This past Wednesday, the Cleveland International Film Festival kicked off its 39th year at Tower City Cinemas. As a five-year employee of the Cleveland Cinematheque, adjunct professor of media arts at Tri-C, and lover of the silver screen for as long as I can remember, this two week span is certainly my most wonderful time of year. But with 193 feature films to choose from, not including 243 short films showing, picking just a few great films can seem like a real crapshoot. In an effort to make this process as pleasurable as possible, I’ve taken on the task of mining down this massive list to bring you my top 5 must-see movies.

1. The Tribe (2014, Ukraine), by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, looks to be an insane grasp of the senses. With absolutely no subtitles, no voice-overs, and only using Ukrainian sign language, this film relies solely on physical movements for the audience to follow. Given the opportunity to embark on this rare adventure through sensory deprivation, this film was a shoe-in for top pick. Sponsored by the Cleveland Cinematheque, The Tribe is definitely a work of art not to be missed.

  • Wednesday, March 25th, 11:30 AM
  • Saturday, March 28th, 9:00 PM
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2. Big Moccasin (2014, USA), from the married directorial team of Andrew and Chelsea Moynehan, is everything I would ever want to make in a picture. Taking us through a 20-mile span road called Big Moccasin, tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains of Southwestern Virginia, this story is told through the lives of four locals in a community that is slowly dwindling in population. Storytelling, beautiful cinematography and music by Folk Soul Revival, this film will expose us to the concept of home and our sense of past.

  • Thursday, March 26th, 9:20 PM
  • Friday, March 27th, 11:55 AM
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3. Sam Klemke’s Time Machine (2015, Australia, USA). Caricature artist Sam Klemke recorded his life almost on a daily basis since 1977.  Revealing the passage of time in a way that challenges audiences to question what living really is, award-winning documentary filmmaker Matthew Bate takes us on a beautiful voyage, unearthing one of our most basic existential questions.

  • Wednesday, March 25th, 9:30 PM
  • Thursday, March 26th, 11:40 AM
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4. The Coffin Maker (2014, Philippines), directed by Jason Paul Laxamana, is the story of Randy, a single father who is barely earning enough money to provide proper care and medicine for his sick child.  Ultimately leading to her untimely death, Randy is forced down an unimaginable path is which he must fight for his daughters redemption and his own self-acceptance.

  • Thursday, March 26th, 9:25 PM
  • Friday, March 27th, 1:55 PM
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5. Frame By Frame (2015, Afghanistan) by directors Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli. Told through the lens of four brave photojournalists in Afghanistan who risk their lives daily in order to document the happenings in their country, Frame by Frame touches on the struggles and sacrifices made by journalists caught in a crisis zone as they fight for justice and social change.

  • Friday, March 27th, 6:20 PM
  • Saturday, March 28th, 1:20 PM
  • Sunday, March 29th, 4:50 PM

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