In fall 1967, Gerald Sindell and his film crew stood on Severance Hall's stage, pointing their cameras at the Cleveland Orchestra.
"When the orchestra played for the first time, everyone froze in their tracks," he recalls. "It was the most gorgeous thing anyone had ever heard." Sindell was 23 then, but the memory is still fresh. So is the moment, captured on film.
On Feb. 20, the Cleveland Cinematheque will screen Double-Stop, the independent feature film Sindell and his brother Ivan shot 44 years ago in Greater Cleveland, at locations from Bratenahl and the Chagrin River valley to Shaker Square and the Fine Arts Garden. The Sindell brothers will attend the screening and take questions, along with William Kurtz, who acted in the film at age 9, and supporting actress Patti Fairchild, mother of Fox 8 newscaster Stefani Schaefer.
Double-Stop "had a very consistent look," Sindell says, "a real evocation of Cleveland in the autumn." Wardrobe, set decoration and locations were all drawn from fall colors.
The plot, too, captures Cleveland in the late '60s: A Cleveland Orchestra cellist and his wife debate whether to let their young son be bussed to an inner-city school.
"The story of Double-Stop drew on the desire I had to bring the city together, integrate it, end racism and bring about social justice," Sindell says. Yet that idealism, expressed by the cellist's wife, clashes with the harsh urban realities the cellist discovers when he follows his son's bus to school.
Double-Stop was made for about $150,000 in 1967 dollars, the equivalent of $1 million today, thanks to 57 investors, most of them from Cleveland. The film screened at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival and won the award for best feature film at the Atlanta Film Festival. The Plain Dealer called it an "exciting mélange of entertainment [and] social message," while the Los Angeles Times warned of its "maddening mannerisms."
Sindell, now a writer and consultant in California, sees the film as a youthful learning experience. "The story was probably a little too freighted, hard to pull off on a masterful level," he says. On the other hand, he says, "We were trying to make a film that was beautiful, and we succeeded."