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Cleveland International Film Fest brings Devo to the big screen

Devo, photographed in Holland in 1978, is the subject of a self-titled documentary at the Cleveland International Film Festival, which runs April 3-13 at Playhouse Square.
Barry Schultz
Sunshine/Cleveland International Film Festival
Devo, photographed in Holland in 1978, is the subject of a self-titled documentary at this year's film festival, which runs April 3-13 at Playhouse Square.

Northeast Ohio’s New Wave sons and a comedy about phone scammers will bookend the 48th Cleveland International Film Festival.

The festival runs April 3-13 in Playhouse Square and opens with “Thelma,” starring Academy Award-nominee June Squibb as a woman billed as “strong, sturdy and in-charge.” It’s the nonagenarian’s first leading role in a 70-year career. The comedy follows the aftermath of an elder-abuse phone scam. It also marks the final on-screen performance by Richard Roundtree. They’re joined by Fred Hechinger, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg and Malcolm McDowell. “Thelma” premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

CIFF48 closes with “DEVO,” a documentary about the yellow-suited, energy dome-wearing band from Akron. Including never-before-seen footage, the film looks at their influential 50-year career, from Kent State University to multimedia stardom. Special guests for the screening have yet to be announced. The band’s website does not list any tour dates in April.

Director Chris Smith (producer of “Tiger King”) weaves together performance footage, archival film of the late Bob Casale and new interviews with Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale into the band’s first authorized documentary. Previous authorized projects were slated for home video or television.

In Variety, Owen Gleiberman gave the film a positive review after its Sundance premiere last month, calling it “as much fun as its subject.” At the time, Smith told IndieWire that he’d had extensive discussions with Devo before the project even began.

"It was one of those stories, when you actually started going through the material, you couldn't believe it hadn't been done this way before," he said. "They were such a visual band that it was perfect for a documentary."

The closing night gala includes the Filmmaker Awards ceremony. This year’s award was designed by R.C. Sanford. His work combines wood, glass and illumination. He and his wife, Trisha Sikora, own Strongsville-based Sankora Studios.

After the festival at Playhouse Square, CIFF48 Streams will continue online April 14-21. The full festival lineup will be announced March 8, with ticket sales opening a week later.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.