Lakewood Wrestling, Lake Erie Surfing, Iverson Doc, and Racing Coming to the Cleveland International Film Festival

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The best ten days in Cleveland cinema is almost upon us. The Cleveland International Film Festival takes over Tower City March 18-28 and there's plenty of celluloid sporting goodness on the docket.

(All summaries courtesy of Also head over there for full schedules and trailers.)


At two different Lakewood, Ohio high schools, two wrestling teams prepare for competition at the State Championship in Columbus. Lakewood High, the underdog, has set its sights on Matt Curley, the school’s first real chance at a state championship in 50 years. Meanwhile, only a few miles away is the country’s most successful high school wrestling program, St. Edward’s. There, Lance Palmer prepares to compete. PINNED draws a comparison between the two boys, contrasting Matt's broken home with Lance's family, which is utterly focused on wrestling. What the two boys share is a deep passion for the sport and intensity beyond their years. Each in his own way takes his training to extreme levels. Matt starves himself relentlessly in order to “make weight,” while Lance wrestles a 600-pound bear to prepare. While both notions seem ludicrous to any onlooker, none of this seems out of the ordinary within the culture of competition that is portrayed here. The rivalry is settled, of course, at the state tournament where only one of them will meet their goal. — B.K.

Out of Place

It goes without saying that Cleveland, Ohio is not a surfing tourism destination. Further, most Clevelanders are probably not aware that surfing even happens on the beaches and in the waves of Lake Erie. More surprising still is the fact that this Great Lakes surfing is taking place during the coldest months of the year. You would likely have to be a surfer in Cleveland to know this, but that is when the waves are most surf-able. You have to see it to believe it (and you will) as OUT OF PLACE features great footage of Lake Erie surfing. Listening to the interviews with Cleveland surfers is just as compelling as watching them surf Edgewater beach in November. It is nothing short of inspiring to hear of the passion for surfing and life that drives these die-hards into the icy water armed with only a wet suit and a board. — B.K.

Racing Dreams

Annabeth, Brandon, and Josh aren't old enough to legally drive. But that hasn’t stopped them from hitting the track in their extreme racing karts on a quest to achieve their RACING DREAMS — to become NASCAR racers. Over the course of a year, this emotionally charged and action-packed documentary looks at what motivates these young people as they compete in the five races that make up the World Karting Association’s National Championship, “When you are 11, your whole life is filled with people telling you what to do,” says Annabeth, one of the few girls making a name for herself in the sport. “But when you’re racing, you’re totally independent.” “The choice is yours,” says Josh, 12, who can’t wait for racing weekends and has the trophies to show for all his hard work. For Brandon, 13, the path has been a bit rougher. His bad temper led to a disqualification the previous season as he raced toward the title of senior class champion. These three young racers find themselves navigating two roads: the thrill of each hard-won victory and the daily struggles of family life. — C.K.

CIFF is also screening the ESPN 30 for 30 doc No Crossover; The Trial of Allen Iverson.

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