Whether you have never attended a film festival before or you are a veteran of Cleveland's esteemed celebration of cinema, it is a hard task to narrow down just a few films from a list of over 300 features and short films.
After hours upon hours of preparation, we have scaled our list down to 20 films we are most excited for here at the offices of Akronlife Magazine. While this list is by no means complete, we hope this may help you out making a few decisions in your viewing endeavors.
Stay tuned this week and next as we recap the festivities with reviews and reactions to this year's Cleveland International Film Festival, which is always a blessing and a pleasure to be a part of.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the 37th CIFF:
The Almost Man
An affable 35-year-old with a serious case of arrested development, Henrik is a constant source of laughs. Trouble is, he’s got a new job in marketing and a great girlfriend named Tone, both of which require him to be a grownup. THE ALMOST MAN won Best Film and Best Actor at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival for Henrik Rafaelsen’s engaging, often hilarious performance. (In Norwegian with subtitles)
Greg is a troubled kid with some pretty bad anger issues. When he's punished for threatening his English teacher Camille with a pair of scissors, he decides he wants revenge. BAD SEEDS is a psychological thriller that examines how quickly bad decisions can spiral out of control. (In French with subtitles)
Brilliant Swedish director Jesper Ganslandt presents BLONDIE, an acerbically funny take on the melodramatic Scandinavian family drama. Three sisters, all adrift and in crisis, reunite at their childhood home as their domineering mother arranges her big birthday party. (In Swedish with subtitles)
Deflowering of Eva Van End
Eva barely exists to her odd and dysfunctional family. So nobody notices when she volunteers to host a German exchange student for two weeks. But when Veit appears–blond, handsome, and oddly perfect–he shakes the van End household to its core. THE DEFLOWERING OF EVA VAN END is a twisted gem that will leave you satisfied. (In Dutch with subtitles)
DOM – A Russian Family
When Russian mobster Viktor is released from prison, he makes an unexpected visit home to see his family. Unbeknownst to him, a group of hired assassins are hot on his trail and looking to knock off this mob lieutenant. DOM–A RUSSIAN FAMILY is thick with tension, ripe with subtext, and gripping right from beginning to end. Fantastic scenery and riveting drama set the tone early and keep the audience fixated on what is considered one of the best Russian films in years. (In Russian with subtitles)
Far Out Isn’t Far Enough
This is not your typical documentary about an illustrator and author of children's books. In fact, the word "typical" could never be used to describe anything about Tom Ungerer. FAR OUT ISN'T FAR ENOUGH gets deep into Ungerer's mind and makes it perfectly clear: he's borderline insane. But it's that insanity that makes his work so incredibly unique and brilliant.
FLOWER BUDS, winner of four top Czech film prizes, is a grimly comedic family drama. A bleakly humorous snapshot of life in a snowy and remote Czech town, the film tracks with clear-eyed tenderness the intersecting hardships and hopes of its residents. (In Czech with subtitles)
The Ice Dragon
THE ICE DRAGON is a family film in the tradition of Nordic storytelling, where strange possibilities lie far in the north. A wintry delight, THE ICE DRAGON asks what it means to be a family. Note: This film contains strong language. (In Swedish with subtitles)
I Declare War
An exquisite film depicting the brutality of war being played out by young teens (think "Lord of the Flies" meets "Stand By Me"), I DECLARE WAR scoffs at the idea of separating kids from violence by putting the youth in play with the violence.
Key of Life
In this comical farce from Japan, the lives of three people intertwine thanks to a knock on the head. Funny, sweet, and charming, KEY OF LIFE is another great screwball comedy from one of Japan's best. (In Japanese with subtitles)
The Kings of Summer
[Opening Night film]
Filmed in Greater Cleveland last summer and premiering to rave reviews at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a unique coming-of-age story about three teenagers who, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods. Free from their parents’ rules, their idyllic summer quickly becomes a test of friendship as each boy learns to appreciate the fact that family is something you can't run away from.
Laurence appears happy. He's a respected teacher and his lover Frederica (Fred for short) adores him. But Laurence isn't happy…as a man. With an exuberant and visually poetic style, LAURENCE ANYWAYS whirls about these stories. The film luxuriates in telling detail, and its a cast of memorable characters remind us how harshly the world judges those who think differently. Your heart will go with them as they stumble toward becoming the women they are meant to be. (In French with subtitles)
La Grand Soir
LE GRAND SOIR is a brilliantly funny film from Belgian dark-comedy duo Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine. When Jean-Pierre loses his job, he finds himself on the streets alongside his brother, who he previously looked upon with disdain. (In French with subtitles)
Behind many of the great films of the past 60 years has been one man whose imagination and creativity helped revolutionize his genre. With a combination of character animation, motion design, documentary footage and narration by Jeff Bridges, PABLO is a inspirational look at Pablo Ferro, the Title Designer for over 90 films including “Dr. Strangelove,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Beetlejuice,” “L.A. Confidential,” and all three “Men in Black” films.
Visionary director Kim Ki-duk takes us on a savage and disturbing journey into the heart of darkness. What appears to be a journey of redemption and reconciliation, in the hands of Kim Ki-duk becomes something darker and unexpected. PIETA travels a startling and original labyrinth and is bound to be one of the most talked-about films of the Festival. (In Korean with subtitles)
Red, White and Blueprints
RED, WHITE AND BLUEPRINTS examines how cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Detroit have reinvented themselves and how they've partnered together to do it. With all the innovation and ingenuity this documentary spotlights, the region's best days may still be ahead. Akronites won’t have far to travel as the film will also be a part of the “Day and Knight in Akron” on Thursday, April 11.
Time of My Life
In one of the best performances of this year's CIFF, Koen De Graeve plays real life Belgian politician Mario Verstraete, the first man to take advantage of a new euthanasia law in Belgium – a law that Verstraete fought long and hard for. As charming as it is poignant, TIME OF MY LIFE is a captivating film with powerful performances as we watch a man in his struggle to die with dignity and the effects his decision has on his friends and family who have surrounded him his whole life. (In French with subtitles)
Under My Nails
Solimar is an attractive Puerto Rican in her 30s who came to New York after losing her parents as a child. In the search to fulfill her most obscure desires, Solimar will find love in the hands of a murderer. UNDER MY NAILS features a haunting performance by screenwriter-producer Kisha Tikina Burgos. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
UP THERE is a charmingly light comedy about moving on and moving Up, where the dead can’t walk through walls but can check in on their loved ones. It may be Martin’s last chance to prove he belongs Up There, and with the local dead getting in his way, this may be one of the toughest assignments of his dead-end career.
Zyga and his pals have nowhere to go in their lousy Polish border town. Communism has just collapsed and people are getting into Yuma, stealing from German stores and redistributing the wealth on the Polish market. YUMA is a hugely engrossing, great sweeping saga of Good versus Evil, Polish Western style. (In Polish and German with subtitles)