Brainiac — (from left) Tim Taylor, John Schmersal, Juan Monasterio and Tyler Trent — featured in a mid-’90s promotional photo. CONTRIBUTED/FILE
Photo: Contributing Writer
Photo: Contributing Writer

WORTH THE DRIVE: 3 Dayton-related films screening at Cleveland festival

Three documentaries with Dayton connections are part of the 43rd annual Cleveland International Film Festival, slated March 27-April 7 at Tower City Cinemas and select neighborhood screenings in the Cleveland area.

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Promoting “artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community,” the festival will present 211 feature films and 237 short films representing 71 countries. The films with ties to Dayton are “America,” “American Factory” and “Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero.”

Wright State University film alums Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside’s documentary “America,” a story of a Mexican family caring for their elderly grandmother, will be screened March 29-31 at the Cleveland International Film Festival. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributing Writer


Directed by Wright State University film alums Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside, “America” chronicles the loving yet tense bonds of family in its story of three brothers in Mexico who are caretakers for their 93-year-old grandmother, America.

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Shot over the course of three years and filmed in Spanish with subtitles, the project marks the first feature-length documentary for the duo, notably featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2017. They also co-founded the political web series New Left Media, an activist platform which tracked political movements during the Obama administration, and drew attention for their short profile on Ricardo Aca, an undocumented immigrant who worked in a Trump hotel.

“America” is described as teaching “valuable lessons in patience, compassion and the definition of fierce family loyalty.”

Academy Award nominees and former Wright State University film professors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s documentary “American Factory,” a look at the local Fuyao plant in Moraine, will be screened March 30 and 31 at the Cleveland International Film Festival. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributing Writer

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“American Factory”

Directed by former Wright State professors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert of Yellow Springs, “American Factory” spotlights the local glassmaking Fuyao plant, on the former site of the vast General Motors complex in Moraine, which was opened by a Chinese billionaire in 2015.

According to press notes, “Three years of unbelievable access to the factory lines and meetings with the 2,000 employees captured the early days of exhilaration that soon gave way to language and cultural barriers, conflict and a union organizing campaign. ‘American Factory’ offers an all-access experience to factory floors and the Dayton-area homes of workers on both sides of the divide.”

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For their work on “American Factory,” Bognar and Reichert won the U.S. documentary directing award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. They also received an Academy Award nomination for 2009’s “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” and an Emmy Award for 2006’s “A Lion in the House.” Reichert has also received Academy Award nominations for 1977’s “Union Maids” and 1983’s “Seeing Red.”

“We are thrilled and honored that ‘American Factory’ is screening this weekend at the festival,” Bognar said. “Cleveland audiences are big and enthusiastic, and the festival team does a great job every year. We’re looking forward to premiering the film in Dayton in the coming months.”

Former Daytonian Eric Mahoney is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign for his documentary on the career of Brainiac, pictured here circa 1996. (Left to right): Tim Taylor, Tyler Trent, John Schmersal and Juan Monasterio.
Photo: Michelle Fong

“Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero”

Directed by Dayton native and Brooklyn-based filmmaker Eric Mahoney, “Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero,” which had its world premiere March 8-17 at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, pinpoints the legacy of innovative ‘90s local indie rock band Brainiac.

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Led by vocalist/keyboardist Tim Taylor, the band was on the verge of hitting it big with a major label when Taylor died in a car accident in 1997. The film, incorporating recorded footage from their performances, features interviews with surviving band members Juan Monasterio, Michelle Bodine, Tyler Trent, and John Schmersal in addition to Taylor’s family, comedian/musician Fred Armisen, former Smashing Pumpkins and Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, and Eli Janney, producer of the first three Brainiac albums.

“I hope what people learn about this film is that it is much more than a typical ‘rock doc,’” Mahoney said. “I feel (this project) is a deeply moving story that explores the topics of overcoming tragedy, healing and inspiration. What this band left behind was not only an incredible body of work and art, but also the seeds for inspiration that have spread to countless other artists and musicians and have spawned countless other fascinating works of art. Brainiac were ahead of their time and Tim in particular was a musical genius. His life, work and passing changed many people’s lives around the world and the story of this is very moving.”

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In addition, “Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero” will have its local premiere at the Neon Movies on April 19 and 20. The April 19 screenings are sold out, but tickets remain for April 20 at 11:30 a.m. For more information, visit