When David Gilbert, CEO of the Cleveland RNC Host Committee, was pitching the city to RNC big wigs, he claimed that Cleveland offered “the most compact area for the Convention and the masses it will bring.” That statement, which essentially reduced Cleveland to its dense downtown and entertainment district, rubbed many Clevelanders the wrong way. Cleveland is a city both in renewal and decline—like many post-industrial American cities, its resurgence has been mostly confined to both universities and healthcare. The rest of the city struggles through gun violence, high infant mortality rates, transit woes, and a lack of affordable, nutritious food. But that doesn’t mean Cleveland residents themselves are down and out. They just need resources, something akin to the $50 million federal security grant that its police department received to prepare for the convention.
That’s what the film series The Fixers tries to make abundantly clear. Conceived and produced by Cleveland native Kate Sopko, the six short films aim to give stories from “a greater Cleveland,” and not necessarily the one being experienced by soused Republican delegates on the way back to their hotel shuttles.
“You have a whole collection of decision-makers in this country coming to adopt a political platform in a local place, and they would not be having much direct experience with this city and its people,” Sopko told a panel this afternoon in Ohio City, across the Cuyahoga River from where the convention is taking place. “That would be an experience that would help decision-makers so much in directing public policy.”
The six films focus on “fixers” in Cleveland neighborhoods, borrowing the journalistic term for people who are incredibly well-networked in specific communities. One short film focuses on Cleveland’s crumbling public transit network, while another follows a young organizer who has started a campaign against gun violence in her neighborhood of Kinsman. Just over the past week, there have been over 25 shootings in Cleveland, while the Republican Party continues to enshrine the rights of gun owners.
“Just yesterday I saw fifteen guys with guns strapped on their backs making a theatrical statement about gun rights in this country,” Sopko said. “But that’s a metaphor for them. This gun violence is the reality of the metaphor they’re talking about. The decisions being made at this convention impact what happens in our neighborhood, and there’s a profound disconnect between what’s being decided and what’s impacting people on the ground.”
Since May 20th, the films have been released every ten days in the run-up to the convention. Last night, they were screened in sequence to a packed house of Clevelanders as well as convention attendees, at the Bop Stop, a renowned non-profit jazz club in Ohio City.
Sopko believes that by changing the narratives, The Fixers can shine a light on Cleveland’s uneven rebirth. “There’s a thirst for more attention to the actual issues that are impacting people’s lives in Cleveland,” she told another filled room. “And there’s a lot of power in just changing the narratives.”
If you’re in Cleveland, The Fixers will be screening in The Flats neighborhood at SPACES through July 29th. You can also check out all the films at www.thefixerscleveland.com