Lights, camera, action: Cleveland Film Festival to offer local, national and international gems

Andrew Hampp

When the Cleveland Film Festival kicks off tonight at Tower City Cinemas, at least one Kent State faculty member will be in line for front row seats.

Anne Reid, an academic adviser for Kent’s College of Fine & Professional Arts, has been attending the festival since 1997. She said her investment of time in the festival has grown considerably through the years.

“I started going eight or nine years ago,” Reid said, “but only to a couple per year. Then I met a fellow who buys the really expensive passes and goes to about 50 and it inspired me.”

This year’s festival, the 29th, will host more than 100 feature length films made locally, nationally and internationally, as well as a host of guests.

“We’re expecting over 80 guest filmmakers/producers/actors and other representatives from films,” said William Guentzler, director of programming for this year’s festival. “Most names might not be recognizable but soon may be.”

Among the notable names scheduled to appear at this year’s fest include Steve Buscemi, whose directorial effort Lonesome Jim opens the festival tonight, and Todd Solondz, director of Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness and the new Palindromes.

Tickets for the festival are discounted for students and members of the Cleveland Film Society, the film festival’s sponsor.

“Our crowd tends to be mainly from Cleveland or the region,” Guentzler said.

Reid, now a member of the Cleveland Film Society, said she attends around 20 films per year.

“Because the selection consists of movies you would never be able to see otherwise,” said Reid, “there are a lot of international films which never even come to Cedar Lee or even the (Cleveland) Cinematheque. It’s a range of choices you would never get otherwise.”

Although Reid’s experience with the Cleveland Film Festival only stretches back to the late ’90s, Cleveland’s history as the movie lovers’ free-for-all extends even further.

The very first Cleveland Film Fest was held in 1977 at the Cedar Lee Theatre, eventually moving downtown to Tower City for the 15th festival in 1991, said William Guentzler, director of programming for this year’s festival.

Reid said the festival is worth the commute from her Brady Lake home; and she just wishes she had more time.

“It’s very important to me,” said Reid, who will be taking two days off work next week for the occasion. “If I had the money I would take the whole week off, if I could. It was much easier (when it was held) during spring break.”

Reid said she most anticipates this year’s festival’s foreign film selections.

“There’s a bunch of Eastern European films that I really gravitate towards,”she said. “The most viciously violent Serbian films I absolutely love.”

At the top of Reid’s must-see list, however, is The Cup, a Buddhist soccer drama set in Bhutan, a country in the eastern Himalayas.

“I don’t care if it’s good or bad,” Reid said. “I just wanna look at Bhutan.”

Contact Pop Arts editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].