Cleveland Film Society artistic director Bill Guentzler has successfully lobbied to get Cleveland listed as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards. At this month’s 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival, the winning films in two short film categories could have a shot at the Oscars. “It truly shows that we are dedicated to great film,” Guentzler says.
Why are short films important to the festival? The popularity of them has grown. When I started 11 years ago, we probably showed maybe 50 shorts. Last year we had 160. They don’t get released in theaters, and every once in a while you can catch some on IFC or the Sundance channel, but festivals are the place to see short films.
Explain how Cleveland has a stake in choosing Oscar winners. For every Oscar cycle, there’s a huge list of requirements to become a qualifier. One is for a short film to win an award at a qualifying festival. Last year there were 25 U.S. festivals that qualified for awards, with an additional 35 international festivals. If a short film wins one of these awards and is eligible in other factors determined by the Academy, they are put on a list. The Academy voters watch the films on that list and pick the nominees.
How will this distinction affect the future of the festival? We’re really looking forward to how it affects next year in the submission process. I know there are a lot of filmmakers that only submit to nominating festivals, so I think we’re going to have a big bump in submissions. We’ll have more to choose from.