Action! CIFF46 gets rolling next week with hybrid format, eight local films

The 46th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF46) has made a complete 180 in the last two years.

After shutting down just two weeks before opening night in 2020, and going virtual ever since, the organization is eager to welcome a live audience to its new home at Playhouse Square from Wednesday, March 30 through Saturday, April 9, with 146 feature films and 182 short films representing 73 countries, followed by CIFF46 Streams, Sunday, April 10 through Sunday, April 17, which will air two-thirds of the in-person lineup. 

“In 2020, we spent five days grieving something we worked so hard for,” says Mallory Martin, CIFF artistic director. “We’re lucky to work with an art form that can go online. While we’ll still have virtual screenings this year, we’re mainly focused on in-person events.”

In light of the hardships festival organizers have faced since COVID-19, the theme of CIFF46 is “Shine On.” It highlights their resilience throughout the pandemic, and the continuous support they’ve received from patrons and film lovers.

CIFF staff worked closely with Midtown-based graphic design and letterpress firm Type Twenty Seven to launch the campaign from scratch. Stars and dark blue and gold hues adorn the CIFF website—connecting the theme to Playhouse Square, where the festival will be held from now on.

Following the 2020 closure of Tower City Cinemas, CIFF had to find a new home. Luckily, it formed a new partnership with Playhouse Square and will work with them for different events throughout the year.

“The stars and timing aligned with Playhouse Square,” says Martin. “We’ve dreamed of having CIFF there for years!”

Although organizers are eager to have the live festival after two years of streaming, Martin predicts they will likely have a reduced number of audience members. 

“Our numbers have definitely dropped,” she says. “It’s something we’ve lived through. People still don’t feel safe meeting in groups, which is where the hybrid model really helps us.”





Originally a two-week long event, CIFF staff have now dedicated a third week to remote viewers. Called “CIFF Streams,” people can view almost every film featured at the in-person festival from the comfort of their own homes.

Another notable segment of CIFF46 is the Local Heroes Film competition. Each feature film is Cleveland or Ohio focused or was created by an Ohioan. The Local Heroes competition winner will be selected by audience votes and will receive a $7,500 cash prize.

The eight Local Heroes contenders are:

Still from LinoleumLinoleum: Set in the fictional town of Fairview Heights, Ohio, “Linoleum” is a coming-of-age story about a middle-aged man (Jim Gaffigan) who becomes an astronaut. Said to resemble Douglas Sirk’s work, the film has colorful set designs and powerful actor performances. It was produced by Ohio-born director Colin West.

Zero Gravity: In “Zero Gravity,” another film about space, Ohio director Thomas Verrette highlights the importance of inspiring younger generations. Rather than lounging by the pool or joining summer camp, a group of middle school kids compete to find the most strategic code for surveying satellites. Astronauts and satellites? Looks like these two films are directly in line with CIFF 46’s theme this year.

Full Out: Inside Ohio Show Choir: Have a taste for music and theater? Director Audrey Leach has you covered. Her film “Full Out: Inside Ohio Show Choir” follows the journeys of three high school choirs from Northeast Ohio. While it touches on heavy-hitting subjects, the film highlights how teens seek to express themselves and enjoy this stage of their life.


Full Out: Inside Ohio Show Choir - Trailer from Too Pink Pictures 



Everybody Dance: Director Dan Watt’s “Everybody Dance” follows five developmentally disabled individuals as they prepare for a dance recital. The main “star” of his film is Bonnie Schlachte, founder and creator of Ballet for All Kids. Her goal is to create a safe space for anyone wanting to share and nurture their artistic side.

Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music: Music shaped the world as it is today. Touching on all genres from calming acoustic tunes to upbeat hip hop jams, director Kathleen Ermitage highlights the power of musical influence in her film “Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music.” She includes several local stories, all featuring people who have inspired positive change through music.

Oyate: Directors Brandon Jackson and Emil Benjamin shed light on the oppression Native Americans face in “Oyate.” Specifically focusing on the Dakota Access Pipeline, they encapsulate how indigenous voices are ignored even during times of protest. Seeking to promote justice for these communities, both directors give Native leaders a much-needed platform to speak their mind.


Oyate Official Trailer from Irrelevant Media on Vimeo.



Mama Bears: Following the relationship between Kimberly Shappley, a devout Christian mother, and her trans daughter, Kai, “Mama Bears” highlights what it means to love our children unconditionally. As she watches her daughter grow up, Shappley reevaluates her belief system and viewpoints. During this journey, she’s able to connect with three other soul-searching mothers who find themselves in similar circumstances.

War on the Diamond: Why do Cleveland fans despise the Yankees? Elyria filmmaker Andy Billman will tell you all there is to know in his film “War on the Diamond.” He goes into detail about this historic rivalry, which dates back to the 1920s. After a tragic on-field accident killed Cleveland pitcher Ray Chapman, bad blood has flowed between the two teams for over a century.

CIFF’s Martin says she is beyond excited to see audiences in the theater again next Wednesday, March 30.

“We’ve definitely kept people engaged over the last two years,” she says, “but they’re desperate to come back to the in-person festival.”

Whether you’re attending virtually, in-person or both, check out CIFF46’s website for a complete schedule of events and film guide.

Tickets are already on sale, and opening night is Wednesday, March 30 in the Connor Palace with the showing of “Peace by Chocolate,” followed by a post-film conversation with director Jonathan Keijser. Attendees are then invited to a post-film dessert reception, featuring DJ BAM. A cash bar will be available.

In-person film tickets are $16 and $14 for CIFF members. CIFF46 STREAMS are $10 and $8.

Buy your tickets online and use the code MEDIA46 to save $1 on your purchase (discount is not available for opening night tickets).

Voucher 10-Packs are also available, A voucher contains a single digital code that is redeemable for 10 tickets to in-person screenings (excludes tickets to opening night and other CIFF46 special events). The vouchers can be redeemed for multiple tickets completely in one ticket order, or across multiple ticket orders, until the 10 credits are redeemed in full.

Voucher 10-Packs are $130 per pack for CIFF members and $150 per pack for non-members, saving customers $1 per ticket.

Tickets and Voucher packs can be purchased online, by calling (877) 304-FILM (3456), or at the Film Festival box office in the KeyBank State Theatre.

Read more articles by Dana Shugrue.

Dana Shugrue is a graduate of John Carroll University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media and Professional Writing. She is a full-time Content Specialist at Budget Dumpster, and part-time freelance writer for FreshWater Cleveland. When she’s not writing, you can catch Dana taking a run through the metros or sipping a latte at her favorite local coffee shop.