In Short: Reviews of 39th Annual CIFF Short Films

Cleveland centric ‘Super Pimp’ falls super flat

In a pressed, vivacious suit and a waxy, slicked back hairdo, local legend “Super Pimp” works crowds of club hoppers through a series of evanescent scenes captured around Cleveland’s Warehouse District.

What at times feels like an unrelenting succession of glaring match shots is in actuality a cinematic snapshot into a self-made entertainer’s life. But what begins as an enticing attempt to spotlight a local personality quickly turns into a rather lackluster look at what makes him tick.

“Super Pimp” follows a man whose real name is neither super nor pimp. Lorain, Ohio native David Michael Toth earned his unmistakable pseudonym from Clevelanders who have loved and revered his enduring presence in the city’s club district for over a decade.

Strolling West 6th Street, Toth’s mustachioed caricature is here to help you appreciate the good life, good friends, good health and good times. Super Pimp’s Pimpology 101 is, after all, about taking his life experiences — the good, the bad and the humorous — and using them to help others.

The film offers viewers glimpses of this and the contrary effects his lifestyle has on his family. Where the story could have spent more time illustrating the birth, growth and setbacks of a street corner celebrity through Toth’s own experiences, it instead wasted early shots on enthusiastically inebriated Clevelanders describing “Who is Super Pimp” like a group of 10-year-olds watching mystery artist “Who Is Fancy” deliver his first public performance.

Even the trippy ’70s-esque transitions and bass-booming soundtrack were not enough to tie together this extra-glossy film. In the end, “Super Pimp” struggles to deliver on its own true potential as a tale of purpose and a man’s desire to better himself through positive human connection.

‘Stealth’ offers honest look at trans youth experience

On her first day at a new middle school in a new town, Sammy isn’ just worried about stuffing her bra. In fact, the bra is simply metaphor for a much bigger issue: Will she fit in?

As “Stealth” reveals the specific nature of Sammy’s insecurity and fear — that she is a transgender girl in the middle of her transition — her mother reveals a secret of her own. She, too, had to fight for her identity as a woman.

Their relationship of shared experience seems to put them on the same page — until Sammy’ two new friends want to hang outside of school. While some kids deal with misplaced giggles about where weight settles or if they’re shaving yet, parts of Sammy’s body being exposed could lead to more than burning cheeks.

Which is why when Sammy decides she wants to go to a sleepover, her mother is shocked and scared, unwilling to put her daughter in harm’s way. But this is the first time Sammy feels like her whole self and she is determined to start living like every other girl. What Sammy comes to find is that it’s also the first time she’ll understand what it means to truly “fit in.”

On top of its solid character arcs and endearing performances, “Stealth” has managed to realistically and respectfully illustrate unique aspects of the transgender experience. At the very same time, writer Melissa Hoppe has universalized Sammy through choice situations and dialogue, making her the face of a relatable coming-of-age story.

A sincere look at a formidable time when our personal identities are both pliable for and imperative to our social survival, “Stealth” is a heart-aching narrative of growing up and learning who we are.

‘Welcome (Bienvenidos)’ rediscovers magic behind modern day technologies

In the hills of Ingatambo, a remote Peruvian village in the Andes Mountains, two siblings cross an immense landscape to put their favorite things in “the cloud.”

No, they aren’t talking about the fog hanging over their small mountain village. They are referring to a network of remote servers hosted directly through the Internet that can be used to store, manage and process data.

Their cousin’s school now has computers with access to the web in order to help students learn things like math and geography. And so a world that was once foreign to them can now be accessed with the touch of their fingers.

While they are allowed to (and eagerly) embrace the magic of a technological education, there are still members of their community whose priorities do not lie in textbooks. Rather, they fall to meeting basic needs. So for some, the now symbiotic relationship between education and technology is something they, like many others, will sadly not get to experience.

Over the course of the film’s 28 minutes, audiences witness the transformative power of an innovation we take for granted as it reaches a tiny school located three hours walking distance for many of its pupils. For these children who sit at the crux of the old and modern world, “the cloud” is truly magical.

The biggest magic of all, however, is how “elcome (Bienvenidos)” helps viewers re-appreciate the importance of access. How things considered necessities are luxuries that can change those who use them, connecting them not just to ideas and places, but most importantly, to people.

Sweeping shots of Peru’s beautiful landscape and two siblings’ genial and comical narration reminds the audience of the magic of technology and its ability to program a revolution in a small developing South American town.

This story first appeared in the April 13, 2015 issue of The Cleveland Stater.

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