Thu 11/7 – Sun 11/10
By John Benson
In the entertainment world there is a varying spectrum of indie existence.
In the music realm, The Black Keys are a national act but remain on an independent label, while The Shins carry indie rock credentials with major label backing. The same world is present in film, where for every indie flick shown at Sundance there are hundreds that fall into obscurity.
It’s giving life to the latter that was the driving force behind the Ohio Independent Film Festival, which is celebrating its 20th year with dozens of screenings Thu 11/7 through Sun 11/10 at the Atlas Cinemas Lakeshore 7.
“When we started, we couldn’t get a place to show our films and our friends’ films,” Ohio Independent Film Festival Artistic Director Bernadette Gillota said. “Back then there was no place to do that. We’ve morphed over the years to showing films from all over the world. As long as the film doesn’t have a traditional distribution deal, we’ll consider it.”
This year’s lineup features quite a variety of shorts and features, including the Cleveland premiere of the perhaps hard-to-watch documentary Losing LeBron.
The 60-minute film chronicles the impact of NBA superstar LeBron James’ “Decision” on the city of Cleveland. The story is told directly through the eyes of the fans he left behind, as filmmakers Nicole Hart and Allyson Sherlock go deep into their homes and workplaces to find out how the residents have been affected by this move, why sports are so important to their city and how this freshly wounded community is working to redefine itself in light of the loss.
“When we started out, we wanted to achieve two things: to let Cleveland sports fans share their stories of what LeBron’s departure meant to them and the city, and what it means to be a Clevelander,” Hart said. “Our goal was really to examine why Cleveland sports were so important to its residents, and to tie it back into this negative stereotype that Cleveland has had since the ‘60s.”
The film, which was financially supported by a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign, was pitched in an Emerson College class assignment as a Roger and Me-meets-Hoop Dreams type of documentary. Neither of the filmmakers call Cleveland home, but Sherlock attended high school in Akron, while Hart has family in Northeast Ohio.
So far, Losing LeBron premiered at the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival and has been accepted to eight festivals.
“It’s one of those films that’s very well done and from a fan perspective,” Gillota said. “There are some funny moments, some heartfelt spots and some boy-were-we-dumb moments. It has the whole gamut of emotions.”
Another film that has Gillota excited is the feature I’m Harry Clark, which is described as a comic deconstruction of the discrepancies between a smalltime politician’s politically correct sound bites and his politically incorrect lifestyle.
“I wanted to tell a story about a person dealing with who they’ve become, and to address their past and faults, but who is forced to do it in a public stage or forum,” said filmmaker Mickey Blaine. “A politician would fit this bill since they have to do it all the time, and the current distaste for politics in general is a perfect setting. It started out as a character study but evolved into a political commentary.”
Added Gillota, “Because of Election Day, this is really apropos. It’s a really comical look at a sleazy politician who wants to come off as so wonderful. It’s completely politically incorrect in every way possible but really good and really funny.”
Over the years the Ohio Independent Film Festival has shown its fair share of movies, which has achieved Gillota’s goal of providing a life to films that would otherwise gone unknown.
“Mostly the independent film realm is, quite frankly, not really well known to a lot of people,” Gillota said. “So I’m not going to tell you we’ve shown a film and that filmmaker is now someone like Steven Soderbergh.”
But that could still happen, right?
Gillota laughed, “Absolutely, without a doubt.”
Cost is $10 per program. The Ohio Independent Film Festival runs Thu 11/7 – Sun 11/10 @ Atlas Cinemas Laskeshore 7 in Euclid. For more information, visit http://ohiofilms.com.
When he’s not writing about music or entertainment, he can be found coaching his two boys in basketball, football and baseball or watching movies with his lovely wife, Maria. John also occasionally writes for CoolCleveland.com.