders like John Kalman, Nathan Hedges, and Filmstrip), and also features established players from bands like Def Lepard, Limp Bizkit, and Nine Inch Nails, who offer advice and stories from their early days on the road. This terrific documentary will certainly resonate with musicians, while also giving fans a more honest view of the lives of their rock star idols.

 

MAYA THE BEE

Innocence is key in Alexs Stadermann’s charming Maya The Bee, an adaptation of the popular German book and cartoon. It’s brimming with untamed love, overwhelming wonder and roaring excitement – feelings that kids can relate to, but jaded adults desperately need reminded of. A wonderful animated film for all ages.

MOVE ON!

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Near West Theatre now has it’s own 7.3 million dollar building in Gordon Square. Before that, they occupied a space on the 3rd floor of the St. Patrick’s Church Club Building. Move On! chronicles their final days at the old spot,  revealing just how much the original location meant to them. Beyond performances, these talented people shared personal experiences within its walls. This touching documentary offers a final tribute to their timeworn former home.

 

THE ROAD WITHIN

Featuring a terrific cast that includes Zoe Kravitz, Dev Patel, Robert Patrick, and Kyra Sedgwick, this U.S. remake of Vincent Wants To Sea – which won the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award at the 2011 CIFF – stays true to the vision of the original, but offers it’s own unique take on the coming of age tale. Experience the fun all over again.

SAM KLEMKE’S TIME MACHINE

Since 1977, Sam Klemke has been obsessively filming his life, documenting the various phases he’s experienced, from his highs to his extreme lows. We sometimes lose sight of our younger selfs and the hopes and dreams we once treasured. Those things are never forgotten in Sam Klemke’s Time Machine, a documentary that’s extremely beautiful for it’s honesty. It’s also genius in it’s concept, revealing that with a video camera, we do indeed have the tools for time travel.

 

SHOWFOLK

Follow the lives of seven fantastic Golden Era Hollywood vets. [SHORT]

SWEET MICKY FOR PRESIDENT

This film documents the journey of Michel Martelle, an eccentric Haitian popstar turned President. His unlikely candidacy was the brainchild of former Fugees rapper/producer, Pras, who backed Martelly, despite the fact that his old bandmate, Wyclef Jean, was running too. The incredibly inspiring underdog story is packed with history, humour, and music.

 

 WHO AM I – NO SYSTEM IS SAFE

Benjamin is a loner who can’t seem to find love, friends, or success in the real world. In the dark corners of the internet, though, it’s a different story. When the lines between reality and the virtual world get blurred, this hacker finds himself in dangerous territory. It’s a brilliantly complicated thriller that’s part Fight Club, part Hackers.

WHO AM I – NO SYSTEM IS SAFE from TIFF on Vimeo.

 

*Editor’s Note– In addition to being a sometime contributor to Cellar Door, Eddie Fleisher is also synopsis writer and Selection Committee member for the Cleveland International Film Festival.

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