March 31, 2016 | posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events
According to the Urban Dictionary, “Cleveland is called Believeland because it’s all about comeback.”
Many fans of the Browns, Indians, and Cavs are just waiting for that comeback and hoping it’s soon after so many, many years of heartbreak. The last championship the city hosted was the 1964 Browns, and it was followed by over 50 years of hoping and never giving up.
“Believeland” makes its world premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival at Connor Palace as the 40th Anniversary Signature Event. The venue has 2,800 seats—about ten times the average size of one of the theaters at Tower City Cinemas. An encore screening moves to Tower City on Tuesday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m. A third screening was added to meet the enthusiastic demand and advance tickets were swiftly snapped up.
The film takes a look at Cleveland’s near misses when it comes to sports championships. The audience will relive The Drive, The Fumble, The Move, The Decision, and the blown save in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
The film’s director, Andy Billman, knows these stories all too well. He grew up in Elyria and has been a big Cleveland sports fan ever since. Although he now lives in Connecticut, directing a film about the state of Cleveland sports has been a dream come true.
“I have always felt Cleveland has a unique story to tell when it comes to sports,” says Billman, who will be making his directorial debut for ESPN with “Believeland.”
In 2014, he got the nod to direct, and the timing was right.
“When LeBron left [in 2010] and came back [in 2014], I felt it was time to tell the story,” says Billman. (Although The Decision and LeBron James’ return is part of the story, James did not agree to be interviewed for the film.)
Billman, who started with ESPN after graduating from the University of Toledo, has been a producer and associate producer of the sports network’s “30 for 30” documentary series. The series began as a commemoration of ESPN’s 30th anniversary in 2009 and continues today with compelling stories focusing on sports and culture.
The film includes vintage game footage as well as interviews with former players, coaches, reporters, politicians, historians, and fans. You’ll see tears and cheers throughout the film.
Billman notes that his film is a story that “rides a wave of emotions” … some happy, other times sad. There will also be “frustration and anger.” But, he says, “… at the end it will show how sports play a key role to Cleveland in multiple ways.”
The film is about Cleveland, but “Believeland” also shows “how sports can bring people together,” Billman notes. Although the many years of frustration have made Cleveland fans resilient and tough, they always have hope. If there is any sports fan who wonders, “Why would anyone be a fan of Cleveland?” Billman says, “Buckle up … the film will help answer that question.
—Anne M. DiTeodoro
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Film Update: #CIFF42 favorite Won't You Be My Neighbor? is opening this Thursday, June 21st at the Cedar Lee Theatre! Make plans to attend: https://clevelandcinemas.com/movie/43915/Wont-You-Be-My-Neighbor%5E-Trailer-and-Info
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