April 20, 2010 / 10:29 PM / 10 years ago

Cleveland to Cannes; US foreclosure story on film

NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - Cleveland, Ohio, a rust-belt American city that has been at the epicenter of the U.S. home foreclosure crisis, is about to get the red-carpet treatment at the Cannes Film Festival.

A documentary-style film, “Cleveland vs. Wall Street,” which follows a mock trial in which small-town victims of foreclosure face off with banks, will be screened on May 16 at Cannes, where it is up for an award.

Empowering & Strengthening Ohio’s People, a Cleveland-based community organizing group known as ESOP, said the film was born three years ago when a director of Swiss production company Saga Productions contacted ESOP.

ESOP has been one of the most active groups in working with banks and Wall Street firms to stem the foreclosures that have taken a severe toll on the region.

Ohio, with 33,221 foreclosure filings in the first quarter, is one of 10 states that account for more than 70 percent of foreclosures in the United States, according to RealtyTrac.

A jury in the film delivers a verdict on a “modern-day tale about capitalism and its pitfalls,” said ESOP, which works closely with Wall Street banks or affiliates including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. A former board member of ESOP, Barbara Anderson, is featured in the film.

Jean-Stephane Bron, a director with Saga Productions, initially contacted ESOP three years ago. Saga, in two trips a year, studied ESOP staff, attended court hearings and foreclosure auctions, and interviewed homeowners, said Cathleen Groenstein, an ESOP spokeswoman.

But the international limelight is nothing new to ESOP.

“During the presidential election we were inundated with international media,” Groenstein said. (Reporting by Al Yoon; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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