Hurricane Maria scythed more than 3,000 souls on Puerto Rico, according to the official death toll. Among that number was “Landfall” director Cecilia Aldarondo’s grandmother, who died in the aftermath of the 2017 storm.

The assessment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency found nearly every building in Puerto Rico damaged, and parts of the island stayed dark for almost two years without power. 

Aldrarondo bristled at the “unsatisfying” media coverage, glib reports that she believes glossed over the anemic government response and Puerto Rico’s longstanding economic woes. 

She got to work on a film that would concentrate on what residents did to save themselves. 

Landfall” is the rousing result. It is now streaming as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival’s CIFF45 Streams

“This is a film that’s not so much about a hurricane as it is about aftermath,” Aldarondo told Deadline. “It’s about how we pick up the pieces in the wake of these kinds of seismic watershed events.”

Aldarondo’s documentary focuses on citizens who banded together to create their own recovery plan. In one scene, locals explain how they broke the lock on a damaged school building and turned it into a community center and emergency housing. 

“The hurricane has brought us toward a system where the common denominator is the common good,” one resident said. 

The 90-minute film also tells history through archival footage, pulling back the curtain on years of economic destabilization and exploitation from hungry U.S. investors. 

“Landfall” has made a splash on the festival circuit, winning the Grand Jury Prize at DOC NYC’s Viewfinders competition, and nabbing Best Documentary at four others. 

“People in Puerto Rico have been engaged in really extraordinary acts of solidarity and recovery precisely in the wake of that kind of abandonment by the federal and local governments,” Aldarondo noted in the Deadline interview. “There’s a really quite instructive case study of communities caring for one another when their institutions fail them. I wanted people in Puerto Rico to not be seen as victims but as leaders, as global leaders, in a way that I think colonized people very rarely get to be.”

Watch the trailer below: 

Watch “Landfall” during Cleveland International Film Festival’s CIFF45 Streams, where you can view the documentary from the comfort of your home for $9 with discount code AWBA. CIFF45 Streams ends April 20. This film is the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards community match for 2021.

Join us for the Cleveland premiere of “Afterward,” a 94-minute documentary from Jerusalem-born psychoanalyst Ofra Bloch that explores the lingering and cross-cutting trauma embedded in generations of Germans, Israelis and Palestinians. The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards is sponsoring the film at this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival.

Bloch, who lives in New York City, began making the documentary intending to focus on the second and third-generation descendants of the perpetrators of the Holocaust, her attempt to shed hostility she carried against Germans as a people.

After filming began, however, she recognized her own prejudices – especially against Palestinians, a group she was raised to hate — were preventing her from telling the full story. She expanded her scope to include sit-down interviews with Palestinian men and women, including a professor who lost his position for taking students to Auschwitz. These testimonies give viewers a perspective on generational wounds stretching back to the 1948 Nakba, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs in the creation of Israel.

“The film points towards a future — an ‘afterward’ — that attempts to live with the truths of history in order to make sense of the present,” Bloch said in an interview. “My wish is that at the conclusion of ‘Afterward’ viewers will see how easy it is to move from a mindset of a victim to that of a perpetrator. ‘Evil,’ for lack of a better word, can be unearthed in each of us given the ‘right’ conditions, regardless of our religious or ethnic background.”

This documentary pairs well with Ari Shavit’s groundbreaking book, “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” which won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for nonfiction in 2015.

Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer-winner for his investigative book “The Looming Tower,” called Bloch’s documentary “a brilliant personal exploration of the psychological obstacles to peace in the Middle East, and the tectonic plates of history that have brought two peoples to this tragic impasse.”

Tickets are $14 for film festival members, seniors and students; $16 for others. Moviegoers can receive a $1 discount at the box office, online or ordering on the phone, by using the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards code: ANWO.

Can the United States transition “from being an occupier to being a neighbor”?

So asks gkisedtanamoogk, a Native man living in Maine. He poses this question in “Dawnland,” a moving 90-minute documentary that the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards is proud to sponsor this year at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

The documentary follows four key participants in a truth and reconciliation commission entered into five years ago by the Wabanaki people and the state of Maine. It centers on the consequences of decades of government policy that ripped Native children from their families and placed them in foster homes.

The commission, which ran for 27 months, reported that between 2002 and 2013, Native children in Maine were five times more likely to be forced from their homes than non-Native children.

“Our film,” says Bruce Duthu, a Dartmouth professor of Native studies, “reveals a practice of state power that is ongoing, state action directed at the heart of the family and depriving individuals of something that I think most of us take for granted: the idea not only that we can have children but raise them the way that we want to.”

Duthu looks into the camera to say, “When state power deprives people of that right, we should all be concerned.”

The documentary will screen at Tower City Cinemas on three dates: 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 13; 1:20 p.m. Saturday, April 14 with a film forum and 9:20 a.m. Sunday, April 15.  You will receive a $2 discount per ticket using the Anisfield-Wolf code: ANW0. Tickets go on sale March 23.

“It is hard to fathom for many in Maine that genocide occurred here,” the commission report states, “much less that it continues to occur in a cultural form.”  

The gritty documentary “Romeo is Bleeding” took home the top audience choice prize at this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival. Now the festival is hosting an encore screening of the award-winning film at the Breen Center for the Arts on Cleveland’s West Side.
The film follows 22-year-old poet and educator Donté Clark as he worked with youth in Richmond, California to mount an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” in the hopes of starting a dialogue about the gang-related violence in the community. Clark is a founding member and artistic director of the RAW Talent Creative Arts Program, which offers workshops in visual arts, theater and music production.
But it’s the spoken word component that provides the backbone for the documentary, as viewers watch the students tell a Shakespearean tale using their own life experiences. Since its release in 2015, “Romeo” has picked up more than 20 awards on the festival circuit.

“Romeo Is Bleeding” is Jason Zeldes’ directorial debut. He is best known for editing the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Twenty Feet from Stardom.”
“Richmond is a community facing difficult problems but doing so with real fortitude,” Zeldes said in a 2015 interview. “Furthermore, Richmond is not my city. I am an outsider and the last thing I wanted to do was impose my perspective where it doesn’t belong. So early on I committed to the idea that the story would be told from Donté’s perspective, and adhere to his life’s experience in Richmond.”
Prior to the screening, light hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be available and afterward, audience members will have the opportunity to digest the film during a Q&A with some of the cast and crew.