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Ich bin ein Clevelander: The 2000 Ohio Independent Film Festival

Of all the cities in America, Cleveland may just go down in history as the first to declare itself sovereign. This proud little town, with a sports tradition that has spawned such films as Major League I and II, and a tendency towards birthing the directors of such films as Scream and But I’m a Cheerleader has now turned out a film festival and market with the Ohio Independent Film Festival.

Sure, Cleveland already has a flourishing film festival (The Cleveland International Film Festival, which happens each March), but that doesn’t stop Annetta Marion and Bernadette Gilotta from holding their own. This year these two ladies, along with a few corporate sponsors and a hefty amount of local help, put on their 14th attempt at breaking the Cleveland International Film Festival monopoly.

The fest officially kicked off on November 5th with a lighting workshop, held in downtown Cleveland, and hosted by several prominent local DPs, then took a break for a day, and then launched its annual script mill, which read a romantic comedy called Halfway House while the rest of the country was busy chewing their nails about Florida. The next day came Conscience and Constitution, a documentary about the Japanese Internment camps, and the first selection of Short Films (The Paper Girl, Lake, Miss Supreme Queen, Five Muffins, Chris O’Connell: Yeah, Nucoat, Rectum Spectrum, Quiero Moro, Once, and Jimmy Ritz).

On Thursday the fest switched from easy going to full-gear. At 9am came the short Beer Goggles and the indie character-drama feature out of Warren, Ohio, Waxing Gibbous, followed by three selections of shorts from the Buckeye State. Then came the feature Ordinary Madness, and Alvarez and Cruz (not to mention the TrailerVisionesque work of Sheldon Glessier, twisted genius behind such shorts as Moses: The Legend Continues and Home Alone 4: Elian Gonzales).

Friday was yet another 9am to 11pm day, showcasing such shorts as Schrodinger’s Cat, and the features The Initiate (a color noir that would have looked much better if it were never filmed at all), Zona (a film so experimental it makes the work of Werner Herzog look normal), and Vice (perhaps the only courtroom-only film that can actually call itself a comedy).

Saturday started off with the Punky Brewster feature The Girl’s Room and followed that up with a children’s program and a short film with a panel called The Will To Read: Estel Sizemore’s Story, and then followed that up with a terrific selection of shorts including Grrrlshow (on Ifilm), Sperm Bank: An Exchange to Remember, Pump-Action, and Some Common Things that Happen to Corpses.

The true highlight of the fest came on Sunday, however, when we got to see the extraordinarily rare short film Ugly Naked People (by Jessica Landaw), which the AFI successfully sued to have banned from, as well as the features North Beach and American Reel (by Mark Archer, the producer of In the Company of Men).

With each day being a good 14 hours, plus an after party each night, going to the Ohio Independent Film Festival is probably the most grueling fest experience you’ll have in the year… but with Marion and Gilotta’s top-notch choices of shorts and features, you really can’t help but love it by the end of the festival… that is, when you look back after sleeping a month or two.

The OIFF rocks Ohio.

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