Happy films only — no guts and blood or tears allowed. That's the rule Joyce Mariani abides by when choosing the lineup for the Cleveland Italian Film Festival.

"I show films that are not extraordinarily violent," says Mariani. "I try to steer clear of depressing movies."

She started the Cleveland Italian Film Festival in 2006 — a year after moving here from Rome. "Films that won at the award ceremonies in Cannes would shoot right over Cleveland to Boston, Miami, New York, San Francisco and they just never stopped here," she says.

After watching approximately 40 films this year, Mariani settled on four to screen at various theaters throughout Northeast Ohio Thursday nights Sept. 12 through Oct. 3.

"I don't do it like most of my colleagues across the country who do it because the film has won American Oscars or Italian Oscars," Mariani says. "We just don't take anything."

The year's festival will open with Escort in Love at the Cedar Lee Theatre. The comedy follows a rich woman who loses everything when her husband dies, and how she resorts to desperate measures to pay her debts.

Mariani is especially excited about hosting the Cleveland premiere of The Missing Piece. The documentary unveils the mystery of the Mona Lisa's early 1900s disappearance. "It's a fascinating story," she says. "A lowly house painter stole it, and how he got it out of the Louvre is amazing."

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