The festival was hosted in Playhouse Square, with hundreds of films to choose from
From the Cedar Lee Theatre to Tower City, the Cleveland International Film Festival has had a few venues over the years, including taking place as an online streaming event the past two. Able to return as an in-person event this year, the festival took place in Playhouse Square this past month.
For those who missed the in-person screenings, the festival continued through the 17th of April for online streaming. So, from the comfort of my living room this past week, I thought I would use this opportunity to view some of them. With hundreds of films to choose from, and with films of every genre, I had a hard time choosing — I wanted to see them all!
I decided on one of the short film packages so that I would hopefully get to see a variety of works. The short films came in a grouping of six films, under 40 minutes apiece. The package that I chose was titled “Shorts Program 4.” Here are my thoughts on the films that were included and a bit about each of them.
This film may be only a little over seven minutes long, but I guarantee you won’t need seven minutes for the tears to start flowing. When it ended I sat still, in the silence, pondering what I just saw and what I felt, surrounded by the power of it, not yet wanting to move on to the next film. In those last few minutes I had been reminded of why we need art. It is how we express and communicate, it makes us feel, it is a reminder that we have emotions — and that is what keeps us human. In this story, a choreographer uses dance as an outlet for those who experienced loss during COVID. Exploring the combination of turmoil and peace that comes with death and eventually finding the act of letting go.
In this 18-minute film, we get a glimpse into the life of a high school girl and the peer pressure to fit in. Struggling to find a balance between her Chinese heritage and American culture, Eng learns that making friends isn’t always easy. Playing for her high school basketball team, Eng tries to go along with the comradery of the team but learns that changing yourself for the sake of others’ approval only makes more trouble.
What is love? That’s what this film is all about. A character by the name of Sam greets the audience by breaking the fourth wall at the start of this film. The beginning is vague. We are unaware of who he is talking to and what exactly he is talking about — though both questions are answered by the end of the film. Sam, had given up on the idea of love when his parents divorced, is opened up to love from a different perspective when he watches some old tapes his mother made before he was born. His mother developed a unique friendship with the girl who moved in next door and they left us to wonder whether there was or could have been anything more between them. We learn at the end of the film that this girl is the person Sam is talking to as he sends her a video message attempting to reunite them. But it is left for interpretation from there…does she reply?
“Mr. Spam Gets a New Hat“
This adorable family-friendly animated film follows the life of Mr. Spam who lives a monotonous life working in a factory. Each day he wakes up full of hope for the day, but as the day wears on, those dreams are slowly crushed. Mr. Spam’s magic hat is forced lower and lower onto his head until his eyes are completely covered and he cannot see the good in the world, including his lovely neighbor, Miss Dot. Just when all hope seems to have been lost, Miss Dot rescues Mr. Spam from the factory and the snobby factor owners who laugh at him. This film has no speaking in it but is set to lively background music throughout. Objects come to life, dancing about – helping to narrate the story, and Mr. Spam is always accompanied by his trusted little puppy.
This wacky film takes us inside a grocery store to get a look at human interaction and misunderstandings. A cheerful grocery store manager loves his job until a remark that he made is interpreted as offensive to a woman shopping in the store. It all spirals downhill from there, as riots break out outside of the store and the store manager ends up fired. Yet, in opposition, the film maintains a wacky and comedic feeling throughout.
“A Peculiar Silence“
The longest of the films in this program gave the viewer a glimpse inside Agora Prison. Following the journey of the development of the play “A Peculiar Patriot” by Liza Peterson, this film addresses hefty topics, such as race and mass incarceration. With the play’s premier unable to be filmed, this documents the process and allows us to imagine the power and ripple of response that took place that day. This film is one meant to get you thinking, throwing a wrench in the system just as Peterson’s performance did at Agora.
Again, there were so many films to choose from, and you can see which one’s won awards on the Cleveland International Film Festival website. Streaming ends on April 17th. Go here to browse the films and purchase streaming passes.