New Day LXXIX: I Got Rocked; I got Reeled in.
Best of the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival
On Sunday March 22, at the Capital Theatre, I spoke on behalf of the Ohio Irish American News as a Media sponsor for Cleveland International Film Festival, our third year as a Media Sponsor. This year we also sponsored Kilbanetown Comeback, which premiered that night. I am the Publisher and Editor of the OhIAN.
Two days before, I sent our April issue to print. It is our 100th issue of the Ohio Irish American News. One of the things I have been thinking about lately, with St. Pat’s and the 100th Anniversary of Johnny Kilbane’s reign as World Boxing Champion, amidst all the celebrations, commemorations and films is, 100 years later, we are sharing his story. It is the story of our parents, our grandparents, great-grandparents, any generation’s immigrant journey; why they left, why they came here, and what they did when they got here. It is not to live in the past, but to shine a light, a way out of the darkness, for those who may be looking for meaning, roots, connection.
We have been there; we know the way out.
Kibanetown Comeback is Des Bishop’s documentary on the process of locating, designing and building the Johnny Kilbane Statue at Battery Park in Cleveland. It was dedicated on September 11th, 2014. We love the arts, it is our oxygen, and are grateful for the opportunity to actively support it, not just in print, but in person.
Johnny grew up in Cleveland, his father from the Achill area. Johnny lived a horrendously cruel and triumphant life. He was World Champion from 1912 to 1923 – the longest reigning champion in boxing history. Mike Tyson cites Johnny as one of the top 10 boxers in history, one that he learned from.
During his reign, Johnny lived on Herman Avenue, around West 73rd Street, 2 streets south of Battery Park, where the triumph of his life is highlighted in a 3-figure sculptor by internationally renowned Dublin, Ireland artist Rowan Gillespie. The sculpture shows Johnny as boy, as a boxing champion and as a State Senator and Clerk of Courts.
He had a legendary temper, but perseverance is the tape to which he was measured. Like Tyson, when you pissed him off, he unleashed.
There is much to celebrate; much to learn from; much to share, in both our Irish and our American histories. We are forged of the same fire; we are of the same mind. In Newsmagazines like the Ohio Irish American News, books, and films, our past, our present AND our future are before us, live and in living color.
But before Kilbanetown Comeback, I went early, and saw Move On, the story of the impact of Near West Theatre on the actors, directors and support staffs who have taken part in productions for the last 30 years. It was a retrospect of leaving Near West, located in St. Patrick’s, Bridge Avenue, Hall, as they move to their new home in Gordon Square. Besides providing entertainment for theatre goers, they are a massive therapy session for each other.
The 39th Cleveland International Film Festival was another spectacular Cleveland International Film Festival. Highly recommended: Teacher of the Year– hilarious; Who Am I – No One is Safe – fantastic thriller; Frailer – will tear your heart out; This Isn’t Funny – is!; Frame by Frame – educational and intriguing look at photography in Afghanistan; Hello Hello – very insightful look at relationships.
Frailer – this film was very hard to watch. We Irish are way too familiar with cancer, and the havoc it wreaks on the ill, and those who love them. Frailer is 4 friends, one fighting the battle against cancer, and the journey till her death did them part. Each is pledged to their friend, struggles to find meaningful contribution and succeeds, and fails, in their own way. For every chemo treatment, all four wear their own of the exact same dress; solidarity. It is graphic in showing the physical and mental trials of the ill, and the relentless journey to what ever is next. It is touching; it is the first time I have cried in 15 years.
Frame by Frame is the story of 4 photographers who live in and work out of Afghanistan. For a period of 5 or 6 years, photography was outlawed. It is still a dangerous profession, not just for the violence in the country, but a risky career if you piss off the wrong official. I am a novice photographer, struggling to learn to be a good one. So there were many other points of interest for me in Frame by Frame as well. Imagine if going to prison was the penalty for taking a picture.
Hello Hello – was quietly very funny, and sad. A divorced nursing assistance is drifting through life, unsure where she went wrong. She is good at her job, and after a battle of wills, gets a patient to speak. She helps her in many ways, mostly in adding dignity to her life, and her death. The nurse learnsthat respectful, most times, aggressiveness, makes the her world a better place. It not only opens new horizons, but new relationships, better relationships, spring upon her, as she learns to take chances.
This Isn’t Funny – was. Hilarious interaction between a funny, introspective comedian not afraid to go on stage and share her life, and a well-educated, wealthy, lost juice shop manager. Love, and breakup, and the realization that together, love is more; life is a journey; baggage is worth carrying.
Who Am I – No System is Safe – Fantastic thriller on a hacker, or hackers, you are never quite sure, and the underworld that cheers, supports and tears them apart. Four guys, possibly, want to rise to the top of the hacker world, and take on progressively bigger challenges, to earn the notice of the best to them all. They succeed, get double crossed, double cross, win and lose, in a dizzying array. The action is non-stop, surprising at times, and the climax is out of this world.
Teacher of the Year – I thought this was a remake of the movie about the inner city principal whose unorthodox methods turned a school and lives, around. Wrong movie. Teacher of the Year was a comedy of insight, documentary style, but laced with humor and laugh out loud moments. Self –perception is never accurate; we err on either side, often. The insight and struggle for the Teacher of the Year, is funny and well written, but the message is delivered on the effect we have on each other, intentionally, or not.
I saw a few others, but these were the best. This was our 3rd year sponsoring. Experience adds to the experience, but I enjoyed this CIFF the most of all I have been too. The 1,000 volunteers get it, and are as chatty as you want them to be. With strangers in the seat next to you or the line for the next great story, everyone shares films they like, love or wish they had missed.
Casual conversations are everywhere, but no talking during a film. Tower City was not built to host a film festival, but the tight space was made the best of, as everyone cooperated with good will, humor and a sense of purpose; to having fun for themselves, and taking part in presenting one of the nations best Film Festivals, here in Cleveland. A cult like camaraderie held no creepiness, tho characters on screen and in the aisles were fun.
The 39th Cleveland International Film Festival announced they had their biggest year in Festival history: 100,204 attendees; 1,000 volunteers; $138,427 raised; 196 feature films, 234 short films; films from 60 countries; at 12 locations over 12 days; 500+ screenings.
We’ll see you at the #CIFF40 March 23 thru April 3, 2016!
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