Even though it's warm outside, the annual Cincinnati Winterfilm Festival will be at the Woodward Theater

Also, a new documentary about Pope Francis, which debuted at Cannes, is at the Mariemont Theatre and earns an A-

click to enlarge Kent Meloy - PHOTO: Provided
PHOTO: Provided
Kent Meloy

How is it that we’re in the midst of the summer movie season nationally, yet regionally we’re gearing up for the fifth annual Winterfilm Festival? The screening and awards presentation occurs 7 p.m. Saturday at Woodward Theater (1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine). 

I spoke to the event’s director, Kent Meloy, about the timing and purpose of the event.  

“In the fall of 2013, I had just finished wrapping up directorial duties on season one of Dark Age, a post-apocalyptic-comedy-web-series (darkage.tv), and had also gathered a team for what would be my fifth entry into Cincinnati’s 48 Hour Film Project,” he says, referring to the local event for which creators put together a film in two days from scratch. “I began thinking about how the 48s were great fun, but didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to really hone in on a story and make it something not only a little special, but something that wouldn’t require a ton of rework to get into shape to submit to larger festivals.” 

As head of the Southern Ohio Film Association (SOFA) at the time, Meloy organized a core team to develop what has become Winterfilm, named for the time (mid-February to mid-March) the teams have to create their films.

“Each team had to write a short film based upon a broad theme — the first year it was simply ‘Winter’ — and include a prop,” he explains. “That (first) year it was a newspaper containing a (publication) date during the production month. Teams were encouraged to stretch the theme as far as they can; giving them as much freedom as possible was paramount in my mind.”

In its fifth year, the theme is “deception” and the featured prop is a mirror. Films are limited to less than 10 minutes.

With the fifth annual event ready to occur, and with close to 50 films produced as part of Winterfilm so far, Meloy says he loves “having a gathering of filmmakers celebrating each other’s work. But it would be even better to have an audience of actual movie enthusiasts.” 

This year’s screening and awards ceremony is at the Woodward because Meloy was so taken with the neighborhood’s activity during last year’s Blink festival. 

“The crowds were huge, friendly, engaged and all were there because of art,” he says. “My mind was made up at that moment; the next phase of Winterfilm had to take place downtown, preferably in OTR. If we could tap into even a little of that energy, the impact on our local filmmakers would be immense.”  

For tickets, visit woodwardtheater.com.

***

One might describe the notion of Wim Wenders directing a documentary feature on Pope Francis as “capturing lightning in a bottle.” The three-time Oscar-nominated German filmmaker (for documentaries Buena Vista Social Club in 2000, Pina in 2012 and The Salt of the Earth in 2015) has a penchant for exploring the exact points where the spiritual seems to touch the extending fingertips of humanity. His 1987 classic drama Wings of Desire captured the dilemma of a watchful angel who seeks to become human after falling in love with a mortal.

So it comes as no surprise that he would be fascinated by Pope Francis, the current leader of the global Catholic faith community who, through his words and deeds, seeks to find a way to live in peace, not only with others, but also with the planet itself. In Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, Wenders draws bold comparisons between the pontiff and Saint Francis, the beloved figure who preached and lived a doctrine of love. 

It is obvious that Wenders was given liberal access to the Pope, in terms of both interview time and the ability to travel freely among his loose entourage. The result is a loving portrait intent on allowing the religious leader’s message of hope and humble example to shine. One could quibble that Pope Francis: A Man of His Word refuses to challenge specific contemporary issues bedeviling society as a whole, but Wenders lets the man’s highly charged words target our aching hearts. (Grade: A-) (PG) (Mariemont Theatre)

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