Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cinema paradiso

The next week and a half is a good time to be a cinephile in central Ohio. Tonight the Wexner Center is screening HUNGER, the debut film of writer-director Steve McQueen. I've yet to see it, but advance word, such as J. Hoberman's rave review, is strong. At last year's Cannes Film Festival McQueen won the Caméra D'Or for this film about a hunger strike in a Northern Ireland prison.

I'm regularly impressed with the world-class filmmakers the Wexner Center is able to bring in for visits, so it comes as no surprise that they landed one of only two appearances that McQueen is making to promote the U.S. opening of the film. (The other is in New York, naturally.) McQueen will introduce HUNGER at this evening's screening. More information is available here.

If you're willing to drive a couple hours north and stay indoors while the weather is becoming more spring-like, more than 300 films await at the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival. Opening night is Thursday, March 19, with the jam-packed daily schedules commencing on Friday the 20th and lasting through Sunday, March 29.

I've been attending CIFF since 2005 and have felt it's particularly good at finding interesting Scandinavian films that often never reach Columbus. For instance, Joachim Trier's REPRISE played CIFF in 2007 and had a cursory commercial release in 2008 but never opened here.

This year their Pacific Pearls sidebar looks potentially strong, with new films from Jia Zhang-ke, Hong Sang-soo, and Johnnie To. CIFF also has some of the IFC Festival direct titles, like Joe Swanberg's ALEXANDER THE LAST, which just premiered at SXSW.

Other higher profile titles include the baseball drama SUGAR from the co-directors of HALF NELSON; 2009 Sundance buzz film MOON with Sam Rockwell; James Toback's docu-biography about Mike Tyson; and Joe Berlinger's oil documentary CRUDE. Writer-director Ramin Bahrani has been tabbed as Someone to Watch, and all three of his feature films will be screened, including his latest GOODBYE SOLO.

Keep an eye on this space during the festival as I plan to cover eight of CIFF's eleven days as best as can be done with catching up to seven films in a day and not having time for much else, including sleep. Coverage will begin on March 20, although my first post will probably not hit the web until I get to the hotel on the 21st.

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