Unlike the bigger and more glamorous Cleveland Inter-national Film Festival, the Ohio Independent Film Festival can't boast of being a steppingstone in the career of promising young filmmakers. In fact, the closest it's come to that kind of star-nudging is a past winner of its screenplay competition, a woman who ended up with a producer credit on TV shows like Bones and One Tree Hill.
But there's a sense of underdog spirit fighting through some of the movies shown at the festival, which started in 1993. Despite its name, the OIFF isn't strictly a gathering of Ohio-based moviemakers. Of the 50 or so features and shorts screening over four days this week, only about 10 come from Ohio directors, according to Bernadette Gillota, artistic director of Cleveland's Independent Pictures.
Gillota and her staff looked at more than 300 documentaries, experimental movies, dramas, and animated films sent in for consideration from all over the world this year. "We really like abstract, less linear films," she says. Gillota pulled together seven features and four shorts programs for this year's lineup, which includes films about dog shows, magicians, beatboxers, and Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell.
The fest kicks off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Beachland Ballroom with nine shorts, followed by a 9 p.m. feature and short. Thursday's lineup at the Beachland starts with a 7 p.m. feature screening followed by a shorts program.
On Friday, the movies move to Arts Collinwood at 7 p.m. for a third shorts program. At 9 p.m. there's a feature and a short. Saturday's lineup at Arts Collinwood includes more features (at 1, 5, 7, and 9 p.m.) and an all-Ohio shorts program (at 3 p.m.).
Asked for her recommendations, Gillota is quick to name three: Close-Up, a drama about a drug-addicted actor trying to clean up (it shows at 9 p.m. Wednesday); Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women's National Air Derby, a documentary about 20 pioneering female aviators who competed in a 1929 race (7 p.m. Thursday); and Currency, a feature that looks at the lives of several people over 80 years (9 p.m. Friday).
What ties them all together? "Subject matter presented in an unconventional way. Something that makes you care about something you wouldn't care about otherwise. That's moviemaking."