Another movie guy goes home with an eyeful of TIFF memories

TORONTO - And on the seventh day, there is one less Clevelander in Canada, because Jonathan Forman, longtime president of Cleveland Cinemas, has left the 10-day film festival here.

Forman, whose theaters number the Cedar Lee, Chagrin Cinemas, Shaker Square, Tower City, Apollo (Oberlin) and Southside Works (Pittsburgh), returned home today (Wednesday) after watching somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 films.

"As always, I try to choose films that have U.S. distributors, since those are films I'm likely to consider showing," explained Forman, who has been attending the Toronto festival for "about" 36 years.

"Then are those like 'Jackie' (the movie with Natalie Portman playing Jacqueline Kennedy) that I'm aware are being bid on for acquisition.

"I find myself (and other exhibitors) always thinking not only about whether I enjoyed the movie, but also about whether there is an audience for it."

Forman cited the heavily lauded "Moonlight," which has no major stars, as a good example of a movie that might be universally praised but also could have difficulty finding an audience.

Another is "The Birth of a Nation," a movie which took home a number of awards from last winter's Sundance Film Festival, but now is trying to escape controversy involving long-ago rape charges (that were subsequently dropped) against actor/director Nate Parker. 

"Will the bad press be distracting to any discussion about whether this is a good and important film?" Forman wondered. "I guess we'll see."

As always, the man who founded the Cleveland International Film Festival more than 40 years ago, saw most festival films here at what are called "press and industry" screenings.

"Even though my P&I pass gets me into most films I want to see," he said, "several films screen only once and at the same time. That's when I grovel through industry contacts to obtain coveted tickets to public screenings.

"That certainly helps. But, unlike the industry screenings, public screenings typically start 10-25 minutes late and can affect your next screening. Plus, there's the added travel/walking time between theaters."

Regardless, Forman said he always enjoys seeing old friends and business associates, not to mention a plethora of quality films.

His personal "standouts" this year include "La La Land," "Nocturnal Animals," "Snowden" (which opens in theaters Friday), "Lion" and "Denial."

"I also liked 'Toni Erdmann' but simply wonder if the public will be willing to invest a long two-plus hours in a subtitled film," Forman concluded. "I think it's well worth it, and so is 'Elle' (with Isabelle Huppert), but it remains a tough and controversial film." 

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Speaking of Clevelanders, producer Tyler Davidson ("Take Shelter," "Kings of Summer") is one of the executive producers behind a cool and creative animated film here called "My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea."

Two public showings of this world premiere offering already have created much buzz, with a third set for Friday night.

Jason Schwartzman, Susan Sarandon, Lena Dunham (HBO's "Girls"), Maya Rudolph and Reggie Watts ("The Late, Late Show With James Cordon") are among the featured voices taking some major zings at education, with lots of teen comedy tossed in.

A more serious festival film, "Christine," starring Rebecca Hall in the title role, also has local ties.

To learn more about it, check back here Saturday as the 41st Toronto International Film Festival winds down.

Meanwhile, more information about any of the above-mentioned films can be found here


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