By Michael Gallucci

Laura Paglin conceived of The Nightowls of Coventry (which opens Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre) in the late '80s, when its 1973 setting wasn't so distant. "When I first moved here, I picked an apartment at random in Coventry," says the director, who's originally from Portland, Oregon. "I started talking to people who were part of the counterculture scene in the '70s. They were very relaxed, but also very cynical."

The movie, which screened in a rough cut at the Cleveland International Film Festival two years ago, centers on a soon-to-be-demolished Coventry deli and the mix of people - hippies, bikers, cranky Jewish guys - who hang out in the 24-hour joint. "I find this combination of people intriguing," says Paglin. "It's different today. People are much more driven."

The filmmaker says her feature debut (devoid of big names, but loaded with indie spirit) is as much about the era as it is the storied neighborhood in which it's set. "I wanted it to be post-Vietnam," says Paglin, who will be at opening-day screenings. But people weren't fighting for any particular political cause at the time, she says, so "the deli became the new cause." The Nightowls of Coventry is at the Cedar Lee Theatre, 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights; call 440-717-4696.