Friday, March 28, 2014

CIFF: “The Sax Man” delivers a satisfying performance

What began as a 20-minute short film about saxophonist Maurice Reedus Jr. turned into a three-year project for local filmmakers Todd Bemak and Joe Siebert. Known to Clevelanders as “The Sax Man,” Reedus has been entertaining audiences for more than 17 years with his alto sax outside plays and sporting events. He was selected as one of Cleveland Magazine’s Most Interesting People in 2013. The Sax Man premiered March 22 at Cleveland International Film Festival and has an encore showing at 4:45 p.m. March 30 at Tower City Cinemas. Cleveland Magazine talks to the filmmakers about the  festival experience and Reedus’ influence on our city.

Cleveland Magazine: How did it feel to watch The Sax Man on the big screen for the first time?
Todd Bemak:
Premiering here in Cleveland was a very special thing because everybody knows Maurice, and the intent of the film was to show the connection Cleveland has to Maurice. The audience was clapping along to the music and interacting with the film more so than I’ve ever seen. It was almost like it was a live event in front of them, and that was quite amazing.

CM: What did you take away from your time with Maurice?
Joe Siebert: Success isn’t necessarily about becoming rich and famous or being the best at what you do, but it’s about being true to who you are and figuring out a way to contribute that to the world around you. At one point, Maurice could have made it big, but life didn’t work out that way. Instead of giving up on music, he stuck with it even when he had to play on the street to do it. What he ended up creating with that was becoming this essential part of Cleveland that everybody recognizes and has an attachment to that has made a difference in creating an experience in Cleveland.

CM: What are your plans for the film?
TB: We’ve been entering the film into festivals, and we’re just starting to hear back from some. In April we’re taking it to the Memphis International Film and Music Festival, the Arizona International Film Festival, the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival and Beverly Hills International Film Festival. We expect to hear about the May and June festivals soon, so hopefully we get into some of those.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 30. To browse the full schedule, visit

By Christina Bucciere

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