Cleveland Film Festival begins 30th year tonight

Ben Plassard

Akeelah and the Bee kicks off the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival tonight. COURTESY OF CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL”>

Akeelah and the Bee kicks off the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival tonight. COURTESY OF CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The Cleveland International Film Festival may turn 30 this year, but it will have a lot to offer to students nearly half its age.

The 11-day festival boasts a line-up of 200 features, documentaries and short films, many of which are not shown outside of the film festival circuit.

“Our mission is to show the newest and best films from around the world,” said Marcie Goodman, executive director of the festival. “Cleveland has a devoted and dedicated film-going audience and we show films that you normally would not see anywhere else.”

Colleen Corrigan, marketing and media manager, offered her insights about why the festival is so important to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

“The festival is 11 days and 200 films that are not shown unless you travel to other major festivals,” Corrigan said. “There is nothing in the region that even comes close to what the Cleveland International Film Festival has to offer.”

The festival opens tonight with Akeelah and the Bee, an American entry starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett. The film follows an inner-city girl and her experiences at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Goodman said the film is the “Rocky of spelling bee movies” and is the feel-good movie of the year. The director, Doug Atchison, and the film’s star, Keke Palmer, will be on hand for the opening ceremonies.

Also featured at this year’s festival will be Tsotsi, the 2005 Academy Award winner for best foreign film and American Dreamz, the new film from American Pie and In Good Company director Paul Weitz. The film boasts an all-star cast led by Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore. The film is screening on March 25 and will not go into wide release until later this year.

Another film of possible interest to Kent State students is the documentary F*CK, an exploration into the history and uses of everyone’s favorite four-letter word. The film has an eclectic cast, including Hunter S. Thompson, Kevin Smith and Ron Jeremy, each of whom give their insights into the word and how it has developed over the years.

A continuing tradition at the festival are the retrospective screenings that take place every year. The festival looks back on films of the last 50-plus years. This year will prove no different as Cinema Paradiso, the 1990 festival winner, will be screened March 17.

A new feature at this year’s festival are midnight showings of films aimed at the college audience. Corrigan said the midnight movies, such as F*CK, feature off-kilter and bizarre films the college audience would definitely enjoy.

The festival does have a competition, as audience members can vote for their favorite films, even if they choose to only come to the festival for one day or for even one film.

The festival starts tonight and ends March 26. Tickets for all films are available at or can be purchased at the Tower City Cinema box office. Attendees are advised to buy their tickets early.

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Ben Plassard at [email protected].