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The Ohio Independent Film Festival kicks off its 20th edition today. Or maybe it's the 19th. Even co-founder and artistic director Bernadette Gillota isn't sure. "I've lost track," she says. " We used to do three a year; now we're down to one." Whatever milestone the 13-year-old fest is celebrating, this year's feature-filled lineup is one of its best ever.

The event begins this morning with a daylong workshop, but the real action starts on Tuesday, when the auto doc Car Stories — the first of more than 60 movies from seven countries — screens at Cleveland Public Theatre. Prepare for an onslaught of shorts, animated flicks, comedies, dramas, and documentaries. "We're giving people exposure to the breadth of independent films," says Gillota.

This year, the fest is showing more feature-length movies and fewer shorts, says Gillota. She typically spends four months watching approximately 400 films submitted by indie filmmakers from all over the world. "I figure, if somebody took the time to make it, I can take the time to watch it," she says. "I'm looking for creative construction — films that weave around a bit."

Also, more documentaries than usual are screening this week — including Uganda Rising (about the country's 20-year-old civil war) and Letters From the Other Side (a look at post-NAFTA Mexico through the eyes of its women). "Technical quality has really improved since we started this," says Gillota, who recommends next Sunday's screening of Beyond the Call, a look at three aging humanitarians and their missions to distribute aid to war-ravaged nations. "There's a need for people to see these kinds of films," she says. "And everybody's got their own thing. You know how filmgoers are: Everybody's an expert." Visit www.ohiofilms.com for a complete schedule of movies and showtimes.
Nov. 5-12

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