In 1977, Jonathan Forman’s love for film prompted him to scrape together enough cash to buy the fading Cedar Lee Theater. He thought that maybe if he showed the right films, he could make Cleveland Heights a movie hotspot.
Step 1: Make an event out of it. By showing a mere eight films from seven countries around the world during an eight-week capacity, the Cleveland International Film Festival was born.
Since then the festival has grown larger and larger, pulling in bigger audiences each year.
The festival has since condensed itself to a week and a half period, but has expanded itself with a wide range of different types of films from all across the globe.
At this year’s festival, which will be held from March 22-April 1 at Tower City, there are 318 films being shown from 60 countries, ranging from documentary, to short films, to feature length films.
The attendance rate is expected to climb even higher than last year’s whopping 78,030 attendees.
Among the 318 marvelous films being shown this year, there are three that are in particularly high anticipation.
“Detropia,” a documentary style film about the post-recession life in Detroit, is a “hopeful wake up call for the rest of the country,” in the words of filmmaker Heidi Ewing, as it acts as a prime example of the struggles left over from the recession. The film is particularly relatable for many Clevelanders, as it is said to show painful similarities with many of the struggling neighborhoods of Cleveland.
“Bill W.,” another documentary-style film about the Alcoholics Anonymous founder William Griffith Wilson, showcases Wilson’s own struggles with alcoholism and his partnership with Dr. Bob Smith of Akron, where the two created the program that is so effectual in helping alcoholics cope with their disease. While many Clevelanders are unknowing of the fact that such a large support group was founded so close to home, the film is sure to be an inspiration to all of its viewers, let alone the portion of the audience who is or knows someone who is struggling.
Another empowering film of the festival, “Colour Me,” is a film about what it means to be black in today’s world. Director Sherien Barsoum followed around high school dropout turned motivational speaker Anthony McLean around a predominantly Black-Canadian, poorly academic performing high school in Ontario.
The film invites its audience to think about where we all belong and how we accept everyone. Barsoum said, “I hope viewers are challenged to find their story in “Colour Me” and that they walk away feeling empowered and challenged to reevaluate how they think about race and ethnicity.”
With hundreds of films to choose from, each of them fascinating and unique in it’s own way, this year’s festival should be an exciting week for film lovers all across Cleveland.
And the Cleveland International Film Festival has made getting the information you need easier than ever. They’ve created an iPhone App which features a daily newsletter, links to film trailers, film festival locations, and of course, the schedule of films throughout the week.
It also features late addition films, added screenings, and a list of films on standby – none of which are included in the printed program guide.
This app is a fool-proof guide for the Cleveland International Film Festival, making coming to the festival easier and more enjoyable than it’s ever been.