The savvy Clevelander's guide to supporting local films at CIFF

Running from March 27 through April 7, the 43rd installment of the Cleveland International Film Festival is in full swing. With a theme of “Welcome,” #CIFF43 is spotlighting 211 feature films and 237 short films representing 71 countries—but even with such a diverse cast of characters, there is no shortage of selections with Cleveland connections.


Enter the aptly named “Local Heroes” lineup, which showcases a little something for everyone—from star power (I See You, starring Helen Hunt and filmed in Greater Cleveland, and Wild Nights with Emily, in which Shaker Heights native Molly Shannon plays Emily Dickinson) to compelling Cleveland personalities (like caddie Mike Kiely, featured in Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk, and transgender bodybuilder Mason Caminiti, featured in Man Made).

There’s also a healthy dose of emerging local talent, with Cleveland 48-Hour Film Project Competition winner Conrad Faraj’s short Two for Twenty featured, and local filmmaker Carl Kriss selected to pitch his Lordstown documentary for the If/Then American Midwest Documentary Short pitch competition. The St. Edward High School film program also has two shorts being shown at CIFF.

For a full list of #CIFF43 films about Ohio, shot in Ohio, or made by Ohioans, check out all of the films in the "Local Heroes" competition. Plus, show some Cleveland love by supporting these four films screening this week (and get $1 off your purchase by entering code FRESH at checkout):


Float: Cleveland Heights native and filmmaker Phil Kibbe cut his chops as an intern for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission back in 2006, and though he now lives in New York City, he’s returning to Cleveland with a featured documentary in CIFF. Float follows two Americans competing in the F1D World Championships (aka the Olympics for model airplane makers). Fittingly, it will screen at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History along with a stint at Tower City.

Float Documentary [Director Phil Kibbe] Updated February 2019 - Full Trailer from Clock Shadow on Vimeo.


Leonard Soloway’s Broadway: All nonagenarians have a story to tell, and Leonard Soloway’s is a bit glitzier than most. The 40-time Tony Award winner was born in Cleveland and started his illustrious career at the Cleveland Play House before going on to become a force on Broadway. Fellow Cleveland native Jeff Wolk shot the documentary while co-producing the off-Broadway show Maurice Hines Tappin’ Through Life with Soloway—and now their names will be in lights together at CIFF.

Leonard Soloway's Broadway Trailer from Hawk House Productions on Vimeo.

Witness Theater: In the name of preserving important firsthand accounts of the Holocaust, the Witness Theater program in New York City paired eight Holocaust survivors with 16 high school seniors to give the survivors the chance to share their stories with the world. Directed by Oberlin College graduate and Independent Spirit Award nominee Oren Rudavsky, this documentary is a captivating means to that end.



Station Hope: A Conversation: St. John’s Episcopal Church is not only the oldest consecrated building in Cuyahoga County, but also Cleveland’s first authenticated Underground Railroad site. Cleveland Public Theatre’s annual Station Hope event explores this rich site—and its associated themes of freedom and equity—through theatre, music, storytelling, and dance. Directed by Simone Barros, this 26-minute documentary short spotlights the participating artists and community leaders to create a “cinematic time capsule of Station Hope and Ohio City.”

Check out the full Local Heroes lineup—and all #CIFF43 has on deck—here.

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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