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MARCH 11, 2008    

Film Festival (Spring Break, Day 2)

Today started with a 9 a.m. visit to the Cleveland International Film Festival. Since Tri-C is a big-time underwriter of the Festival, we get to introduce special showings of films to high school students, accompanied by a quick sales pitch about the college. The faculty and students who volunteer to make these introductions get to see a few films for free. If you're lucky you get a "Guest" pass that lets you into virtually everything. I did this last year, too.

Jump! thumbnailToday I saw Jump!, a documentary about competitive jump-roping, a sport I didn't know existed. Two of the teams featured were from Cincinnati. Although the film got a bit repetitive with its visits to teams practicing at home followed by individual interviews followed by teams in competitions—state, then regional, then national, then world—the jumping was great fun to watch.

There was the requisite "sports builds character" theme throughout, and more scenes of teams asking Jesus to help them jump higher than I'd prefer, but still it came across as genuine. A comment made by several coaches in the film was that the great thing about the sport is that is still friendly. Because of its low profile, competition hasn't ruined it. Yet. There's a push to get it into the Olympics, which could be the kiss of death for the cooperative, good-hearted nature of the competition.

Jumpers and spectators in Tower City After the movie a group of jumpers, including one of the girls featured in the film, went to the front of the theater and did a demonstration. They invited anyone in the audience to try, and a few of the high school kids were brave enough to try.

Later the action moved out into Tower City's open fountain area where the kids could do more elaborate choreography.

The whole scenario is an example of how an event like the Film Festival can bring together all sorts of people and open their/our eyes to unknown aspects of the world we live in. Call me a fuzzy-headed liberal if you like, but I think this is a Good Thing To Do.

Other films I've seen (more or less)

You, the Living
You the Living thumbnailA strange, funny, and ultimately frustrating Swedish film. The frustration started when we had to watch it projected from a DVD since the actual print was lost in the snow on Sunday somewhere between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Midway through the film we walked out when the DVD kept pausing every few seconds. We got replacement vouchers and went to see...
Up the Yangtze
Up the Yangtze thumbnailStarting with scenes of a Chinese family surviving in a candlelit shack at the edge of the river, the movie follows a group of tourists on a luxury cruise boat. The Chinese family's young daughter works on the boat, and the interplay between the two lifestyles is a metaphor for a changing Chinese society. The film's larger context is the water rising due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, changing life along the river as well. For better or for worse, things will never look this way again.
Island Etude
Island Etude thumbnailThe story of a college student who rides his bike around the island of Taiwan, this sounded like a winner. I love stories of individual journeys on foot, bike or car. When I was 16 I wanted to ride my bike cross-country, which my parents forbade in most dramatic terms. So I do it vicariously through books and movies. This one didn't work for me, and I left shortly before it ended. Mostly I needed to attend to the call of nature, but at that point the movie had lost me emotionally. Filmed to look like a documentary, it was obviously staged. The characters seemed stylized and the lead actor wasn't convincing. When he over-dramatically wiped away tears watching his grandfather take part in a traditional ceremony I knew it was time to leave. I realized I didn't care how it ended.

Hmm... those comments sound pretty negative, yet I don't feel negative at all. I'm glad that I went to all of the movies, and there are aspects of each that I really enjoyed. Each gave me a look at a reality very unlike my own. Some I wanted to spend more time with, others less.

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MARCH 2008