The Cleveland International Film Festival promotes artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community.
March 31, 2017 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Catherine Gund’s “Dispatches From Cleveland” starts with a striking scene: children idly swinging on a swing set while the Cudell Gazebo—the site where Tamir Rice was killed in 2014—is deconstructed right in front of them.
From there, this poignant, sobering, and powerful documentary traces the aftermath and impact of the 12-year-old’s death, while also profiling the city of Cleveland and its ingrained structural issues, including economic and racial inequality.
Gund’s original impetus for making this documentary was the “rampant, police-involved violence” in cities across the U.S.
“In 2014, I met some activists involved with the Ohio Student Association (OSA) who wanted their message to be amplified far and wide,” the director/producer says. After Rice’s death, she “started following the OSA organizers, who then led me to other organizers, and from there the story told itself. We all knew what was happening was wrong.”
Filming for “Dispatches From Cleveland” began in April 2015 and continued on during major events—including that July’s Movement for Black Lives National Convening and the 2016 Republican National Convention—before concluding with the gazebo deconstruction.
Gund ended up structuring “Dispatches From Cleveland” into five separate chapters, each with its own narrative arc and compelling protagonists—including trans activist/artist Zoë Renee Lapin and Tamir Rice’s mother, Samaria.
“This format allows us to focus on five different aspects of the city, showing recurring characters but cumulative impacts and efforts,” Gund says.
“I knew Cleveland’s story hadn’t been told,” she adds. “Some have pronounced this time in Cleveland as a resurgence of the city, but I don’t find that to be true. The soul of this city lives in its people and this resurgence does not include many of the city’s residents. Going in,
I knew we had to tell those fuller stories. This is everyone’s story.”
Gund was particularly mindful of wanting to “reflect the reality of trans and queer leadership in the local movement,” she says.
“I knew I was going to tell a richer story about trans people than usually gets told when people just add a ‘T’ to the end of LGBT. As Zoë demonstrates in the film, this movement work is required of her and so many others because of circumstance.”
The episodic structure of “Dispatches From Cleveland” also ended up being the perfect fit for the documentary's approach and content. “I wanted to make short films because they can be used more easily in organizing efforts to mobilize, educate, and inspire,” Gund says. “They get right to the point.”
In this way, the documentary aims to point out that challenging the status quo is a vital first step toward change.
“Our goal in making this film was for audiences to gain a deeper insight into and understanding of the struggles and opportunities that come with fighting for justice on a human scale,” Gund says.
“We are all a part of the social and political fabric of the day, and Cleveland’s fight for justice mirrors the one playing out on the national stage. All of us, regardless of where we live, have to change how power and control are wielded in the interests of the few,” she continues.
However, the documentary is also a galvanizing tool, a way to empower people and convince them to get involved in their local communities, and work to make a difference.
“I want people of all different communities to see that they can do something, they can get involved,” Gund says. “I want people to ask the question: ‘What can I do?’ There is so much that needs to be done. Claim your power. Find your voice. Participate in transformation.
“As Samaria Rice said, ‘You have to speak out. You have to let the world know.’ My family is from Cleveland. I know its history. I believe in its future. Cleveland is a bellwether for change.”
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Join us September 24th - 27th for a special screening of AGGIE, the story of Clevelands own Agnes Aggie Gund who is equally known for her exquisite art collection and her fight for social justice. A post-film Q&A will take place with director Catherine Gund and the films namesake Agnes Aggie Gund: https://www.clevelandfilm.org/films/2020/aggie
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Join us 9/24-9/27 for a screening of AGGIE, the story of Cleveland’s own Agnes “Aggie” Gund, who is equally known for her exquisite art collection & her fight for social justice. A post-film Q&A will take place with director Catherine Gund & Agnes Gund: https://t.co/6HtCmH4Qbu
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