Donna Dabbs was attending the Cleveland International Film Festival two years ago, when she first got the idea to create a showcase for innovative works depicting the African-American experience.
"I found out there was a market for film festivals for African-Americans," says Dabbs, who launched the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival last year. "These festivals have quite a bit of success, and they all address a gap in opportunity for these types of films to be shown."
The festival returns to Shaker Square Cinemas April 18-21 and will feature more than a dozen independent films, including Soul Food Junkies, which examines the potentially dangerous relationship between the black community and comfort food.
Beyond the screen, attendees can learn about the art of acting during an April 19 and 20 workshop from 2013 festival ambassador Elimu Nelson, whose credits include Criminal Minds and Private Practice. On Saturday, Joddy Eric Matthews — the filmmaker, director and animator behind last year's festival entry The Bubble — will lead a panel discussion on the animation industry.
"All of us came out of it feeling like it was a positive experience," Matthews says. "They had done an amazing job of saying: 'We're on a road to define who we are.' " gcuff.org