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30th Cleveland pepares for local heroes tribute to area filmmakers

Several films by area and regional filmmakers are included in the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF). A festival regular, Local Heroes is the way we honor area filmmakers, actors, and crew; films set or shot in Ohio; filmmakers or subjects born here; and films that have a strong local connection.

Our Local Heroes section is presented with the generous support of Cleveland State University and Tim & Nancy Callahan. You’ll find them under the category “Local Heroes” in our Preview Guide. The CIFF will be held March 16-26, 2006, at Tower City Cinemas at Tower City Center.

The following are feature films with local ties, and the filmmakers are available for interviews:

BIG BAD LOVE (retrospecitve)
Directed by Arliss Howard
USA 2001
111 minutes
Tuesday, March 21 at 7:00 pm

Husband and wife team Debra Winger and Arliss Howard take on a gritty, open-heart examination of love, loss and yearning based on the celebrated writing of the late Larry Brown. Howard directs, co-produces, and stars as the hapless Leon Barlow (a version of Brown), who has lost nearly everything: his wife (played by Winger), his two children, the respect of his mother (Angie Dickinson), and any possibility of steady work. Fueled by the empty promise of alcohol and the quixotic effort of writing fiction, Barlow stumbles his way around, intensifying his isolation. Drunk fiction writers don’t make good fathers, husbands, or sons, and Barlow knows that. But he also knows he’s got something essential when he writes, even though the rejection slips paper the walls of his shack. He fantasizes about his wife and hangs out with his gregarious war buddy (Paul LeMat) who is courting a funeral home heiress (Rosanna Arquette). Barlow’s voice-over is straight out of Brown’s memorable prose.

Directed by Marquette Williams
USA 2005
75 minutes
Thursday, March 23 at 12:00 noon & Friday, March 24 at 5:00 pm &
Saturday, March 25 at 7:30 pm

A native of Cleveland, Marquette Williams' written material ranges from Saturday morning cartoons to dramatic television and feature film narratives.

Tucked away in a small corner of Los Angeles is a place called simply “The Stables,” where a couple generations of black men have trained to ride horses, rope calves, and practice the brutal sport of bull-riding, long dominated by white boys with names like Tater Porter and Cody Hart. These Compton cowboys have chosen the rodeo life over gang life, and each one has a tough story: Lil Ron’s father is in prison for murder, Yah-Ya’s brother was murdered, Mike’s three-year-old cousin was shot. Jazmine, the only girl, takes her hits alongside the boys. Don’t expect arena-sized, bull-riding extravaganza with fireworks here: these are small-circuit rodeos where grit and gristle are everything. Lil Ron, especially, has the drive and talent to make it in bull-riding, and the film follows him and his “buckle brothers” to rings where neither the bulls nor the people care if you’re black, white, or Mexican. Jazmine, however, finds the door is closed to her: girls are not allowed to compete on bulls. There’s a surprise at every turn.

Marquette Williams is based in California. Marquette can be reached by email or by phone at (323) 533-2647.

Directed by Kirk Marcolina, Larry Grimaldi
USA 2006
78 minutes
Thursday, March 23 at 5:00 pm & Friday, March 24 at 9:45 pm

Thomas G. Miller, producer and editor, Cleveland Native

Often sentences beginning with "gay" and "camp" end with "John Waters film," "The Village People," or "Cher." Those words usually don't evoke camping, as in roughing it in the great outdoors. CAMP OUT, however, is about just that, as this documentary is specifically centered on Bay Lake Camp in rural Minnesota – the first gay Christian camp in the United States. The camp serves as a retreat for gay and lesbian teenagers who want to openly explore Christianity with their peers in a caring, accepting environment. The group of teens bond with each other, as well as with a band of tolerant camp counselors and openly gay pastors. Pastor Jay says it best when he describes the camp's philosophy: "You shouldn't have to throw away religion or deny your sexuality or sexual identity, [as those things] are a piece of what we're all meant to be." With that sentiment in mind, pack your marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers and curl up around the movie screen for a treat.

Tom Miller is based in California and can be reached by email or by phone at 310.663.9874.

Directed by Jonathan Sajetowski
USA 2005
84 minutes
Tuesday, March 21 at 12:15 pm & Thursday, March 23 at 7:00 pm

All Cleveland cast and crew.

Director Jonathan Sajetowski is a former Cuyahoga Community College student and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute. He has made numerous experimental and narrative short films. DONNYBROOK is his first feature.

In the opening sequence of Jonathan Sajetowski’s DONNYBROOK, the young protagonist Davie Szynaski, clad in a t-shirt that reads “Defend Cleveland,” rides his Vespa through the streets and against the backdrop of Cleveland’s familiar skyline. This directorial and writing debut of native Clevelander Sajetowski pays tribute to its setting while at the same time dissecting the many personal and public conflicts within it. Davie, a senior at Donnybrook High School, dreams of becoming a rock star, “the one thing that will set him free.” Yet Davie’s problems at home and at school prevent him from pursuing his dreams: his mother’s recent death has put a strain on Davie’s relationship with his father, while Davie’s ignorant classmates ridicule him to hide their own suffering. Like all good teen flicks, DONNYBROOK peaks at the prom. Will Davie be able to prove himself as a musician and mend his relationship with his father? Keep an eye out for filmmaker Sajetowski, who appears as a bass-playing priest.

Bob Bryan, producer can be reached through email at or by phone at 216-987-4684.

Directed by Bent Hamer
132 minutes
Friday, March 24 at 2:00 pm & Saturday, March 25 at 7:00 pm

Cleveland native Jim Stark, Producer

FACTOTUM is an accurately dirty and humorously ironic depiction of iconic American writer Charles Bukowski’s second novel and literary alter ego, Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon). Henry passes his days in dingy bar rooms, at the race track, and in bed with uninhibited women. He goes from job to job with little aim and occasionally works on his writing, only to receive rejection letters regarding his short stories. He falls into a relationship with Jan (Lili Taylor), whose enthusiasm for drinking and sex matches his own, followed by another unsuccessful match with the eccentric, but well-to-do, Laura (Marisa Tomei). The film moves methodically through Henry’s daily drunken incidences, some amusing and others horrifying, with the script and grainy shots capturing the true spirit of Bukowski’s writing. Dillon’s portrayal of Henry is a superb performance; he manages to bring a bit of grace into Henry’s mix of sleaze, making the low life look good. Grab a bar stool and enjoy.

Peter Kindlon, Manager of Public Relations for IFC Films, can be reached at or by phone at 917-542-6385.

Dylan McCormick
USA 2005
Friday, March 17 at 7:30 pm & Sunday, March 19 at 12:00 noon

In the shadow of his one-hit-literary-wonder dad, Sean lives a bleak, college town existence. After a one-night-stand, Sean spies a flyer announcing former girlfriend Molly’s New York gallery opening. Inspired to rekindle the love that ended two years ago, Sean invites his alcoholic, philosophizing best friend Lyle to join him on a road trip to New York. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about Sean’s tumultuous relationship with Molly and his struggle to demystify the myths (largely focused on his father) that have created his deepest insecurities. Balancing the earnestness of Sean’s journey are moments of comic relief provided by the verbose Lyle and Molly’s struggling actress roommate, Sasha. Shot on super 16 mm film, first- time filmmaker Dylan McCormick stays true to the road trip genre with a story that deftly conveys that the ability to grow up, move on, and fall in love is not found at the end of a journey, but along the way.

Greer Goodman is the local connection playing in the cast of this film.

Directed by John Baumgartner
USA 2005
93 minutes
Friday, March 24 at 7:15 pm & Saturday, March 25 at 11:45 am

Born in 1971 in Lorain, Ohio, John Baumgartner moved to Los Angeles in 1997 and worked in production while continuing to develop his own material. In 2000 he met his producing partner Susan Stoebner and they made their first project, War Story (26th CIFF).

Meet Tim whose personal ad would simply say, "gay, white, professional man; fit and friendly; seeks that special someone for friendship, love, and commitment." Though try as he might, his romantic pursuit for companionship keeps turning up the same tired bar scenes and empty online liaisons. All this changes when Tim learns of a medical study that could dramatically alter his life. In desperation, Tim finds hope in a pill that promises heterosexuality in three weeks. As expected, the medical experiment creates controversy and debate not only among Tim's friends, but also in the public arena; smartly fictionalized news clips depict a nation embattled over the gay "cure." Director John Baumgartner handles this charged topic without political heavy-handedness by telling a fascinating story with wit and honesty. As for Tim, he quickly learns that being straight can also be a hard pill to swallow.

John Baumgartner is based in California and can be reached at or by phone at 310-399-5829.

Directed by Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
USA 2006
230 minutes
Sunday, March 19 at 2:00 pm

Steven Bognar, native Ohioan, is the director of several award-winning short and feature documentaries. Fulbright Scholar Julia Reichert is a professor of motion pictures at Wright State University. She has been nominated for two Academy Awards for best feature documentary.

Justin, Tim, Alex, Jenny, and Al are five children with one heartbreaking connection: each has been diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s daughter won a battle against childhood cancer, the two award-winning filmmakers were approached by Dr. Robert Arceci, former chief oncologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Arceci asked them to make a documentary about childhood cancer to raise national awareness. Six years later, Bognar and Reichert completed A LION IN THE HOUSE, which received standing ovations at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. The film intimately follows the lives of the five children, their families, and their caregivers as they struggle to beat the disease, using experimental treatments and the power of youthful optimism. Beyond documenting the illnes, the film explores the ethical, socioeconomic, and domestic problems that the families must face. A LION IN THE HOUSE is an emotional journey of love, strength, and determination.

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman
USA 2005
113 minutes
Friday, March 24 at 9:30 pm & Saturday, March 25 at 2:15 pm

Cleveland native Matthew Rhodes, producer

These close-knit, erudite siblings (Maria Bello, Erika Christensen, and Mary Stuart Masterson) play the roles assigned to them during their seemingly charmed childhoods under the shadow of their now-deceased father. In their complicated world where undesirable memories are replaced with lost dreams, each sister finds their silver spoon tarnished by years of suppression and disingenuous affection. Their longtime academic colleague (played by Rip Torn) stands as a voice of reason throughout the film; he is somehow able to navigate the emotionally volatile twists and turns of this ill-fated family's dysfunctional follies. Can they save themselves from their own deception through love, trust, and honesty? They'll try. Based on Chekhov's "The Three Sisters," this language-rich drama bites with smartly cynical dialogue and is beautifully filmed in the dark burnt umber chambers of an ivy-league faculty lounge, THE SISTERS is every bit as cinematic as it is intelligent.

Directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson
USA 2003
Tuesday, March 21 at 7:00 pm

Double entendre and astounding color fuel this all-digital, cybersexual romp. Rosetta Stone (Tilda Swinson), virgin bio-geneticist, creates three super-sleek and fabulously coordinated clones by downloading her own DNA: the seductive, enterprising Ruby; childlike and needy Marinne; and timid, practical Olive (all three played by Swinton). The clones require both physical contact and the male chromosome in order to survive. As Rosetta is unable to supply her clones with sperm, Ruby ventures into the real world’s nightclubs armed with classic movie lines and an unending supply of red condoms, leaving a trail of impotent men in her wake. The rash of impotency is ultimately traced to Rosetta, who becomes the FBI’s prime suspect in a bio-gender warfare plot. TEKNOLUST is a brilliantly colored, visually stunning exploration of the possibility of reproduction without emotion.

Lynn Hershman Leeson was born in Clevleand, OH in 1941. An accomplished artist in a variety of media, she has produced over 50 major video works. In 1995, she was the first women to receive a tribute at the San Francisco International Film Festival for her work in digital media. She is a professor of art at the University of California, Davis.

The principal contact is Think films and can be emailed at or called at 212.444.7900.

Directed by Kristin Bly
USA 2005
35 minutes
Wednesday, March 22 at 9:30 pm

On August 14, 2004, Michael Robinson died from lung cancer. Following lung surgery in 2003, he purchased a 1959 Matchless Motorcycle (a rare British racing bike) and spent the year preceding his death rebuilding the bike. Michael’s nephew, Tom Ericsson, created a mixed media interactive art installation at the Progressive Corporation’s headquarters using his uncle’s personal effects, the centerpiece of which was the 1959 Matchless. This deeply personal short documentary details the energy, time, and thought that Tom put into forming the installation. The installation itself was deeply personal, seeking to reveal a man dealing with a terminal illness and to exhibit his lifelong passion for mechanics that, in many ways, defined him. Tom’s installation revealed both a time and a human being with strict authenticity; a portrait of an interminable personality. Simple and poignant, this film quietly conveys the love that binds family and the questions that linger after those we love have passed. The documentary will be preceded by an abbreviated showing of an experimental film that was a piece of the installation.

A resident of Cleveland, Kristin Bly is co-director for the collective newsense enterprises. As an artist, curator, and musician, his projects are driven by interdisciplinary intentions and multi-media approaches. He has exhibited and performed internationally.

Of the more than 90 short films included in the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival are seven short subjects either made in Cleveland or in Ohio or by filmmakers formerly from this area or our State. Please find the titles, the filmmakers’ names, and their contact numbers below. All are available for interviews.

The Cornershop
Directed by Lauren Steiner
USA 2005
22 minutes
Program IX
Saturday, March 25 at 12:00 noon

The Cornershop is a local documentary about the hidden relationships developed at hair and beauty salons.

Lauren Steiner lives in Bay Village, Ohio. This is her first documentary. Lauren won the 1997 Cleveland Film Makers Northern Ohio live achievement award for filmmakers. Lauren is a former manicurist who was inspired by things seen in salons.

Farm and Family
Directed by Jill Malusky
U S A 2005
15 minutes
Program VIII
Friday, March 24 at 5:00 pm

Jill & Jamie Malusky are the loving daughters of poor farmers in rural northern Ohio. As young adults, they must make choices that will affect the future of their farm and family. Will they sacrifice their parent's dreams for their own? FARM & FAMILY is a personal documentary that questions definitions of success, identity, and modern family values.

Jill Malusky is from Homerville, Ohio. She attended Wright State University for her undergraduate degree and is currently living in the UK attending the University of Manchester.

No Umbrella - Election Day in the City
Directed by Laura Paglin
U S A 2005
26 minutes
Program VI
Wednesday, March 22 at 4:30 pm

A feisty octogenarian inner city councilwoman (Fanny Lewis) takes on Election Day chaos, an unresponsive beurocracy, and an increasingly agitated electorate.

Shadow of the Swan - A Composer's Story
Directed by Laura Paglin
U S A 2005
27 minutes
Program III
Sunday, March 19 at 5:15 pm

'Shadow of the Swan' chronicles the struggles and triumphs of disabled composer Dennis Eberhard, on a trying journey to Russia to premiere his new piano concerto.

Laura Paglin can be reached through email at or by phone at 216-321-3280.

Something's In the Air / But It's Not on the Airwaves
Directed by Karen Kilroy, Chris Chandler
U S A 2005
8 minutes
Program II
Saturday, March 18 at 4:15 pm

A short film contrasting the protests of the 1960s with the war protests of today, featuring a modern war widow who discovers she has lost her significant other in Iraq.

Steel Valley
Directed by Eric Murphy
U S A 2005
21 minutes
Program IV
Monday, March 20 at 5:00 pm

A decaying infrastructure as its backdrop -- this true story chronicles a young law student’s ultra-grass roots campaign for change, and his struggle against the corrupt political machine, as he attempts to win State Senate in his Midwestern, rust-belt town.

True Body Project
Directed by April Martin, Selena Burks
U S A 2005
22 minutes
Precedes “SONGBIRDS” Saturday, March 25 at 9:45 pm and Sunday, March 26 at 5:15 pm

The True Body Project is a documentary about 13 girls who participated in an intensive pilot program in Cincinnati, Ohio in the summer of 2005. The True Body Project chronicles the girls' discovery of themselves as they find their 'true' bodies and their authentic voices through movement and writing.

Stacy Sims is the owner of True Body Project She can be reached at or by phone at 513-470-5548.

Selena Burks - director - is from Cleveland. Her contact info is and her phone number is 937-369-3342.

Jim (Tuck) Clair - editor - is from Hudson, Ohio. His phone number is 513-218-9024 and his email is


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