By Debby Samples, Cleveland International Film Festival
The Cleveland International Film Festival celebrated its Akron-area ties on Monday, March 26th with the 36th CIFF Akron Knight Night held at Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill. It’s no wonder this is one of the favorite events of the Festival with the film, BILL W. (about the founder of AA), screening to an at-capacity crowd.
The evening kicked-off with a pre-film reception (catered by the very talented Moe Schneider of Akron) where attendees were able to mingle with the director of BILL W., Kevin Hanlon; producer, Dan Carracino; and the actor who portrayed Bill W. in the film, Blake Evans. The filmmakers were warmly welcomed by the enthusiastic crowd who shared their stories and connections to the film. The attendees not only chatted with the filmmakers but also with each other as if they were lifelong friends when in fact they had just met.
Cut to the film start time when the filmmakers decided they wanted to experience their film with the audience and then lead a wildly successful post-film Q&A. We were so proud of what we were witnessing, not only for the Festival, and not only for our partners connected with the film (Stan Hywet, Akron Life, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, ADAMHS, Recovery Resources) but also because it was a perfect example of how film can unite so many people from a wide-variety of backgrounds.
The energy of the evening was everything we could have hoped for: excitement, happiness, and community. It was such a privilege for the CIFF to be part of the experience. Our sincerest thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for making such an evening possible.