Faculty Premiere Film at 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival

Kent State University's School of Media and Journalism faculty filmmakers Dana White and Christopher Knoblock will be honored this year with their short film, Turning Blue, being featured at the prestigious 45th annual Cleveland International Film Festival. This appearance marks the premier of the film which the pair worked on over the course of 2020.

Turning Blue is part of the Shorts Program 6 and is available to stream as part of CIFF Streaming which runs from April 7 to April 20, 2021. Members of CIFF can purchase tickets now and tickets sales to the general public will open on Friday, March 26, 2021, at 11 a.m.

The film is co-directed by White and Knoblock, long-time collaborators as well as husband and wife. The two worked previously together on the full-length feature film In the Orchard. That film won the Jury Award for Best American Feature at the 2018 Sonoma International Film Festival and the Grand Prize: Best Feature at the 2018 Culver City Film Festival. In the Orchard also swept the 2019 Beaufort International Film Festival, winning Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Actor.  
Co-directors Knoblock and White

White said of this most recent collaboration, "Making the film was such a difficult and extraordinary process for me. I wrote it out of the need to deal with the grief from losing my mom. It's not a documentary. So, you have room to change and construct and build your story to fit the space that you want to fill. My husband, creative partner, and fellow professor had my back on that. He had a perspective that, at times, was hard for me since it is so personal."

Based on the true story of White's mother's passing shortly after moving to Northeast Ohio, Turning Blue tells the story of the final hours of 75-year-old Clara (played by veteran stage and screen actor Kathleen Chalfant), whose nurse Val (Lisa Langford) must break the news to her daughter Violet (White) that her feet are turning blue — a sign that her pulmonary disease has reached its terminal final stages.

Connie Schultz, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist, as well as colleague of White's in the School of Media and Journalism, says of the film, "Turning Blue is what happens when our heartbreak, too big for words, becomes a film that tells our story. Gratitude is the word that comes to mind."

Turning Blue screenshot 2
White says of the creative process behind the film, "As an artist, I think all I know how to do in these moments is to put my pain into my work. I tell students that I write into what terrifies me and this was my biggest fear — losing my mom — so it was so raw and real for me when I wrote it. When we were prepping the film, we always went back to the idea...Death...the horror, the beauty, the mess, the power and finality. We wanted to use all of the elements of film to reflect it... the camera, how it moves through the space, the sound and how it blocks out the outside world. It all had to track in the narrative. But have a subtlety that would allow the audience in."
Filming of Turning Blue took place in early 2020 with editing and post-production interrupted due to COVID-19 quarantines and shut-downs. Still White felt incredibly lucky in putting together the talent she'd need for the film. Assistant Professor Scott Halgren also joined the team as production coordinator. "We found the exact right team for the task. Our Director of Photography, Laura Vallado, was with us from the start. She got what we were going for and began an incredible collaboration. She is so talented. Kathy is an astounding actor. Her portrayal of Clara is just heartbreaking and visceral. And Lisa is so thoughtful in her performance. So strong. Perfect!"
Turning Blue screenshot 1

White and Knoblock will continue to collaborate on their films. Their next two projects, Involuntary and the feature The Red Suitcase are both currently in development. White reflects, "It's always hard to let go and move on to the next project. This one will be tough for me.  But it is so nice to know that the film is now out into the world. It will find its audience and its audience will find it. They need each other. That is when the true conversation begins."

Dana White is an Assistant Professor in the School of Media and Journalism where she teaches Scriptwriting, Directing and Producing. She also the founder of FFI (Female Filmmakers Initiative) at Kent State. Christopher Knoblock is a lecturer in the School and teaches Production Safety and Set Protocol, Directing, Cinematography and more.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 2:20pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - 4:08pm