Updated: Apr 20
There's lots to see at the 2022 Cleveland International Film Festival!
I’ve just returned from the opening weekend of the 46th Cleveland International Film Festival, an annual event that I’ve enjoyed for over two decades.
While the festival has undergone some changes over the past two years, stemming from disruptions due to COVID-19 and the change of location from Tower City Cinemas (1991-2019) to Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, it remains an event that film lovers should make every effort to attend.
For me, it’s a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh that only requires a half tank of gas in my Honda Accord. Good news during these trying times of inflated gas prices.
What awaits is a line-up of feature films, short films and documentaries from around the world, along with special programs and events including a film competition.
Every year, the lineup includes films that you might not see elsewhere. The movie offering is the heart and soul of this festival. The organizers, headed by CIFF’s longstanding Executive Director Marcie Goodman, manage to never disappoint. They make you feel like a kid in a cinematic candy store.
One of the highlights for me this year was the documentary InHospitable, shot here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It focuses on the ongoing corporate feud between two competing health giants, UPMC and Highmark, embroiled in a nasty fight for dominance that negatively impacted the lives of insurance subscribers and patients on both sides.
Director Sandra C. Alvarez does a masterful job of tackling the complex issues leading up to the showdown between the two corporate giants, tracing the evolution of regional hospitals and health care from the earliest days of compassionate, non-profit care, often provided by nuns, to the modern mega-businesses they have become, earning billions of dollars annually, still maintaining their non-profit status.
Beneath it all are the elements of power, greed, money and monopolistic control. It’s the dark underbelly of a system that is now more about profits and less about people being served.
Alvarez does a masterful job tracing the history of health care and the clash of the two titans that has been very public for years. But she goes further by tracing the lives of patients whose lives have been severely impacted by the legal battle that has been raging. It was a story that caught the attention of CBS’s 60 Minutes and subsequently the attention of the nation since the story is not an isolated one, rather a reflection of similar battles being fought from coast to coast.
InHospitable is that rare documentary that goes beyond spotlighting an overlooked problem or injustice, to an investigation that ultimately affects each and every one of us. It’s a problem that is economic, social, political, widespread, and very personal.
The questions that it raises are colossal and confounding, regarding the non-profit status of hospitals and health systems and the enormous tax revenues that are denied their local communities, customers and patients. In that sense, InHospitable is a real wake-up call about a growing problem that we all need to recognize and address.
Like other great documentaries, it is informative and infuriating. In the tradition of other great documentary films, it can hopefully be a catalyst for discussion, debate and change.
Other films I saw at this year’s festival included NR.10 from the Netherlands and Belgium. I’ve often wondered about the creative possibilities of genre-jumping in movies, that is to say shifting genres within the same film, such as transitioning from romantic drama to crime story to science fiction.
NR.10 does just that. Without giving away too much, it cleverly draws you into what you think is going to be a suspenseful story of romance, deceit and revenge, only to change direction and become something else entirely, something completely unexpected.
NR.10 is one of those refreshingly different international films that casts aside rules, conventions and expectations in the interest of pursuing a fresh new narrative direction. I applaud it for breaking rules and pushing boundaries. It’s a departure from what we’re accustomed to seeing.
(Rebecca Hall stars in Resurrection)
The same might be said of Rebecca Hall’s new movie Resurrection in which she plays a young, single mom, with an ordinary office job whose life begins to splinter apart upon the sudden appearance of a man (played brilliantly by Tim Roth) from her distant past as a teenage girl.
What begins as a Hitchcockian tale of dark suspense takes a bizarre turn into an even darker tale of twisted, sado-masochistic mind control and psychological torture. Resurrection is a fearless, independent film brimming with suspense and shocking revelations.
The French film Anais in Love, is the story of a free spirited, impulsive young woman who drifts into a relationship with an older man before falling in love with his beautiful, middle-aged wife. It’s a movie about love and desire and the mysteries of romantic attraction.
Once again, CIFF 46 has something for everyone. It is a joyous film experience that runs until April 10. If you can't make it there in person, the films can be streamed. Check clevelandfilm.org for details. Or call 216-623-3456 for more information.