Mention the Columbus International Film and Video Festival to any random stranger on the street and a large majority of them will be in the dark about it. Unfortunately, after 57 years of existence, the city's globally established showcase for educational film and video communications, which honors media ranging from experimental shorts to interactive websites, still has little name recognition among local residents.

Mention the Columbus International Film and Video Festival to any random stranger on the street and a large majority of them will be in the dark about it. Unfortunately, after 57 years of existence, the city's globally established showcase for educational film and video communications, which honors media ranging from experimental shorts to interactive websites, still has little name recognition among local residents.

"We're like the best international film fest that no one at home has ever heard of. It was all an industry thing. It wasn't about being in Columbus," explained Susan Halpern, executive director of the Film Council of Greater Columbus, the nonprofit behind the festival.

Over the past few years, egged on by professional feedback that stressed a local push to ensure the festival's future viability, Halpern and team have made efforts to increase its visibility among Columbus filmmakers and moviegoers. Kicking off Tuesday night, the 2009 fest not only involves Columbus filmmakers on screen and behind the scenes, it suggests a move toward programming that's more accessible than an "educational film" tag would suggest.

One way in which locals have gotten more involved was a happy accident, according to Halpern. A "Basement" division was added this year for short-form experimental works, "films you shoot on your cell phone or put together on your iMac," she explained, "and without planning to, we got a lot of local entries."

This year's winner in that category: Columbus' Jennifer Deafenbaugh for Strawberry Jam Session, a speedy, stop-motion demonstration in jam making. One Pill, an experimental work by local filmmaker Sean McHenry, came in second.

Halpern also pointed out that a number of filmmakers in the area have been enlisted as jurors in various awards categories. Participants include Stacie Sells, Phil Garrett and Matt Meindl.

On the public side, the festival has partnered with the Columbus Free Press to present year-round screenings at the Drexel of documentaries in line with its mission. And the category winners chosen to screen in the festival proper this year (see sidebar) cover such hot topics as zombies and Eastern European porn.

The changes couldn't be happening at a more crucial time. As it has with the rest of the arts community, the economy is taking a bite out of the Film Council. Halpern acknowledged that they've seen a drop in funds across the board, from grants to filmmaker entry fees.

"We're doing more with a lot less, and it's a struggle not to cut your services," she said. One thing she was determined to keep intact: "I decided we weren't going to cut back on the amount of films we screen."

THE PROGRAM

Starting Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Germania with Scientists Under Attack, a documentary warning about the control big business has over genetic engineering, eight films and shorts programs unspool over six days. Here's what we're looking forward to. Screenings take place at CCAD's Canzani Center unless otherwise noted.

"My Son the Pornographer"

7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 at the Arena Grand

An attention-getting title fronts what Halpern describes as a "really sweet" documentary about the clash between a father who makes documentaries and a son who makes porn in Prague.

"Zombies: When the Dead Walk"

8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13

This Canadian documentary covers contemporary interest in zombies and their history in voodoo culture. "I had to show it because it's Friday the 13th," Halpern said. "I mean, it's zombies."

"Animation 4 Adults 2"

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14

Jennifer Deafenbaugh's Strawberry Jam Session is among the shorts in this mature-minded animation program.

"One Water"

7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15

Filmed in 15 countries, the 2009 Best of Festival winner considers a chart-topper in the ranks of growing natural resource crises - global access to clean, drinkable water.