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Cleveland Versus Wall Street

Barbara Anderson is ready for her close-up
Barbara Anderson is ready for her close-up

Barbara Anderson was a bit perplexed when she heard she would be going to France.

BARBARA ANDERSON: Let me be truthful --- I didn't know what "Cans" or "Cahns" was.

But, she found out, over the weekend, when she attended the debut of the film "Cleveland Versus Wall Street", Sunday evening. Anderson was one of many Northeast Ohioans who fell prey to the foreclosure crisis, and her story is told in the film, which was inspired by Cleveland's decision, two years ago, to sue 21 banks, alleging their complicity in the subprime mortgage mess. Legal wrangling has prevented the case from moving very far, but that didn't stop a Swiss film crew from coming to town and staging a mock trial in a downtown courtroom, last year. The filmmakers enlisted the services of real lawyers and witnesses representing the interests of the banks and of community members threatened with foreclosure. The story plays out as a real trial. Supposedly, nothing was scripted in advance.


After the film crew left, Barbara Anderson says she didn't think much more about it.

BARBARA ANDERSON: I'm thinking, it's just me and some other people that I know, and some people that I don't like so much, talking about Wall Street. I mean, what's the big deal? We do this all the time. Since the late 1990s, we've been screaming and hollering about this.

Then came the news that the finished film had been chosen to screen at Cannes. In short order, the film company bought Anderson a plane ticket and she flew to the festival, this past Friday.

JS BRON: For me, Barbara represents the fighting spirit of Cleveland

Speaking from his hotel room in Cannes, director Jean-Stephane Bron said that, even though the film tells a story that never happened --- at least not yet --- he tried to be fair to both sides in the dispute.

JS BRON: The stage or the place is a fictional place, but what's happening on the stage is real or authentic. The witnesses are real people. The jury members were chosen by the attorneys. The judge is a real judge. The audience were people who lost their homes from the neighborhoods in Cleveland.

Bron said events in Europe have made the Cleveland film relevant to a much wider audience.

JS BRON: It was incredible with what's happening now in Greece, in Europe --- everywhere in the world. Cleveland becomes a universal place.

The world banking crisis seems to be a popular topic in Cannes this year. Oliver Stone's sequel to his own "Wall Street" film debuted over the weekend, as did another film called "Inside Job". Jean-Stephane Bron says "Cleveland Versus Wall Street" will open nationwide in France in two weeks and he hopes to have his film's US debut in Cleveland, later this year.

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.