Award-Winning Filmmaker’s Latest Project Highlights Lower Price Hill’s Oyler School

Lower Price Hill is a neighborhood that has seen better days, but recent and ongoing efforts to turn things around in the largely Appalachian and Hispanic community have begun to prove successful.

Some of those efforts include the more recent co-op approach being employed by the Lower Price Hill Community School to help deliver services and offerings that are not currently available to residents of the historic neighborhood. But it is the $21 million renovation of Oyler School that is seen as the spark for the recent improvements.

“Roughly half of the children in U.S. public schools today come from low-income families, and a debate is raging over how to help more of them succeed,” write filmmakers for the new documentary entitled Oyler. “Oyler School’s approach—combining academic, health, and social services under one roof—is catching on around the country.”

Amy Scott, an independent documentary filmmaker and correspondent for public radio’s Marketplace show, says that she has spent a year reporting from Oyler, and believes the documentary tells a story that has become commonplace throughout America.

Oyler tells a gripping story of individuals fighting for change in a unique American community, but it also takes on one of our country’s most pressing challenges – the persistent achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers,” wrote Scott on the project’s Kickstarter page.

The major underlying theme is about how Lower Price Hill is using its public school to transform itself and the lives of those who call it home. In a more direct message, the film also speaks to the nationally acclaimed community learning centers being employed by Cincinnati Public Schools.

While Scott’s team has already been successful at raising just over their initial goal of $25,000 for the film through Kickstarter, the campaign will remain open for one more week. The team says that the funds will be used to cover the costs associated with producing an original music score, sound mix and color correction, rights for commercial music and archival footage, and a professional website.

After the campaign closes next week, the team will get to work on finishing up the documentary and doing the requisite post-production work for a film of this nature. They say that there will be film screenings in Cincinnati and Baltimore next fall, at a minimum, and at other locations depending on those who provided more than $5,000 to the campaign.

Film showcase to kick off this year’s MidPoint Music Festival

A pair of locally produced documentaries will be showcased tomorrow during the first ever MidPoint Film Festival, which is being used to help kick-off the three-day MidPoint Music Festival.

The first will is a film about the rebirth of Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and the second is a new film highlighting the history of Newport’s seedy past. The festival is being hosted by Midland Film Institute and will make its debut at the School for Creative & Performing Arts’ (SCPA) Mayerson Theater.


Part of the film crew works on Rebirth of Over-the-Rhine along Elm Street. Photograph provided.

Rebirth of Over-the-Rhine, which was highlighted by UrbanCincy in 2010, covers the nascent redevelopment of the historically struggling neighborhood and how the interplay of social and economic forces is being brought out in the rapidly changing neighborhood. It is directed by award winning director Melissa Godoy.

“We started looking around and we found we were right at the beginning of this push. The history of the neighborhood, combined with its present-day components, really helped to make the story,” co-producer Joe Brinker told UrbanCincy.

The film has been shot in Over-the-Rhine between 2009 and 2012, and highlights some of the social struggles surrounding Washington Park.

Newport Gangster, meanwhile, showcases the gambling legacy of Newport, Kentucky, the original Sin City. The film highlights the scale of Newport’s gambling scene and how it gave birth to the modern gambling industry.

The event is free to the public although a $10 donation is encouraged. Both films will also host a question and answer session with their directors and producers. The film festival will begin at SCPA (map) Thursday, September 27 at 6pm. Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP online.

2011 Cincinnati Fringe Festival serves as a vehicle for collaboration

For funky and cutting edge arts events and experiences in Cincinnati, the place to be is the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, May 31 through June 11. The first Fringe Festival originated in Edinburgh, Scotland 51 years ago. The Cincinnati Fringe Festival in its eighth season, and like its forefather, showcases theater, comedy, performance art, fine art, and film that explores the weird, outrageous, and the provocative.

With 12 days and 160 performances of 35 productions showcasing both local and out-of-town performers and artists, plenty of opportunities exist to whet the appetites of audiences. Starting this year the Cincinnati Fringe Festival offers Fringe Next, a program that features performances created, produced, and performed by local high school students.

Some of the highlights from this year’s line-up include: Fire & Light – fire-based performances by Incendium Arts; The Masculinity Index – the exploration of what it means to be a man through theater, spoken word, music, movement and much more; Darker – a love story involving light bulbs; Fringe Documented – a film documentary focusing on bringing the Fringe to Cincinnati; and The Body Speaks: Calligraphic Photography – a photography exhibit created by Sean Dunn, a local Cincinnati photographer, focusing on “unifying the mediums of calligraphy and photography.”

Work created by Dunn served as inspiration for three other fringe projects that include: The Body Speaks: Movement, The Body Speaks: Scripted, and The Body Speaks: Captured. Dunn will be viewing the finished projects for the first time during the Fringe.

“I want my work to speak for itself; I did not want to interfere or impose my thoughts or criticisms and diminish any of the collectives’ innate creativity,” Dunn said. “I eagerly look forward to seeing and hearing The Body Speaks Projects in their polished state over the course of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.”

For Dunn, the Fringe is vital because of the collaborative opportunities it affords artists from multiple platforms. “The Cincinnati Fringe Festival is important because it presents artists of all walks of life the opportunity to work together and gives well deserved attention to the Cincinnati art scene,” Dunn said. “What’s more, Fringe Fest provides artists an exceptionally welcoming and comfortable environment in which unorthodox styles of creativity and presentation are encouraged.”

Ticket prices range from $12 per performance, $60 six-show pass, and an all-access pass for $200. For more information about performances and show times you can visit the Cincinnati Fringe Festival website.

Fringe Festival picture provided by Know Theatre.

New documentary to tell story of Over-the-Rhine’s dramatic rebirth

Many have noticed the dramatic changes taking place throughout Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Hundreds of new residents, scores of new businesses, and a new sense of neighborhood pride has come over what used to be one of the city’s most crime-ridden areas that also happened to have some of the greatest potential.

For decades the neighborhood’s unique architectural collection and historical importance to not only Cincinnati, but the United States in general, has intrigued those interested in urban revitalization. And the fact that the neighborhood was able to largely survive an era of demolition and “urban renewal” is especially significant to those now looking at the neighborhood in a new light.

Some of those individuals include a group of filmmakers who are in the process of documenting the changes taking place in Over-the-Rhine for a new documentary they hope to release in late 2011.

“When I started talking about this incredible neighborhood I had known since I was a child we realized that there might be a story to tell,” explained Joe Brinker, co-producer of Rebirth of Over-the-Rhine. “We started looking around and we found we were right at the beginning of this push. The history of the neighborhood, combined with its present-day components, really helped to make the story.”

Brinker says that the documentary group began tossing around the idea of an Over-the-Rhine documentary back in 2007 after he had initially suggested a few film ideas from conflict zones like Afghanistan, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Pakistan where he had been working.

He says that within two weeks of settling on the Over-the-Rhine documentary idea that they had begun filming and talking to developers, shop owners, residents, the homeless, and neighborhood leaders like Jim Tarbell. The team then tapped Cincinnati-based film director Melissa Godoy to oversee the production of the documentary.

“We hope to show both the actual attempt to bring the neighborhood back against the context of different personalities that exist in the neighborhood in the form of developers that may be realizing a life-long dream or poor residents that may also be experiencing change,” Brinker told UrbanCincy. “And I don’t think we could have found a better director within 500 miles of Cincinnati to help achieve this.”

Godoy is not new to Cincinnati or the historic neighborhood. The award-winning director has produced programs for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, and Cincinnati Ballet. Godoy also recently completed a documentary on the late Erich Kunzel, and has won two regional Emmy awards.

Brinker says that filming is planned to continue over the next six to twelve months as several other significant events are scheduled to take place that help to further illustrate the rebirth taking place in Over-the-Rhine. But he emphasizes that what makes the film special is the attention paid to the human element.

“The documentary is all about people working towards something positive within a larger attempt to bring back the neighborhood,” Brinker explained. “Everyone in the neighborhood really seems to care and have the interest of the neighborhood at heart, and this is the story we are trying to tell.”

The high-definition production thus far has tallied up more than 150 hours of footage, and has been completely funded through private donations. The group says that contributions made to the film will help determine its final production quality, and they are encouraging Cincinnatians who are interested to attend an upcoming fundraiser that will be held at Rookwood Pottery on November 12.

2010 Cincinnati Film Festival continues this week throughout city

The 2010 Cincinnati Film Festival got started this past weekend in multiple venues around the Cincinnati region. The festival originally started as the Oxford International Film Festival in 2007 with 530 entries from 41 different countries.  The remodeled 2010 version is showcasing more than 100 films from 14 different countries at 11 venues throughout the city.

The festival will continue throughout the week with a closing reception scheduled for the evening of Saturday, October 16.  A day-by-day schedule is available on the festival’s website with about eight different showings each day this week.

The festival is based at the Esquire Theatre, a classic movie theater in the heart of Clifton’s Gaslight District, with a lot of showings at UC’s Main Street Cinema also located Uptown.  One special night at the Main Street Cinema will be Tuesday as Watch This host’s a free showing of the 1974 classic Chinatown as part of their project to watch the AFI Top 100 this year.

Many of the featured films opened over the weekend, but most have one or two showings each during the week. The full list can be found online and includes many films making their regional, U.S., or even world premier. Tickets can be purchased online on a film-by-film basis or by purchasing daily passes for $20 each.