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The 35th Cleveland International Film Festival, scheduled for March 24 to April 3, 2011, will open with Oren Kaplan’s Hamill, based on Ohio wrestler Matt “The Hammer” Hamill; and close with Sean McNamara’s Soul Surfer.

HAMILL, directed by Oren Kaplan, is an inspirational story of hope, perseverance, and the unbreakable belief in one’s dream. Starring Russell Harvard, Raymond Barry, Shoshannah Stern, and Michael Anthony Spady, the film is set to open the 35th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) on Thursday, March 24th. Based on a true story of a wrestler from Loveland, OH, HAMILL, is a sports drama depicting the struggles and successes that Matt “The Hammer” Hamill faces on the way to becoming a wrestling champion. Born deaf but raised among those with the ability to hear, Matt uses his perceived disability as an asset and becomes the first deaf wrestler to win a National Collegiate Championship as well as an inspirational force to the hearing and deaf alike.

SOUL SURFER, directed by Sean McNamara, is the inspiring true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion surfer again. The film features an all-star cast including AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, and Dennis Quaid, with Carrie Underwood in her film debut. SOUL SURFER is set to close the 35th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) on Sunday April 3rd. A natural talent who took to the waves at a young age, Bethany was leading an idyllic, sun-drenched, surfer girl’s life on the Kauai Coast, competing in national competitions. While experiencing a typical ocean outing, Bethany’s life changed in a heartbeat when a14-foot tiger shark attacked her and threatened to shatter all her dreams. SOUL SURFER takes us on the journey through the aftermath of the attack and shows us how, with her parents’ love and an eye-opening trip, Bethany learns to never give up or give in.

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