Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival Set to Shine on Biggest Stage Yet

urbanfilmfestThe Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival, now in its fifth year, is poised to be the biggest and brightest incarnation of the festival yet. The festival’s opening night, Thursday, will be at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the festivities will close out at the Cleveland Cinematheque. The films will be screened at Shaker Square Cinemas.

“I’m the dreamer-upper of the GCUFF,” says executive director Donna Dabbs. “I decided after going to the Cleveland International Film Festival that I wanted to have my own film festival because I wanted to see more people of color telling stories that interested me. That sparked the whole thing. We put a team together of people who believed in making it happen; that was five years ago.”

Taking on a venture of this magnitude undoubtedly can be daunting, but for Dabbs the journey has been rewarding.

“I’m all about energetic magical things happening and things happen when people come around a common cause,” Dabbs says. “The movies become that common cause when people can come, watch, enjoy, talk, meet, laugh, cry, be horrified or whatever they choose to be. When I see a packed theater, a packed lobby and a packed party, it’s all worth it.”

Dabbs also notes the importance of building connections at a gathering such as GCUFF. In the past, attendees have gotten movie deals done or landed acting gigs right on the spot. Dabbs also points to the economic impact of the festival. It employs a number of small businesses in the area.

“We get smarter every year,” Dabbs says. “We learn more. We don’t have any more people though. It’s still six to 10 people doing the heavy lifting.”

Having such a small team does come with its own set of difficulties. Dabbs points out that with a team of volunteers, as opposed to a paid year-round staff, it’s a challenge to get things done on the side of everyone’s day jobs.

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