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Happening March 29 – April 9, the 41st 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 and Media Director for CIFF, said. “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, said.
And visitors to CIFF often get the unique opportunity to chat with the filmmakers themselves immediately following the screening.
In 2016, more than 300 filmmakers from 72 countries around the world came to the 40th annual festival to interact with their audiences.
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 Cleveland: Tower City Cinemas.
Centrally located right smack dab in the middle of everything, Tower City Center is directly attached to the JACK Cleveland Casino, as well as hotels including The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland and the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.
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: the word "ILLUMINATE." This word--like the festival--contains educational themes, the concept of progress and the furthering of enlightened views. It also encourages filmgoers to spread the messages they encounter and to create change.
CIFF knows that when an audience member sees a film, they’re entertained. But, often 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 said.
“That’s why we do this. We give the filmmakers an opportunity to show these films and, ultimately, change the world,” she said.
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 2016 festival surrounded the film Can You Dig This and explored the question “How can planting seeds strengthen our community?” Panelists included a cooking instructor, community advocates and the coordinator of an urban community school's garden and healthy lifestyle program in Cleveland.
8. 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 said. “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 said. "And, in return, we provide them a platform to promote their work to an engaged audience.”
9. 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 (not valid during the Opening Night Gala or in combination with any other offers).
The films and other programming will be announced on Friday, March 3 at www.ClevelandFilm.org.
Tickets are $16 for the general public and $14 for CIFF members. Tickets go on sale March 10 (members) and March 17 (non-members) at 11 a.m. Discount parking is available. 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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