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Films with Ohio and Ukrainian ties showing at Cleveland International Film Festival

Colin Hanton is the main subject in "Pre Fab!"
"Pre Fab!"
British drummer Colin Hanton is the main subject in a documentary about the origins of the Beatles.

The Cleveland International Film Festival kicks off Wednesday night in Playhouse Square and continues in person until April 2, when the viewing moves online for another week with CIFF Streams.

With more than 100 feature-length films and nearly 200 shorts, the festival offers plenty of variety. Here’s a sampling of films with Ohio or Ukrainian connections, as CIFF partnered this year with Ukraine’s Odessa Film Festival to offer several of the county’s films.

Films with Ohio links

“We are the Troopers”

Explore the history of Toledo’s profession women’s football team with the documentary “We are the Troopers,” premiering at CIFF. Former players and supporters share their experiences with the team, which started in 1971 and was put up for sale in 1980.

“This is a really fun and entertaining documentary with some serious notes to it,” said Mallory Martin, artistic director for CIFF.

One of the serious notes is how little the players were paid.

“It’s crazy,” Martin said. “Years ago, these women were paid $25 a week.”

Screening March 25, 4:50 p.m., KeyBank State Theatre, and online with CIFF Streams

“Pre Fab!”

Abbey Road Crosswalk
"Pre Fab!"
This was taken on the Abbey Road crosswalk for the documentary "Pre Fab!"

Parma native Todd Thompson directs this doc about the origins of the Beatles. “Pre Fab!” centers on Colin Hanton, a drummer with the Quarry Men, John Lennon’s 1950s skiffle group, which later evolved into the Beatles.

In the film’s trailer, Hanton laughs while recalling his father saying to him “that could have been you.”

“Colin is a character,” Martin said. “Him and his wife together are hilarious.”

Several members of the production team also are from Ohio.

Screening March 26, 2:40 p.m. KeyBank State Theatre, and online with CIFF Streams

“Citizen Sleuth”

"Citizen Sleuth" shot of a woman getting a tattoo
"Citizen Sleuth"
"Citizen Sleuth" is a doc looking at the ethics of true-crime podcasting.

An amateur, true-crime podcaster set out to investigate the death of a woman from Marietta, Ohio, and struck a chord with listeners of her Mile Marker 181 podcast. “Citizen Sleuth” follows Emily Nestor and her investigation as well as the ethical issues that emerged creating a true-crime podcast.

“It’s a great examination into a big part of our culture,” Martin said.

The documentary is also produced by Northeast Ohio natives Chris Kasick and Tyler Davidson.

Screening March 26, 9:50 p.m., and March 26, 7:25 p.m., Mimi Ohio Theatre

“Food and Country”

 Will Harris of White Oak Pastures as seen in "Food and Country."
"Food and Country"
Will Harris of White Oak Pastures as seen in "Food and Country."

This documentary examines the U.S. food industry, hit particularly hard during the pandemic, through discussions with restaurants owners and farmers, including Bob and Lee Jones of Huron.

“A lot of these sort of grassroots entities were taken advantage of by larger conglomerates,” Martin said.

“Food and Country” premiered at Sundance.

Screening March 31, 2:30 p.m., KeyBank State Theatre, and online with CIFF Streams

Ukrainian cinema

“Mavka: The Forest Song”

"Mavka: The Forest Song" trailer

The forest dwelling Mavka wants to protect her home and also her love, however the two come into conflict in this animated children’s tale. Presented in English, Ukraine’s “Mavka: The Forest Song” is full of adventure.

“To be able to offer something that comes from the country that is lighthearted and uplifting is really great,” Martin said.

Screening March 25, 12 p.m., Allen Theatre, and online with CIFF Streams.


Pamfir by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk - Official Trailer

Follow a father’s suspenseful journey to provide for his family in Western Ukraine despite major challenges. “Pamfir” is a dramatic thriller in Ukrainian with English subtitles directed by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk.

“It's actually one of my favorite films in our festival this year,” Martin said. “It's a debut filmmaker, who, especially after you watch the film, it's just amazing that this is his first film that he's made.”

Screening March 25, 10 p.m., and March 28, 2:25 p.m., Upper Allen

“20 Days in Mariupol”

Evgeniy Maloletka appears in "20 Days in Mariupol" by Mstyslav Chernov.
Mstyslav Chernov
AP Photo
Evgeniy Maloletka appears in "20 Days in Mariupol" by Mstyslav Chernov.

Associated Press on-the-ground footage from the beginning days of the war documents the devastation in Ukraine. “20 Days in Mariupol” is a compilation of reporting from journalists determined to show the world what was happening.

“It’s a film that everybody needs to see right now to remind us all, you know, what is happening over there,” Martin said.

Screening March 26, 7:35 p.m., KeyBank State Theatre

“A Rising Fury”

"A Rising Fury" trailer

“A Rising Fury” shows Ukrainian resistance to Russian forces over several years preceding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“This film in particular really taught me a lot about the complications and the complexities of this war and where things first started,” Martin said.

One of the directors, Lesya Kalynska, is also coming to the festival.

Screening March 24, 5 p.m., KeyBank State Theatre and online with CIFF Streams

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.