By SARAH JAQUAY
T.S. Eliot’s admonition “April is the cruelest month” doesn’t apply to Cleveland. Some blockbuster events happening downtown include the Women’s NCAA Final Four (April 5 and 7), the Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) & NASA Glenn Research’s Total Eclipse Fest (April 6-8), the Guardians home opener (April 8) and of course Northeast Ohio’s favorite communal movie binge, the 48th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF 48, in-person April 3-13 and CIFF Streams April 14-21.) More good news is CIFF is planning complementary events that won’t compete with the once-in-a lifetime celestial occurrence of a total solar eclipse over Cleveland during the afternoon of April 8. Totality, when the sun is totally covered in shadow, goes from approximately 3:13-3:17p.m.
“Our Playhouse Square theaters will be dark until 6 p.m. on Monday [April 8],” notes CIFF Artistic Director Mallory Martin. “But after the total eclipse we’ll be showing ‘Small Town Universe,’ on the big screen at the Great Lakes Science Center.” It’s about the tiny town of Greenbank, W. Va., where America’s most powerful radio telescope is located. This telescope is so sensitive, Greenbank residents cannot use cell phones or Wi-Fi. When funding for the telescope is threatened, this community demonstrates what civic spirit is all about. CIFF is also partnering with GLSC on Sunday, April 7, 2024. Before the Cleveland Orchestra’s free family concert at 1:30 p.m., CIFF will show the feature “Maestra” about professional female conductors around the world. One of the subjects of this documentary, Tamara Dworetz, will be on-hand for the screening. Ms. Dworetz has conducted symphonies from Paris and Boston to Amarillo and Louisiana.
These screenings are just a sampling of the 135 feature films and 225 shorts from 60 countries, including Uruguay, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, that are coming to CIFF 48.
Martin and her colleagues really encourage people to attend in-person as there will be plenty of filmmakers coming. “And every single one of them wants to see the audiences’ reaction to their films.”
This year’s theme is “In the Glow.” Martin says it’s a play on the total eclipse (during totality and with proper eye wear, one can see the sun’s glowing corona.) “It’s also about the bright colors and reflects the glow of the screen – even the Playhouse Square marquees.” But it can also mean the glow that moviegoers feel after viewing a well-crafted feature film, documentary or short film. This year’s sidebars (or genres) will be on the website and CIFF fans can start downloading a PDF of the CIFF 48 movie guide beginning March 8. “We’re doing our best to bring back the [hard copy] guides for free, but there’s a limited supply.” CIFF will be mailing guides to all members, to public libraries and there will be some in downtown hotels. A new member benefit will be the ability to buy parking passes in the Playhouse Square garage for the entire festival that offer in and out privileges.
There are various ticket categories ranging from single tickets and 10-ticket packages to entire festival passes and $5 tickets for CIFF Retro films. Retro films are popular movies from past festivals, and include “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” and “Nine to Five: Story of a Movement,” which highlights Cleveland Women Working, the nonprofit that organized around fair treatment in the workplace. Nine to Five was slated to be shown in-person in 2020, but COVID cancelled those events. There will be other movies made by or about Northeast Ohio, including “False Positive,” about Akron native and Olympic medalist Butch Reynolds who was falsely accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Devo fans will want to attend CIFF’s closing night to watch a documentary chronicling the band’s beginnings at Kent State University to its heyday in the 1980s as pioneers of the MTV music video era. “We hope to get some band members,” Martin notes.
So if you love watching movies as they were meant to be seen: on the big screen with audiences and the chance to meet some of the people who made them, join those who will be in “In the Glow” from April 3-13.
For more info, see www.clevelandfilm.org