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Film Festival Here Could Be Doable

By Readers · January 9th, 2008 · Letters
I almost couldn't believe it when I saw the cover story "Cincinnati Film Festival: Could It Work Here?" (issue of Jan. 2). Barely three years have past since the demise of the Cincinnati International Film Festival (CIFF) -- which I once served as associate producer -- virtually unassisted promotionally by CityBeat, which repeatedly devoted copious cover stories to film festivals six states away, apparently to help its chief film critic have face time with movie stars.

If CityBeat is now serious about wanting to see a film festival rise again here, successfully, it had better promise to place its pages in support of it this time.

But I'm not sure that one of those other film organization's directors, Tim Swallow, isn't right when he says we're not yet ready for the big time. He has done an excellent job developing an audience for fine film, but we've a way to go yet.

The Esquire and Mariemont cinemas have a decent track record of bringing quality films to Cincinnati, but dozens of times I have found myself among an audience you can count on fewer fingers than on one hand -- and on several occasions the film would not have been projected had I not bought my lone ticket. For a film festival to work here it needs either a large, available, excitable base audience -- like a university's (or possibly a museum's) -- or, probably more importantly, the ability to attract a substantial audience from outside the immediate area.

Examples of the former not mentioned in your article include the Cincinnati Women's Film Festival run by Andrea Kornbluh for years at UC's Raymond Walters College and more recently on the main campus (a legitimately international film festival) and a distantly remembered, week-long Stanley Kubrick Retrospective at Xavier University (with Kubrick in attendance) produced by the Cincinnati Film Society (CFS).

Back then the CFS was like an ongoing film festival, bringing in filmmakers with their films all the time. John Sayles screened his films here several times. We brought in Michael Moore to screen his first feature, Roger and Me (I got to drive him around town).

The CFS partied as though a festival, too. One fabulous costume party with people dressed as their favorite film (character, theme, set, prop) took over the Pavilion Caprice at the Netherland Plaza Hotel. What made the CFS work then was enthusiasm, both for the films and the folks who loved them.

We talked a lot then about establishing a local film festival. I even approached Kenner Toys about funding a Cincinnati International Children's Film Festival. No soap. And a few years ago Columbus beat us to doing this.

There are a lot of city festivals now competing for many of the same films, so the focus or theme of a festival can be important. It might make sense to start with a large "Best of Other Fests" Festival, to test the audience water. Cincinnati World Cinema already hosts several mini-festivals focused on award-winning short films.

I think the Contemporary Arts Center should take a lead in establishing an active film culture for its membership and general audience (just compare it to Columbus' Wexner Center), and I like Jim Tarbell's idea of the Emery as a venue. Why can't the Aronoff Center participate, too?

Someone should donate projection equipment to Know Theatre. And let's have more summer evening's film screenings on the Fountain Square video board. It's all walkable to and conceivable.
-- William Messer, Corryville

Need Real Help
Regarding Joe Wessels' column "Looking for Help That Helps" (issue of Jan. 2), well said! I'm director of the OTR Learning Center and a member of First Lutheran Church, and I got more than blank stares the last time I encountered the suburban church group literally two inches outside our church door on the sidewalk handing out sandwiches while our worship service was going on, leaving only litter besides nothingness in their wake. They sent our pastor a letter outing me on my rudeness to their kind folks when I wished them away.

If they don't want to buy their own church here, why don't they fund our program that teaches the poorest of the poor in Cincinnati to read and/or helps them obtain their G.E.D., learn to use a computer or job search in an environment sensitive to their complex challenges? These are ways people will be able to feed themselves more consistently.

Perhaps we should posse up and go out to their church and hand out Bibles at their front door in case anyone is missing what their church is serving.
-- Leslie Cook, Over-the-Rhine



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