Five locally flavored films not to be missed at the Cleveland International Film Festival

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Five locally flavored films not to be missed at the Cleveland International Film Festival

The 37th Cleveland International Film Festival, which runs April 3 – 14 at Tower City Cinemas, will showcase 180 feature films and 164 shorts. Films from all across the globe will grace the screens, including a handful of flicks with local ties. Here are five you should pencil into your schedule.

Dear Mr. Watterson: Bill Watterson might be Cleveland's most important and secluded man. Notoriously hard to reach, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes is nevertheless revered for his strip that garnered millions of fans over the years. Probably even more so because he eschewed merchandising dollars to maintain the integrity of his work. Watterson won't talk, but his fans and followers will. Filmmakers capture his legacy by interviewing the people that were influenced by Watterson's iconic work.

Kingsbury: When filmmakers stumbled upon Nicholas Forker, a hot shot on the New York art scene, they knew they had a subject for their documentary. But things go from artsy to straight-up strange as they go. Forker gets a note from a Cleveland gallery interested in an exhibition. The setting would be the tunnels of Kingsbury Run, famous for being the setting of the Torso Killer murders. But there's a problem with the emails, or a problem with Forker. All they know is something's up. CIFF describe the film as a mix of Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Blair Witch Project, which sounds more than a little interesting.

Red, White and Blueprints: A Rust Belt Documentary: The Rust Belt is a hot topic these days. It's chic, coming back, reinvented and a bunch of other things. But what does it actually mean? Here, filmmakers examine how Cleveland and its Rust Belt brethren – Pittsburgh, Buffalo, etc. – are partnering to rise up, attracting businesses and young adults who bring vibrancy and ideas to areas the rest of the country mocked for so long, and finding the energy to be created anew.

A Fighting Heart: Legendary Cleveland boxer Johnny Kilbane captured the heart of his hometown after beating Abe Attell in 1912 to win the world featherweight championship. Celebrated by his fellow Irish kin, Kilbane's story spread across ethnicities, inspiring the kind of pride that only a decent fella – Kilbane supported his family after his father went blind – can inspire. Kilbane eventually enjoyed a career in politics and the film chronicles his story from switchboy to champion of the world.

The Sugar Wars: The Life Story of Angelo Lonardo: "Big Joe" Lonardo, noted forever as Cleveland's first mafia godfather, was Angelo's actual father. The family business had all the makings of a fictional Hollywood blockbuster, but it all actually happened. In 1929, "Big Joe" was murdered by one of his guys, a double-cross that Angelo never forgot. Eventually, he and a cousin returned the favor and knocked off the traitor, taking over the city in the process. Angelo eventually turned FBI informant after being arrested in 1983. Filmmakers even capture Angelo speaking for himself in an interview after coming out of the witness protection program before he died in 2006. The Sugar Wars paints a vivid portrait of one of Cleveland's most notorious mobsters.

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