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When the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival (GCUFF) got started eight years ago, its primary vision was to showcase the work of emerging filmmakers and established artists who both contribute to and celebrate urban culture.
But if you ask Donna Dabbs, executive director of the GCUFF, the idea behind the event is pretty simple: "The festival is a nice, easy way to inform, educate and entertain people. Communicating through the medium of film is an amazing way to inspire and uplift people. And that's what we want to do."
She and her team (comprised 100 percent of volunteers) do this by showcasing minority films, which reinforce positive images and dispel negative stereotypes.
And, it's been a smashing success. Last year, the festival welcomed just about 4,000 attendees, and has hopes of bringing more than 5,000 festivalgoers to this year's event on Sept. 12 - 20 at Atlas Cinemas Shaker Square 6.
"I think it's important to know that GCUFF is for everybody. The festival is targeted to share more African American and minority stories, but it's not just for us. We can all benefit," Dabbs said.
We've checked it out. And, so should you. Here's four reasons to love GCUFF:
"Of the films, about 50 percent are features and 50 percent are shorts," Dabbs said. "We have documentaries, educational films and plenty of drama."
According to Dabbs, some of the most popular films will be those created by, for and in Cleveland. This includes a documentary entitled "Unheralded: The Corie Blount Story" which covers the stories behind some of the top athletes who exploded on the sports scene but derailed because of a major crisis, as well as a comedy/drama web series called "Now What!"
In addition to the 75-ticketed screenings, GCUFF will premier free community screenings, which cover a myriad of hard-hitting - but important - subjects.
Film festivals like GCUFF present great opportunities for serious dialogue and important conversations.
Throughout GCUFF's schedule, festivalgoers can attend panel discussions covering important issues impacting Cleveland's urban community with key community leaders, as well as educational workshops and discussions with attending filmmakers.
"The Opening Night Film & Reception is always exciting," said Dabbs, who expects to announce what film will open the festival very soon.
A great film fest isn't complete without a few really good parties, right?
Rub elbows with filmmakers, supporters and important members of Cleveland's African American community during Mix & Mingle events, receptions and parties.
New this year, is a Pitch Fest where filmmakers and writers can pitch scripts and film ideas to industry executives. GCUFF is also presenting live music in Shaker Square - just outside the cinemas - on Sept. 14 and 15 from 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. There will also be a family-friendly movie night and health screenings, both free of charge.
Other opportunities to hobnob with filmmakers and film lovers alike include the Official Launch Party at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland on Sept. 13.
"Part of our mission is to inspire young people to consider this industry as a career," Dabbs said. "In this industry, there are so many opportunities both behind the camera and in front of the camera. The festival offers a perfect way to help young people look forward and to consider something new."
Each year, GCUFF gives local youth the opportunity to learn the process of taking a film from script to screen from real-life Cleveland-based filmmakers. At the end, students write and read their very own screenplay during GCUFF.
There are several programs for students to choose from including Hollywood Kids (ages 8-12) and GCUFF Link (13-19), as well as a Student Symposium put on by Tri-C Students.
For information on the films, the event schedule and how to purchase passes, visit greaterclevelandurbanfilmfestival.org.
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Atlas Cinemas Shaker Square 6 | 13116 Shaker Sq Cleveland, OH, 44120
$ ($0 - $25)