Taking a Closer Look: What to expect at the 47th Cleveland International Film Festival

The 47th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) will take over Playhouse Square this Wednesday, March 22 through Saturday,  April 1, for an 11-day viewing marathon. More  than 300 films in every genre and coming from filmmakers  from Cleveland and around the world are on tap for film lovers during the annual festival.

Additionally,  CIFFSt—94 shorts and feature films—will be  available for download to virtual viewers Sunday, April 2 through Sunday, April 9.

CIFF partnered with Cleveland-based graphic design and letterpress studio Type Twenty Seven to create this year’s theme, “LOOK CLOSER: Find Yourself at the 47th Cleveland International Film Festival,” inviting audiences to seek out connections to diverse cultures and perspectives.

A kaleidoscope inspired the theme, as the word directly translates to “observer of beautiful forms,” says CIFF executive director Marcie Goodman.

“We started brainstorming with Type Twenty Seven in the fall,” she says. “After lots of pondering and sticky notes, we decided on ‘LOOK CLOSER.’ We want audiences to take a closer look at the festival and the experiences they have here. A kaleidoscope represents that well.”

While CIFF producers say they not only want audiences to attend the festival, they hope guests will fully immerse themselves in the experience by making connections with other filmgoers and emotionally connecting to different films. After all, each CIFF year is different from the last.

CIFF kicks off this Wednesday,  March 22 with “Butterfly in the Sky,” a documentary on the PBS television show “Reading Rainbow.” The show debuted in 1986 and for 26 seasons host LeVar Burton took kids on far-off adventures into the boundless world of books. With the help of celebrity narrators and nine-year-old book reviewers, Burton brought real-life lessons and honest conversations to life in a way we had never before seen on screen. 

PBS originally launched “Reading Rainbow” so students could keep their reading skills fresh over the summer. It soon became a cultural phenomenon, becoming the most-watched PBS program in the classroom. The program won more than 250 awards, including 26 Emmys.

The documentary takes a closer look at how broadcasters, educators, and filmmakers came together to bring reading into the everyday lives of children. The documentary also explores how the show encouraged kids to look past the pages they read and into the lives of different writers. Co-director Bradford Thomas and co-executive producer and co-editor Dava Whiesenant will attend opening night.

In the span of two weeks, CIFF will show 121 feature films and 199 short films representing  67 countries. Additionally, filmmakers will compete in 15 competitions where they can win more than $130,000. One of the most popular competitions is the Local Heroes Competition—the annual celebration of films made about Ohio, in Ohio, or by Ohioans.

“CIFF stands for the Cleveland International Film Festival and all four words carry equal weight,” says Goodman. “We take pride in highlighting Cleveland-local filmmakers.”

Director, Todd ThompsonDirector, Todd ThompsonTodd Thompson, Parma native and current Orlando resident, will participate in the local competition this year. His film “PRE FAB!” tells the story of The Beatles before they became famous, primarily focusing on John Lennon and drummer Colin Hanton, who played in the Quarrymen—the band that started the Beatles. Last year, the film sold out on two screens at the Florida Film Festival

Showing the film at CIFF is significant to Thompson, he says,  especially since several production members call Ohio home, including writer Joe Millin, supervising producer Shawn Rech, and co-producer Peter Kerr.

“Coming back home means a lot, and it’s a big personal accomplishment for me,” says Thompson. “Cleveland is home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and I couldn’t think of a better place to screen ‘PRE FAB!’”

“PRE FAB!” screens Sunday, March 26 at 2:40 p.m. in the KeyBank State Theatre.  Click here for a full list of Local Heroes films. Click here for the complete CIFF schedule.

Opening night kicks off this Thursday, March 22. Tickets are on sale online, by calling (877) 304-3456. Or in-person at the CIFF Box Office at Playhouse Square’s ticket office in the outer lobby of the KeyBank State Theatre. Box office hours are Mondays through Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursdays and Fridays 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Tickets for single in-person screenings are $16 for CIFF members and $18 for non-members. CIFFStreams tickets are $14 for non-members and $12 for members. Festival passes are $500 and CIF passes are $300.

Dana Shugrue
Dana Shugrue

About the Author: 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.