I'm still doing research and trying to make some quality educated suggestions for your Cleveland International Film Festival experience. So, here's another short list of films I'm going to see and recommend you see as well.
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Steam of Life - It's like Coffee & Cigarettes with a lot more steam and a lot fewer clothes. Saunas are as intrinsic to Finnish life as Coffee shops are to American life. These vignettes are small windows into the culture and life of the Finns as it is shared, deconstructed and honed within the walls of various saunas.
Rubber - A tire that murders people of its own volition. What more do you need to know?
Route Irish - "Frankie was never in the wrong place at the wrong fookin' time!" Irish people swearing a lot about a soldier murdered during the Iraqi occupation and the quest to discover what really happened on the "most dangerous road in the world." File under: thriller/political intrigue.
There Once Was an Island - Wanna see a real-life isolated island culture being washed away into the sea? Yeah, me neither. This documentary is the sad story of the Polynesian clans of the Takuu atoll, whose beautiful island is literally disappearing into the sea.
Kooky - A childhood fantasy film about letting go, as told via a small, red teddy bear. Utilizing live action & stop motion, the film looks like something that might have come from the mind of a prepubescent Guillermo del Toro.
Robert Mitchum is Dead - just link to the trailer; watch it; then tell me you don't want to see this film....whatever it may actually be about (I honestly can't find a trailer with English subtitles...or plot synopsis for that matter! - so if you find one, post it please).
The Roundup (La Rafle) - A story based on true events of Nazi-French collusion during WWII: the roundup and detention (and eventual death in many cases) of 13,000 Jews in France -- Four thousand children were taken in the raids.
The Green Wave- You may say "Persepolis 2.0," and you may be right. I guess we'll find out afterward. Though the stories may be equally as intimate and politically relevant, Wave seems to have a far clearer documentary feel than Persepolis.
Bibliotheque Pascal - This film is sure to be a visual morsel. It's got hints of Big Fish, in that it's the story of a story. And within the second tier of story telling we find the visuals of the fantastical. This story, however, has the more sobering topic of a mother and child living in a brothel, dreaming of freedom.