Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 19, sees the launch of the 38th edition of the popular Cleveland International Film Festival, a sprawling and increasingly popular regional cinema event that annually serves the cinephilic tastes of the Ohio city. Showcasing over 350 films from nearly 70 countries through Sunday, March 30, the festival’s lineup includes approximately 70 documentary features, appearing in several sidebars and as part of a variety of competition programs. Highlights from the latter are singled out below:
Among the nonfiction works vying for the Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition $7500 award are: Emer Reynolds and John Murray’s Cuban Missile Crisis chronicle, HERE WAS CUBA; Michael Lee Nirenberg’s porn magazine history, BACK ISSUES: THE HUSTLER MAGAZINE STORY; James Moll’s modern farming profile, FARMLAND; and Jason Kovacev and Matt Mamula’s celebrity impersonator study, JUST ABOUT FAMOUS (pictured).
CIFF’s audience selects the winner of the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition, spotlighting films with a conscience, who will receive a $5000 cash prize. Contenders include: Michele Josue’s personal reflection on the young man behind a tragedy, MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE; Nadine C Licostie’s history of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, THE LAST ONE; Derek Hammeke’s exposé on human trafficking, FINDING HOME; Kate Ryan’s look at the plight of displaced Roma, WELCOME NOWHERE (pictured); and Usama Alshaibi’s exploration of the experiences of Arab-Americans, AMERICAN ARAB.
The Gund name is also attached to Cleveland’s signature Central and Eastern European Film Competition, which comes with a $10000 prize. While primarily consisting of fiction work, the two nonfiction entries are: Kristóf Kovács’s MEN WITH BALLS (pictured), in which a Hungarian mayor tries to stimulate his impoverished community with a new tennis court; and Palo Korec’s EXHIBITS OR STORIES FROM THE CASTLE, about a Slovakian palace-turned-nursing home.
New to the fest this year is the Global Health Competition, focused on health and environmental topics, with audiences determining the $5000 prize winner from, among others: Dana Nachman and Don Hardy’s examination of chemical proliferation, THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT; Paul Lazarus’ profile of the development of a water purification system, SLINGSHOT (pictured); Shawn Thompson’s look at young Yemeni female entrepreneurs, YEMENIETTES; Brenda Goodman’s history of sex education, SEX(ED) THE MOVIE; and Anthony Powell’s consideration of polar living, ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE.
Rounding out the competitions are Local Heroes, recognizing Ohio based films like Robert Douglas Lemon’s TRANSFUSIÓN (pictured), a look at illegal immigration through the lens of food trucks; Music Movies, celebrating docs like Mitchell Kezin’s JINGLE BELL ROCKS!, about the filmmaker’s passion for Christmas music; the fiction specific American Independents; ReelWomenDirect, honoring female directors; and a Best Film Audience Award.