Cleveland International Film Fest

February 9, 2016
Cleveland International Film Fest

10 reasons to experience the 2016 Cleveland International Film Festival

Lexi Hotchkiss

Happening March 30 – April 10, the 40th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) is one of those signature events that doesn’t simply exemplify Cleveland’s ever-growing commitment to supporting independent artists--it drives it.

Truth be told, you’re not going to find the films screened at CIFF showing at the suburban cinemaplex on any old Saturday night. But, frankly, we don’t think that’s such a bad thing at all.

Why give it a go?

1. Watch 500+ films over 12 days

The films at CIFF aren’t your average multi-million-dollar blockbusters. Whether it’s a poignant documentary covering humanitarian issues or a hilarious and artfully directed 10-minute short film, CIFF focuses on screening the newest and best films from around the world that people wouldn’t see otherwise.

Conceivably, one could watch a different film for 12+ hours every day for almost two weeks straight. And, it’s not uncommon to catch a few locals who take off work for a solid week to enjoy much of the event.

2. Attend one of the top-rated film festivals in the world

CIFF was rated as one of six standout film festivals in the country beyond Sundance by the king of travel himself – Peter Greenberg. The CIFF also made its way onto indieWIRE’s list of the 50 leading film festivals around the world. It’s also the largest festival of its kind in the region.

But, like many of us here in Cleveland, the folks at CIFF aren’t caught up in hubbub of rankings.

“What makes CIFF unique is that we have a very film-savvy audience. They have a real thirst for independent films,” Debby Samples, Marketing Director for CIFF, says. “Our audience knows these filmmakers, they follow them and they’re up-to-date on them. So, we program around them.”

That’s why the festival is widely recognized as a “filmmaker’s festival.”

3. Meet filmmakers

“What makes a festival special and relevant are the filmmakers,” Patrick Shepherd, Associate Director of CIFF, says.

That being said, visitors to CIFF often get the unique opportunity to chat with the filmmakers themselves immediately following the screening.

In 2015, more than 400 films from around the world were screened at the 39th annual festival.

4. Experience a film festival in one Downtown location

Unlike other film festivals around the world, around 96 percent of CIFF’s film screenings take place in one convenient location in the heart of Downtown: Tower City Cinemas.

Centrally located right smack dab in the middle of EVERYTHING, Tower City Center is directly attached to the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, as well as hotels including The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland and the Renaissance Cleveland.

The festival’s location also offers direct access to public transportation to/from the airport and around the city. Add to that, some of the best eating in Cleveland is within walking distance right outside its doors.

So, having a car while in town just isn’t necessary.

But, for those of you who insist on driving, you’ll be happy to know the festival offers discounted parking within Tower City Center’s property.

5. Get inspired

This year, CIFF is focusing their efforts around one central theme: Welcome Home. In commemoration of the 40th anniversary, this year's event will celebrate and look back on the festival's past 39 years.

CIFF knows that when an audience member sees a film, they’re entertained. But, what many don’t realize is they also become educated and inspired to change the world.

“In one instance, we know of an audience member who saw a film within our ‘It’s Easy Being Green’ Sidebar who was so inspired that he started his own greenhouse here in Cleveland. He’s now an urban farmer,” Samples says.

“That’s why we do this. We give the filmmakers an opportunity to show these films and, ultimately, change the world,” she adds.

6. Select films using Sidebars

Never been to a film festival? No worries, my friend.

CIFF organizes many of its films into categories called Sidebars, which help a first-time festivalgoer to select films based on interests and other categories.

Over the years, they’ve included LGBT-focused films, late-night films, those films focused on environment issues and even films that cater to families.

7. Dive deeper with FilmForums

FilmForums are an incredible way to delve deeper into the important topics addressed within some of CIFF’s films. These moderated discussion panels held after the film’s conclusion include the directors of select films, community leaders, local experts and scholars of the subject(s).

One such FilmForum during the 2015 festival explored the question “What role does grassroots activism have in democracy today?” Panelists included the film's producer, directors, and community activists.

8. Celebrate the work of rising-star and first-time filmmakers

PJ Raval. Ché Sandoval. Ryan White. These three names might not mean much to you right now, but – according to the experts at CIFF – they’re on the rise.

CIFF features the Someone to Watch Award, a program designed to showcase the work of mid-career filmmakers who are quickly making names for themselves within the international filmmaking community.

“We bring them in and show their newest film, as well as one or two of their previous films,” Shepherd says. “These are the filmmakers that our audience gets to know the best.”

9. Commit to the Cleveland community

“We have a unique community engagement program that is focused on making our city a better place in which to live,” Shepherd says. “It’s one of our favorite parts of the festival.”

Many of CIFF’s films have to do with the work being performed by a Cleveland nonprofit organization. So, CIFF works closely with these non-profits.

“For instance, if there’s a documentary about adoption, then we might partner with the Adoption Network of Cleveland. We don’t ask for money from these community partners, but rather that they promote the film to their constituency," Shepherd says. "And, in return, we provide them a platform to promote their work to an engaged audience.”

Now, that’s what we call “community.”

10. Special offers!

The Cleveland International Film Festival offers special prices for real film buffs who plan on attending this year's event: Attendees can purchase bulk tickets (for 10 features or more) with a $2 discount for each film selected. CIFF members will also enjoy free valet parking when available.


The films and other programming will be announced in late February at

Tickets are only $16 for the general public and $14 for CIFF members. Tickets go on sale March 11 (members) and March 18 (non-members) at 11 a.m. Visit their website or call the box office at 877-304-3456 for more details.

So, what’s getting you to the CIFF this year? Tell us!

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