<span class='image-credits'>Bob Perkoski</span>

Putting the "Cleveland" in CIFF: A cheat sheet for supporting CLE films and filmmakers

From April 4-15, Tower City is set to yet again become a center for celluloid as host to the 42nd annual Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF)—considered to be the world's largest film festival to take place mostly under one roof.

This year's installment will showcase close to 500 feature films and shorts from 72 countries, and true to form, Cleveland is well-represented among those ranks. Show our hometown some love by curating your can't-miss lineup from this list of selections that highlight our city and its creative talent. (For a full list of #CIFF42 films about Ohio, shot in Ohio, or made by Ohioans, check out all of the films in the "Local Heroes" competition.)

Kusama – Infinity: “Highly anticipated” is an understatement for the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibit destined for Cleveland Museum of Art this summer. Get a deeper understanding of the avant-garde artist behind the phenomenon with this documentary, directed by Akron native and Kent State grad Heather Lenz.

Sons of St. ClairBone Thugs-N-Harmony are the Grammy-winning Cleveland hip-hop group responsible for 90s earworms like "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and "Crossroads," and now they're back with a documentary in which Cleveland sets the backdrop for the creation of their 10th studio album. The film recently won the "Best Documentary Award" at the Mammoth Film Festival.


Assassin’s Code: CIFF marks the world premiere of this crime thriller, which filmed and is set in Cleveland. The feature film is directed by David A. Armstrong—known for his work as a director of photography on the Saw franchise—and follows a Cleveland Police Department rookie trying to crack a murder case while navigating his own complicated family history with the force.


I Am Evidence: “Law and Order: SVU” actress Mariska Hargitay headlines this documentary exposing the high number of untested rape kits in the United States—and Cuyahoga County in particular. Hargitay also produced the documentary, which features interviews with former county prosecutor Tim McGinty and Plain Dealer reporter Rachel Dissell (who helped to expose the county’s backlog of untested kits).


To Err is Human: Former Indians pitcher Mike Eisenberg has gone from the big leagues to the big screen, helming this documentary exploring the third leading cause of death in the United States: human error. Preventable medical mistakes and misdiagnoses account for more than 440,000 deaths annually, and this film acts as an extension of the work of Eisenberg’s late father, who was regarded as a national pioneer in patient safety as the head of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Tripped Up: From the producer to the director to the cinematographer to the composer, Cleveland residents dominate the crew list for this documentary. The film centers on the experience of 18 people who travel to Europe for “Competitours,” a lively “Amazing Race”-style competition with a mystery itinerary and surprise challenges.

Burden of Genius: The Cleveland Clinic takes center stage in this riveting documentary about Dr. Thomas Starzl, who completed the first successful liver transplant in 1967—cementing his place in history as a medical visionary and the “father of transplantation.” Three current transplant surgeons from the Clinic weigh in for the film, which was produced by Cleveland native Carl Kurlander. A post-screening Q&A panel will follow the 1:50 p.m. screening on April 7.


Manry at Sea – in the Wake of a Dream: This inspiring documentary relates the story of Robert Manry, a Willowick native and former Plain Dealer copy editor who made international headlines with his transatlantic journey via sailboat in the 1960s. Manry carried a 16mm movie camera on his trip, and this film is the product of director Steve Wystrach's mission to unearth and showcase that footage—interspersed with home movies, photographs, correspondence, and thousands of newspaper clippings.


Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As a Cleveland native and enthusiast, Jen Jones Donatelli is thrilled to take on the managing editor role at FreshWater. As a full-time freelance writer and editor for more than a decade, Jen has contributed to publications including Redbook, Budget Travel, GOOD, Playboy, Thrillist, Cleveland Magazine, Los Angeles Confidential, San Francisco, Ohio Today, and many more. She is also a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland and a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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