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News . Feature Stories . Kasumi Presents Her Breakout Feature Film at Cle Film Fest


March 23, 2011

Kasumi Presents Her Breakout Feature Film at Cle Film Fest

Video artist and CIA professor Kasumi presents her breakout feature film at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 25, 2011.

Kasumi, celebrated artist and Cleveland Institute of Art professor, executive produced the new independent film Aardvark which will premiere in Cleveland at the 2011 Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF). Aardvark will screen at 8:30pm on Friday, March 25, the opening night of CIFF. The film will be introduced by CIA President Grafton Nunes and will conclude with a question-and-answer session featuring Kasumi, director Kitao Sakurai, and actors Larry Lewis Jr. and Darren Branch.

A popular selection at major international film festivals in the last year (including the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the Vienna IFF, the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Thessaloniki IFF in Greece, and the Hong Kong IFF), Aardvark was filmed entirely in Cleveland and stars Cleveland Heights residents Larry Lewis Jr. and Darren Branch, with a supporting cast of local players.

“We’re incredibly excited to present Aardvark at the 35th Cleveland International Film Festival,” said CIFF Artistic director Bill Guentzler. “Kitao is a bold new voice in international cinema and the fact that Aardvark was born out of Cleveland gives it a very special connection to our festival. I know our audiences will love this fresh and fascinating film as much as I did when I first saw it.”

“The film is about a blind man searching for answers after a horrific act of violence,” says Kasumi. What makes Aardvark entirely unique is that it begins as a documentary reenactment and transforms into an entirely fictional neo-noir thriller that follows the protagonist, Larry, as he embarks on a dark quest for vengeance. Aardvark blurs the lines between documentary and fiction in a startling and entirely unexpected way.

Aardvark is particularly meaningful for me on a very personal level,” continues Kasumi. “My artistic response to the recent loss of sight in my left eye and to resulting introspections on mortality is a re-envisioned view of the world and an evolving set of new perceptual tools provoked by the loss.”

On producing her first feature film, Kasumi says: “This experience has given me new tools and understanding essential for creating large-scale, feature-length projects. It also gave me an even deeper appreciation of the art of collaboration.”

“CIA is really proud of Kasumi’s role in the development of this significant new film,” said Grafton Nunes, president of the Cleveland Institute of Art, who is also a film scholar and former film producer. “To highlight our commitment to supporting a broad range of artistic endeavors, CIA is partnering with CIFF for the Cleveland premiere of Aardvark, and later on this year we will present a special screening of the film at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.”

The critical acclaim has been exceptional. Named “critic’s pick” in L.A. Weekly, Aardvark has been invited to screen at Reykjavik International Film Festival, the Warsaw IFF, the Viennale, Goteborg IFF, the Valdivia IFF, Chile, BAFICI, Buenos Aires, Mostra de Valencia, Internationale Münchner Filmwoche Munich, AFI Fest (American Film Institute, LA), Las Palmas, Warsaw, Krakow, Copenhagen, and many more.

“An American indie film like no other.”
-Tony Rayns of Sight & Sound

“A thriller that transcends genre... immerses viewers in the psyche of a fascinating and wholly unique protagonist”
-Rooftop Films

“The strangely poetic and hybrid creation Aardvark is unique of its kind... makes one think of Mishima’s work.”
-Olivier Pére, Director of Locarno International Film Festival

“An assured and moody atmospheric drama... a parable about feelings of the heart being able to overcome impairment of the senses”
-Time Out London

Description of AARDVARK from the CIFF official website:
“A brilliant film that transcends genre and blurs the line between documentary and fiction, AARDVARK begins as the real-life story of the friendship between a blind recovering alcoholic and his martial arts teacher. In a role inspired by his own true life, Larry plays himself—a man blind since birth who begins a journey of self-discovery when he meets Darren, the kind and magnetic teacher of his Jiu-Jitsu class. Through Larry’s dedication to the sport and his growing relationship with Darren, Larry is able to rebuild his life into one of stability and discipline. But as the film progresses, it transforms into a shocking narrative when Darren’s hard-partying ways are revealed and a horrible incident occurs. Consequently, Larry goes on a search for answers, fueled by vengeance and his loyalty to his close friend. As director Kitao Sakurai explains, the film’s twist is a reflection on the “push and pull of cinema’s engagement with physical reality.” In a sense, Sakurai is questioning our perspective of reality in general and does so beautifully by flowing two parts—one real, one not—into a single seamless story. Based and shot in Cleveland, AARDVARK is a simple, yet dramatic thriller starring two men who essentially reenact their lives together in order to tell a larger story about relationships and how they can reveal a man’s true nature.”

Images: Kasumi; Aardvark promotional poster.

The Cleveland Institute of Art is a premier college of art and design committed to leadership and vision in all forms of visual arts education. The Institute makes enduring contributions to education and extends its programs to the public through gallery exhibits, lectures, a continuing education program and the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, an art and independent film program.

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