Spending spring break . at the movies

Adam Griffiths

Some of my friends went to Florida. Another traveled to Norfolk. One close friend went on a $400 shopping spree in the Big Apple. And my best friend traveled with her family to our nation’s capital, returning with two pairs of fabulous underwear from a closeout sale, a postcard featuring two giant pandas and a T-shirt from the Newseum for yours truly.

I, on the other hand, spent a good portion of my time away from classes in Cleveland at Tower City Center with more than 60,000 other cinema lovers. We all converged on the far wing of the mall for the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival for 11 days, more than 140 feature films and more than 170 short subjects, representing more than 60 countries from all continents.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. All I did for five days of my spring break was pack into an aging auditorium next to more than 100 strangers to share in an independent film viewing from God knows where. It’s creepy. It’s even creepier when I realize I spent more than 30 hours altogether with these people. It went: watch a movie, waste half an hour or so wandering around the mall, then line up for the next, find a seat, small talk with my neighbor – over and over again.

If this sounds like nothing you’d ever want to be a part of, hear me out.

While everyone else was tanning or spending or tourist-ing, I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my time off and relax.

The beauty of CIFF is you get to learn stories and meet characters you’d likely never come across otherwise – not just in the movies, but throughout the day from fellow theatergoers and in the countless volunteers.

I was covering the festival’s 10% Cinema sidebar, a series of 10 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender films, for Fusion magazine, which I edit. But that’s not all the festival had to offer. I learned about Trinidad, Colo., the sex change capital of the world, and Triangle Square, a low-income housing center for LGBT seniors in Los Angeles.

I met Marco, a young poet-turned-German soldier around the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Rudo and Cursi, two Mexican brothers who learn there’s a sour side to everything as professional soccer players.

And I became acquainted with, among others, a school teacher who fibbed to her principal so she could get time off and catch a few extra films.

The point is CIFF is a cheap, local alternative to jetting out of Ohio when considering what you want to do for spring break next year. You can become a student member of the Cleveland Film Society, who puts on the festival, for only $25 to get discounts and early access to tickets so you can be sure to get into the movies you want to see.

So, without any hangovers or losing too much money, think about throwing on an extra layer or two – it is Cleveland in March, after all – and broadening your horizons through five or six movies a day. It’s a quick car or bus ride away, and even if you end up investing in an all-access pass for a couple hundred bucks, you’ll be left in a much better state than a cruise or beach party in Cancun would leave you.

SAdam Griffiths is a junior visual journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected], and follow the evolution of the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival at clevelandfilm.org.