It’s a wrap or so they say in show biz, for The Cleveland International Film Festival 2021. I had the pleasure of viewing 5 films offered during the Film fest, and greatly enjoyed them all.
“Even if you’ve never heard the name Del Close, you’ve undoubtedly seen the products of his teachings. The list of performers—including decades of SNL cast members from Belushi to Poehler—whom Del mentored in the ways of long-form improv is endless. Although he lives on through the generations of comedians inspired by his instruction at The Second City and iO, Del never got his moment in the spotlight. But Heather Ross’s lively documentary places the comedy guru front and center, chipping away at the myth to catch glimpses of the man. Always the eccentric, Del made clear he was more interested in “truth” than “fact.” His tall tales were the stuff of legend. Accenting Del’s life story with surreal cells from his semi-autobiographical DC comic series Wasteland, FOR MADMEN ONLY utilizes multiple modes—talking heads from those who knew him best, animated cutouts, archival recordings, and quirky reenactments—to paint a spirited portrait of a funnyman who reached both the heights of genius and depths of despair. ” CIFF
Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir
“AMY TAN: UNINTENDED MEMOIR is an intimate and candid profile examining the life and work of Amy Tan, famed author of The Joy Luck Club. Tan candidly describes her journey to become a writer, detailing traumatic childhood memories riddled with chaos, loss, and grief, as well as recounting the life experiences and people who shaped her. Similar memories and details are found in her works’ pages, cleverly tucked into her fictional worlds’ narratives describing universal family experiences. This distinct trait of her writing is reflected in the documentary’s structure. The film creatively weaves Tan’s interviews, public talks, film footage, narrated memoir readings, and animated memories into a cohesive and insightful portrait of this trailblazing writer. The late James Redford’s final film, this documentary is an intricate look at what shapes us, how truth can inform fictional work, and the cyclical and interconnected nature of an artist’s life and art.” CIFF
*This film will premiere on American Masters/PBS, May 3rd at 9pm.
“It’s the last day of summer vacation, and Tommy can’t wait for the first day of school tomorrow. Her parents promised to get her there on time this year. Being punctual for such an occasion doesn’t seem like a big ask for typical parents, but for Tim and Chloe life isn’t planned much further than the day’s next decision. Although the film takes place in a 24-hour period, audiences can assume no two days look alike for this unconventional but devoted family of three. With their whimsical spontaneity and unpredictable sense of humor, Tommy’s parents have their own methods of instilling life lessons in their young daughter. In every moment of the day, there is always a choice. To escape or be found. To witness or ignore. To live as your true self at the cost of being normal. Original, unexpected, and wildly entertaining, FELICITÀ is a comedy-drama-thriller triple threat. (In French with subtitles)” CIFF
*This film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Shirt pressed, cufflinks fastened, and not a stray thread to be found. Nikos meticulously prepares for a busy day in his elderly father’s tailor shop that nobody visits. Times are changing in Athens, and the demand for expensive Italian suits has been replaced by faster, cheaper tastes in attire. When his father falls ill and the shop faces closure due to crippling debt, Nikos fashions a shop-on-wheels to peddle their fine wares to a more casual clientele. Parked among street vendors selling t-shirts, books, fish, and marmalade, Nikos decides to shift the shop’s current offerings to fulfill his passersby’s requests: custom wedding dresses. As Nikos reinvents the family business to serve these blushing brides, he welcomes the help of his neighbor Olga, who brings her sewing skills, womenswear knowledge, and companionship he didn’t know he was missing. THE TAILOR, in its sweet, quirky, elegant manner, will have audiences rooting for a shop that is determined to keep the sewing machine running and its wheels in motion. (In Greek with subtitles) CIFF
“Everyone who meets 13-year-old Masha can’t help but love her. With her charm, unrestrained laughter, and a rather feisty streak, it’s not hard for her to light up a room. The young, natural performer dreams of one day becoming a jazz singer. But for now her chosen audience is her Uncle “Pops” and his band of gangsters who run their provincial Russian town. Daylighting as boxers, Masha happily spends her time with the young men whom she considers her best friends. However, by night, these friends are known to terrorize their community, killing and robbing at Pops’ behest. Being the apple of their eye, Masha receives attention and protection in abundance. As time goes on, the severity of her loved ones’ actions starts to sink in, but isn’t fully realized until it’s too late. Years later, Masha is grown up and thriving in Moscow as a singer. But will her success be enough to fend off the reemergence of her unstable past? In the gritty world of MASHA, to come-of-age is to escape with your life. (In Russian with subtitles)” CIFF
Head to our YouTube page here and watch our interview with the director of For Madmen Only, Heather Ross, and a separate video of an impromptu discussion among staff sharing their reactions to the films they explored.