5th Annual Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival

September 21st, 2016

The 5th annual Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival will begin on Thursday, Sept. 15 and will conclude on Friday, Sept. 23. The festival begins at the Gartner Auditorium in Cleveland’s Museum of Art for opening night film festivities. The remainder of the festival will take place at Shaker Square Cinema, which is located in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Throughout the course of eight days, the works of African American filmmakers, screenwriters and actors will premiere on the silver screen.


This year’s festival will be centered around social justice and various issues that occur in Cleveland communities. According to, filmmakers worked hard to find talent that will contribute to the “cinematic legacy of African Americans.” Although most of the films presented at the GCUFF are concerned with the black community, Executive Director Donna Dabbs would like filmgoers to know that the festival welcomes people of all races and ethnicities. “We really want people to understand that this is for everyone,” says Dabbs according to, “It’s a way to show our stories, and we want everyone to share in that.”


Another matter that will be emphasized in the 2016 GCUFF is race relations and how members of different races interact with one another. Many of the films featured at this year’s festival will include instances of both positive and negative interaction between different racial and ethnic groups.


Among the various films premiering at the GCUFF, director Paul Sapiano will speak for the “Black Lives Matter” movement in his dark comedy “Driving While Black.” Sapiano’s feature is one of many motion pictures that will confront issues occurring in today’s society, especially where the black community is concerned. Other filmmakers, including Bobby J. Brown and Brandon Lewis, have films that will appear in the following categories: Narrative Short, Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, Faith Based Film, Animation and LGBT.


While the GCUFF is sponsored by various associations, the event itself is a nonprofit organization. Therefore, the producers and organizers of the festival are more concerned with the talent of potential prize winners than any financial gain they may receive. Standards such as these assure applicants and competitors that their work will be critiqued without bias.


Most importantly, the GCUFF is a great opportunity for members of the black community who are involved in the film industry, and attendees should pay particular attention to the primary goal of the festival, which is to promote African American and African Diaspora cinema. Over the past five years, the GCUFF has stayed true to its values and beliefs. Aspiring filmmakers, screenwriters and actors are hopeful that the GCUFF never abandons its cause.

Editor’s Note: Information from, and was used in this report.