Cleveland International Film Festival } March 29 – April 9, 2017

The first Cleveland International Film Festival was presented from April 13 through June 2, 1977.  Eight films from seven countries were shown at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights over this eight-week period.  Developed as a subscription series, the first CIFF received substantial media attention and attendance indicated Clevelanders wanted a broader schedule. 

In January 1991, the Board of Trustees voted to move the Film Festival from the Cedar Lee Theatre to Tower City Cinemas in downtown Cleveland, making the event more accessible to film lovers from throughout the region.  In fact, since the move downtown our attendance has grown by over 600%.


March 31– April 10, 2016
Attendance: 102,255
192 feature films
213 short films


March 18–29, 2015
Attendance: 100,204
193 feature films
238 short films

  • Tagline: The Home for Inspiration
  • Opening: I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (Brett Haley; USA; 2015)
  • Closing: DANNY COLLINS (Dan Fogelman; USA; 2015)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: BECOMING BULLETPROOF (Michael Barnett; USA; 2014)
  • George Gund III Central and Eastern European Film Competition: THE FOOL (Yury Bykov; Russia; 2014)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: STRAY DOG (Debra Granik; USA, Mexico; 2014)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition: LIMITED PARTNERSHIP (Thomas G. Miller; USA; 2014)
  • Global Health Competition: BECOMING BULLETPROOF (Michael Barnett; USA; 2014)
  • American Independents Award: THE YOUNG KIESLOWSKI (Kerem Sanga; USA; 2014)
  • Local Heroes Competition: FORCED PERSPECTIVE (Nick Cavalier; USA; 2015)
  • Music Movies Competition: TAKE ME TO THE RIVER (Martin Shore; USA; 2014)
  • Audience Choice Award for Best Short Subject: “Bis Gleich (Till Then)” (Benjamin Wolff; Germany, USA; 2014)
  • ReelWomenDirect Award: Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli for FRAME BY FRAME (Afghanistan; 2015)
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Mike Ott; Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross
  • CIFF initiates the New Direction program, which debuts feature-length directors whose innovative films transform the traditional notions of cinematic storytelling.
  • Shaker Heights-native Fred Willard attends CIFF with director Lance Kinsey, raised in Chagrin Falls, for sold out screenings of ALL STARS (USA; 2014).
  • For the first time, students have the opportunity to vote for the favorite feature and short film. BECOMING BULLETPROOF (Michael Barnett; USA; 2014) wins the first FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Feature, and “Super Pimp” (John Jivan, Dustin Lee, Terry Geer, Ledion Isufaj, Eric Schilling; USA; 2013) wins the first FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Short.
  • Allie Freeman (CIFF Development Assistant) starts full time at the CIFF (after 15 years with the organization)


CIFF38: March 19–30, 2014
Attendance: 97,804
186 feature films
168 short films
68 countries

  • Tagline: The Home for Stories
  • Opening: NOT ANOTHER HAPPY ENDING (John McKay; UK; 2013)
  • Closing: DOM HEMINGWAY (Richard Shepard; UK; 2013)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE (Michele Josue; USA; 2013)
  • George Gund III Central and Eastern European Film Competition: LIFE FEELS GOOD (Maciej Pierprzyca; Poland; 2013)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: THE SARNOS: A LIFE IN DIRTY MOVIES (Wiktor Ericsson; Sweden; 2013)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition: MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE (Michele Josue; USA; 2013)
  • Global Health Competition: THE STARFISH THROWERS (Jesse Roesler; USA, India; 2014).
  • American Independents Award: A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING (Rob Meyer; USA; 2013)
  • Local Heroes Competition: THE SAX MAN (Joe Siebert; USA; 2014)
  • Music Movies Competition: THE WINDING STREAM (Beth Harrington; USA; 2014)
  • ReelWomenDirect Award: Claudia Pinto Emperador for THE LONGEST DISTANCE (Venezuela, Spain; 2013)
  • Someone to Watch Awards: PJ Raval; Ché Sandoval; Ryan White

  • With a loan from the George Gund Foundation, CIFF upgrades Tower City Cinemas with state-of-the-art digital projection equipment and sound equipment, as well as new screens.
  • CIFF screens films at three new neighborhood theaters: the Beachland Ballroom, the Hanna Theatre, and Cinemark Valley View.
  • Focus on Filmmakers: LGBT
  • CIFF films are completely digital for the first time.
  • CIFF celebrates the life of Thomas A. Duke (1934–2014), namesake of the Duke Desk (Will Call), by dubbing Saturday, March 29, Thommy T-Shirt Day. Thom memorably wore a different t-shirt each day of the Festival.
  • The Cleveland Foundation, in honor of its 100thanniversary, holds a free day at the Festival on Monday, March 24.


April 3–April 14, 2013
Attendance: 93,235
180 feature films
165 short films
64 countries

  • Tagline: Be the Applause
  • Opening: THE KINGS OF SUMMER (Jordan Vogt-Roberts; USA; 2013)
  • Closing: UNFINISHED SONG (Paul Andrew Williams; UK; 2012)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: GOOD OL’ FREDA (Ryan White; USA, UK; 2013)
  • George Gund III Central and Eastern European Film Competition: WHEN DAY BREAKS (Goran Paskaljević; Serbia, Croatia, France; 2012)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: SHEPARD & DARK (Treva Wurmfeld; USA; 2013)
  • The Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition: Standing Up To something IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN (Harry Freeland; UK, USA, Tanzania; 2012)
  • The Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition: Standing Up For something, awarded to HONOR FLIGHT (Dan Hayes; USA; 2012).
  • American Independents Award: MARIACHI GRINGO (Tom Gustafson; Mexico, USA; 2012)
  • Local Heroes Competition: UNDERDOGS (Doug Dearth; USA; 2012)
  • ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman: Freida Lee Mock for G-DOG (USA; 2012).
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Nic Balthazar; Kristy Guevara-Flanagan; Tom Gustafson and Cory Krueckeberg; Martin Lund
  • Opening Night welcomes local heroes director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, screenwriter Chris Galletta, and producer Tyler Davidson as the special guests.
  • CIFF adds a 12thday to the Festival.
  • Thanks to a grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, CIFF presents a Festival sampling of films at the first ever Day and Knight in Akron—a full day of screenings at Akron Art Museum and Akron-Summit County Public Library.
  • Focus on Filmmakers: Latino filmmakers.
  • CIFF celebrates the incredible life of George Gund III (1937–2013) by dubbing CIFF’s long-standing competition as the George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Film Competition.
  • CIFF introduces the Ralph D. Howard Memorial Volunteer Award.


March 22–April 1, 2012
Attendance: 82,544
165 feature films
156 short films
60 countries

  • Tagline: Be Carried Away
  • Opening: NESTING (John Chuldenko; USA; 2012)
  • Closing: PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE (Stephen Kessler; USA; 2011)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: UNDER AFRICAN SKIES (Joe Berlinger; USA, South Africa; 2012)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: BEST INTENTIONS (Adrian Sitaru; Romania; 2011)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING (Neil Berkeley; USA; 2012)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition: A PLACE AT THE TABLE (AKA “FINDING NORTH”) (Lori Silverbush, Kristi Jacobson; USA; 2011)
  • American Independent Award: MISSED CONNECTIONS (Eric Kissack; USA; 2011)
  • Local Heroes Award: BILL W. (Kevin Hanlon; USA; 2011).
  • Director’s Spotlight: Kurt Kuenne
  • Special guests at Opening Night include director-producer-screenwriter John Chuldenko, producer Laura Boersma, and actor Kevin Linehan.
  • CIFF initiates the three-year Focus on Filmmakers program, made possible by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences®.
  • Based on cumulative attendance records since 1977, CIFF welcomes its one-millionth attendee.
  • Special Guests at Closing Night include director-producer-screenwriter Stephen Kessler and featured subject Paul Williams. Williams sings “The Rainbow Connection” to attendees.


March 24–April 3, 2011
Attendance: 78,035
152 feature films
130 short films
62 countries

  • Tagline: Be Part of the Story
  • Opening: HAMILL (Oren Kaplan; USA; 2010)
  • Closing: SOUL SURFER (Sean McNamara; USA; 2011)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: VINCENT WANTS TO SEA (Ralf Huettner; Germany; 2010)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: IF I WANT TO WHISTLE, I WHISTLE (Florin Serban; Romania, Sweden; 2010)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: STEAM OF LIFE (Joonas Berghäll, Mika Hotakainen; Finland; 2010)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition: DYING TO DO LETTERMAN (Biagio Messina, Joke Fincioen; USA; 2010)
  • American Independent Award: HAMILL (Oren Kaplan; USA; 2010)
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Dave Boyle; Ed Gass-Donnelly; Lisa Gossels
  • Special guests at Opening Night include Matt Hamill, director Oren Kaplan, producer Eben Kostbar, actor Russell Harvard, and actor Rich Franklin.
  • CIFF earns support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to hold a screening at an Akron-area theater that is operated as part of the Cleveland Cinemas family.
  • Thanks to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Women of the World becomes a permanent section of CIFF.
  • For the first time ever, CIFF has the opportunity to use all of Tower City Cinemas for its screenings.
  • CIFF hosts its first-ever College Day.
  • FilmSlam celebrates its 20thanniversary.
  • The print of the Closing Night Film SOUL SURFER is not delivered. The audience adapts with grace.
  • Mallory Martin (CIFF Director of Programming and Projection) attends her first international film festival scouting films for the CIFF while on a backpacking trip in Europe.


March 18–28, 2010
Attendance: 71,554
153 feature films
152 short films
84 countries

  • Tagline: Let’s Go.
  • Opening: TiMER (Jac Schaeffer; USA; 2009)
  • Closing: LOOKING FOR ERIC (Ken Loach; UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain; 2009)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: LOUDER THAN A BOMB (Jon Siskel, Greg Jacobs; USA; 2010)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: HIPSTERS (Valery Todorovsky; Russia; 2008) and HONEYMOONS (Goran Paskaljevic; Serbia, Albania; 2009)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: MARWENCOL (Jeff Malmberg; USA; 2010)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition: LOUDER THAN A BOMB (Jon Siskel, Greg Jacobs; USA; 2010)
  • American Independent Award: HARVEST (Marc Meyers; USA; 2010)
  • Director’s Spotlight: Jan Hřebejk
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Emily Abt; Jesper Ganslandt
  • Special guests at Opening Night include director Jac Schaeffer and producer Jennifer Glynn. Attendees take home timers.
  • For the first time, Festival patrons can access the schedule and happenings through an iPhone application; elect a Festival “mayor” through Foursquare; and order official merchandise online.
  • Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution (Penguin, 2008), accepts the From the Page to the Projector Award on Saturday, March 20, between screenings of THE GRADUATE (Mike Nichols; USA; 1967) and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (Norman Jewison; USA; 1967).
  • CIFF adds a seventh screen at Tower City Cinemas.


March 19–29, 2009
Attendance: 66,872
143 feature films
174 short films
64 countries

  • Tagline: It’s Starting!
  • Opening: LIGHTBULB (Jeff Balsmeyer; USA; 2008)
  • Closing: THE BROTHERS BLOOM (Rian Johnson; USA; 2008)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: CHERRY BLOSSOMS–HANAMI (Doris Dörrie; Germany, Japan; 2008)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: THE INVESTIGATOR (Attila Gigor; Hungary; 2008)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: TRINIDAD (PJ Raval, Jay Hodges; USA; 2008)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition: THE WAY WE GET BY (Aron Gaudet; USA; 2009)
  • American Independent Award: PRINCE OF BROADWAY (Sean Baker; USA; 2008)
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Ramin Bahrani; Gerardo Naranjo
  • Special guests at Opening Night include producer-screenwriter Mike Cram, actor Dallas Roberts, and executive producer Greg Goodell. At the end of the night, attendees take home their own Homer Simpson talking beer opener.
  • CIFF initiates its social networking efforts, integrating the organization’s own blog with the use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.
  • The screening at the Cedar Lee Theatre is presented in loving memory of Rick Whitbeck (1946–2008). One of the founders of the Film Festival, Rick filled many staff roles over the years and served as the organization’s first Board President.
  • For the first time ever, Roxanne T. Mueller’s family attends the Festival on Closing Night for the presentation of the Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film.


March 6–16, 2008
Attendance: 52,100
136 feature films
160 short films
60 countries

  • Tagline: How Will It Change You?
  • Opening: THEN SHE FOUND ME (Helen Hunt; USA, UK; 2007)
  • Closing: AMERICAN TEEN (Nanette Burstein; USA; 2007)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: ONE BAD CAT: THE REVEREND ALBERT WAGNER STORY (Thomas G. Miller; USA; 2008)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: TRAVELLING WITH PETS (Vera Storozheva; Russia; 2007)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: OUT OF TIME (Harald Friedl; Austria; 2006)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition: IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA (Daniel Junge, Siatta Scott Johnson; USA, Liberia; 2007)
  • American Independent Award: UNDER THE SAME MOON (Patricia Riggen; Mexico, USA; 2007)
  • Director’s Spotlight: John Sayles
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Helen Hood Scheer; Brillante Mendoza
  • As the Festival prepares for Opening Night on Thursday, March 6, a water main break on Public Square causes a section of roadway between Ontario Street and Ontario Avenue to collapse.
  • The Opening Night special guest is award-winning author Elinor Lipman, whose book served as source material for the film. At the screening, Lipman reads a letter from director Helen Hunt.
  • Attendees are singing, humming, and whistling The Twilight’s “I’ve Got Love,” featured in CIFF32’s trailer, throughout the 11 days of the Festival.
  • A massive snowstorm on Saturday, March 8, could not keep film fans away from CIFF. Unfortunately, John Sayles and his creative partner Maggie Renzi could not overcome the elements and make it to Cleveland.


March 15–25, 2007
Attendance: 52,753
121 feature films
114 short films
57 countries

  • Tagline: Confess: Your Love for Film
  • Opening: SWEDISH AUTO (Derek Sieg; USA; 2006)
  • Closing: EAGLE VS SHARK (Taika Waititi; New Zealand; 2006)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: DARIUS GOES WEST: THE ROLL OF HIS LIFE (Logan Smalley; USA; 2007)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: THE MELON ROUTE (Branko Schmidt; Croatia; 2006)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: MR. PILIPENKO AND HIS SUBMARINE (Jan Hinrik Drevs, René Harder; Germany, Ukraine; 2006)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition: DARIUS GOES WEST: THE ROLL OF HIS LIFE (Logan Smalley; USA; 2007)
  • Cable American Independents Award: THE GYMNAST (Ned Farr; USA; 2006)
  • Director’s Spotlight Award: Rolf de Heer
  • Someone to Watch Award: Matt Bissonette
  • Director Derek Sieg and producer Tyler Davidson are special guests at Opening Night.
  • In the Time magazine article “Film Festivals for the Rest of Us,” the reporter writes: “Couldn’t Make Cannes? Try Cleveland,” noting that CIFF is “renowned for its diversity and inclusiveness.”
  • CIFF launches a new and improved website, which receives over 5.5 million hits between February and March of 2007.
  • When half of the 35mm print of WHO LOVES THE SUN (Matt Bissonette; Canada; 2006) doesn’t make it to Cleveland the day of its screening, CIFF staff, volunteers, board members, friends, family, lawyers, directors, and strangers join forces to make everything appear to run smoothly, and CIFF screens the film on time.
  • For the first time in its history, CIFF presents films in six theaters.


March 6–16, 2006
Attendance: 52,064
124 feature films
97 short films
55 countries
  • Tagline: What Are You Waiting For?
  • Opening: AKEELAH AND THE BEE (Doug Atchison; USA; 2006)
  • Closing: SWEET LAND (Ali Selim; USA; 2006).
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: LIVE AND BECOME (Radu Mihaileanu; France, Israel, Belgium, Italy; 2005)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: A LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN (Peter Nikolaiev; Czech Republic; 2005)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (James Longley; Iraq, USA; 2006)
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition: AMERICAN BLACKOUT (Ina Inaba; USA; 2006)
  • Director’s Spotlight Award: Freida Lee Mock
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Hiner Saleem; Ann Marie Fleming
  • Director Doug Atchison and actress Keke Palmer are special guests at Opening Night.
  • CIFF earns national recognition with a generous grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Academy Foundation.
  • Morning screenings and a series of midnight movies are added to the schedule.
  • The Cuyahoga County Public Library and CIFF present six award-winning book-to-film titles to be examined “From The Page to the Projector.”
  • In celebration of the 30thanniversary and in honor of the Festival’s early years, CIFF returns to the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights, home to the Festival’s first 14 years, for one night only.
  • CIFF inaugurates its Music Movies sidebar.


March 10–20, 2005
Attendance: 43,152
104 feature films
77 short films
49 countries

  • Tagline: Rejuvenation
  • Opening: LONESOME JIM (Steve Buscemi; USA; 2005)
  • Closing: 5 x 2 (François Ozon; France; 2004)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: MAD HOT BALLROOM (Marilyn Agrelo; USA; 2005)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: DAYS AND HOURS (Pjer Žalica; Bosnia and Herzegovina; 2004)
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition: THE TAKE (Avi Lewis, Naomi Klein; Canada, Argentina; 2004).
  • Director’s Spotlight Award: Todd Solondz
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Khyentse Norbu; Hans Weingartner; Catherine Gund; Ronit Elkabetz
  • Service to the Field Award: Microcinema International
  • Steve Buscemi attends Opening Night. His guest for the evening is his mother.
  • CIFF inaugurates its Standing Up sidebar of films with a “conscience.”
  • CIFF receives an Arts and Culture as Economic (ACE) Development Grant from the Cuyahoga County Commissioners, enabling it to add a fifth theater for viewers. Twenty-five films are screened per day.
  • CIFF begins using colors instead of numbers to distinguish between theaters.


March 18–28, 2004
Attendance: 39,338
85 feature films
74 short film
55 countries

  • Tagline: Why Direct a Film? Just Produce a Ticket!
  • Opening: DANDELION (Mark Milgard; USA; 2004)
  • Closing: BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS (Stephen Fry; UK; 2003)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: BORN INTO BROTHELS (Ross Kauffman, Zana Briski; USA; 2003)
  • Central and Eastern European Film Competition: THE STROLL (Alexei Uchitel; Russia; 2003)
  • Someone to Watch Awards: Gaylene Preston; Pen-ek Ratanaruang; Josef Fares
  • CIFF launches its internet-based ticketing system. For the first time, festival goers fill their shopping carts online at
  • CIFF dubs Will Call the “Duke Desk,” in honor of the 70thbirthday of longtime volunteer-turned-staff-member Thom Duke.
  • CIFF brings together the family members, many of whom had not seen each other in years, of Viola Liuzzo, the focus of the documentary HOME OF THE BRAVE (Paola di Florio; USA; 2004), for a powerful screening and FilmForum.
  • In celebration of the life of Nina Simone (1933–2003), CIFF hosts a partnership presentation with Tri-C JazzFest, celebrating its 25thanniversary, to screen NINA SIMONE, LOVE SORCERESS (Rene Letzgus; France; 1998).


March 20–30, 2003
Attendance: 35,173
98 feature films
91 short films
44 countries

  • Tagline: Get Into It!
  • Opening: AMERICAN SPLENDOR (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini; USA; 2003)
  • Closing: RESPIRO (Emanuele Crialese; Italy, France; 2002)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: SPELLBOUND (Jeff Blitz; USA; 2002)
  • Central & Eastern European Competition: HUKKLE (György Pálfi; Hungary; 2002) / EDI (Piotr Trzaskalski; Poland; 2002)
  • Director’s Spotlight Award: Goran Markovic.
  • Someone to Watch Award: Alexei Balabanov of Russia, Ágúst Gudmundsson of Iceland, and Susanne Bier of Denmark.
  • The final Midwest Independent Filmmakers Conference is held.


CIFF 26:
March 14–24, 2002
Attendance: 40,237
80 feature films
88 short films
40 countries

  • Tagline: It’s a Labor of Love
  • Closing: LOVELY AND AMAZING (Nicole Holofcener; USA; 2001)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: AUTUMN SPRING (Vladimír Michálek; Czech Republic; 2001)

  • Marcie Goodman’s first festival as Executive Director.
  • At Opening Night, CIFF holds a Tupperware party for native Clevelander Lisa Udelson’s documentary about Phranc, the lesbian folk singer who became a top-selling Tupperware lady.
  • CIFF inaugurates the Local Heroes sidebar of films, which is devoted to films made in, by, or about Cleveland or Ohio.
  • A special film series of nine films honors the 15thyear of the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award— CIFF12—THE GRAND HIGHWAY (Jean-Loup Hubert; France; 1987); CIFF13—THE BEAST (Kevin Reynolds; USA; 1988); CIFF14—CINEMA PARADISO (Guiseppe Tornatore; Italy, France; 1988); CIFF 15—CROSS MY HEART (Jacques Fansten; France; 1990); CIFF16—ENCHANTED APRIL (Mike Newell; Great Britain; 1992); CIFF17—INTO THE WEST (Mike Newell; Ireland, UK; 1992); CIFF 19—THE SUM OF US (Kevin Dowling, Geoff Burton; Australia; 1994); CIFF21—SHALL WE DANCE? (Masayuki Suo; Japan; 1997);CIFF23—RETURN WITH HONOR (Freida Lee Mock, Terry Sanders; USA; 1998).
  • CIFF presents many of the films on digital video.
  • Clevelander Debra Winger attends a screening of BIG BAD LOVE (Arliss Howard; USA; 2001).
  • Midwest Independent Filmmakers of the Year Award: Scott Lax and Tyler Davidson


March 15–25, 2001
Attendance: 40,194
82 feature films
78 short films

  • Tagline: In the Market for Some Fresh Film?
  • Opening: THE DISH (Rob Sitch; Australia; 2000)
  • Closing: THE GOLDEN BOWL (James Ivory; United Kingdom; 2000)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: BIG EDEN (Thomas Bezucha; USA; 2000)
  • Opening Night includes a tribute to 25 people and organizations instrumental in building the Festival.
  • The first-ever marriage proposal takes place at Opening Night when Dwayne Tindall pops the question to Tina Vey.
  • Each day the Festival features a retrospective screening of one past film, including CIFF1—THE MYSTERY OF KASPAR HAUSER (Werner Herzog; West Germany; 1974); CIFF6—DIVA (Jean-Jacques Annuad; France; 1981); CIFF9—STRANGER THAN PARADISE (Jim Jarmusch; USA, West Germany; 1984); CIFF11—LAMB (Colin Gregg; UK; 1985); CIFF14—LONGTIME COMPANION (Norman Rene; USA; 1990); CIFF17—BARAKA (Ron Fricke; USA; 1992); CIFF19—BAD BOY BUBBY (Rolf de Heer; Australia; 1993); CIFF21—LOVE LETTER (Shunji Iwai; Japan; 1995);CIFF22—CHARACTER (Mike van Diem; Netherlands, Belgium; 1997); and the Best of the Fest Shorts program.
  • Midwest Independent Filmmaker of the Year Award: Robert Banks


March 26–16, 2000
Attendance: 36,414
75 feature films
76 short films
36 countries

  • Tagline: A Monumental Event
  • Opening: THE BIG KAHUNA (John Swanbeck; USA; 1999)
  • Closing: WELCOME BACK, MR. MCDONALD (Koki Mitani; Japan; 1997)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: THE BUTTERFLY (José Luis Cuerda; Spain; 1999)
  • Debbie “Sheepie” Marshall (CIFF Membership Director and Office Manager) completes her senior project at the CIFF.
  • CIFF distributes its first catalogue.
  • In partnership with the Great Lakes Science Center, CIFF presents Keith Melton’s CIRQUE DU SOLEIL—JOURNEY OF MAN (Keith Melton; USA; 2000) at the Omnimax Theater at the Great Lakes Science Center.
  • In association with Prelinger Archives, CIFF presents MENTAL HYGIENE: CLASSROOM GUIDANCE FILMS 1947–1961, followed by a book signing with author and commentator Ken Smith.
  • Midwest Independent Filmmaker of the Year Award: Ed Radtke


March 18–28, 1999
Attendance: 34,735
79 feature films
73 short films
26 countries

  • Tagline: Arrivals from 35 Countries. Departures on 4 Screens.
  • Opening: TWICE UPON A YESTERDAY (Maria Ripoll; Spain, England; 1998)
  • Closing: THE DINNER GAME (Francis Veber; France; 1998)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: RETURN WITH HONOR (Freida Lee Mock, Terry Sanders; USA; 1998)
  • Patrick Shepherd (CIFF Associate Director) starts working at the CIFF as Stand By Manager
  • A special event screening of A RAISIN IN THE SUN (Daniel Petrie; USA; 1961) is followed by a post-screening conversation with Philip Rose, producer of both the film and the original stage production.
  • Producer Barbara Gladstone introduces a screening of CREMASTER 4 (Matthew Barney; USA, France, UK; 1995) and CREMASTER 5 (Matthew Barney; USA; 1997). Art critic Jerry Saltz discusses Barney’s work and the CREMASTER series in a lecture that follows the screenings.
  • A panel discussion of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum historians follows the 35thanniversary screening of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (Richard Lester; UK; 1964).
  • Special screenings of HELLHOUNDS ON MY TRAIL: THE AFTERLIFE OF ROBERT JOHNSON (Robert Mugge; USA; 2000) are held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
  • CIFF presents the special program After Vietnam, which includes four films and a special FilmForum discussing “Vietnam and the American Psyche.”
  • Midwest Independent Filmmaker of the Year Award: David Litz


March 19–29, 1998
Attendance: 31,777
74 feature films
83 short films
26 countries<

  • Opening: A FISH IN THE BATHTUB (Joan Micklin Silver; USA; 1999)
  • Closing: CHARACTER (Mike van Diem; Netherlands, Belgium; 1997)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: CHARACTER (Mike van Diem; Netherlands, Belgium; 1997)
  • Actor and comedian Jerry Stiller attends Opening Night.
  • CIFF holds a 50th anniversary screening of EASTER PARADE (Charles Walters; USA; 1948). In collaboration with Great Lakes Theater Festival, Bill Rudman, host of WCLV-FM’s popular “Broadway Melody,” facilitates a discussion about the world of the American musical following the screening.
  • A benefit preview screening of EVEREST (David Breashears, Stephen Juson, Greg MacGillivray; USA; 1998) is held at the Cleveland Clinic Omnimax Theater at the Great Lakes Science Center.
  • CIFF changes the name of its annual film festival for high school students to FilmSlam.
  • The first Midwest Independent Filmmakers Conference—three days of panels, discussions, and screenings dedicated to filmmakers working independently in the Midwest—is held March 27–29, 1998.


March 13–23, 1997
Attendance: 27,585
68 feature films
75 short filsm
24 countries

  • Tagline: See the World. Take It Home.
  • Opening: TELLING LIES IN AMERICA (Guy Ferland; USA; 1997)
  • Closing: WHEN THE CAT’S AWAY (Cédric Klapisch; France; 1996)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: SHALL WE DANCE? (Masayuki Suo; Japan; 1997)
  • Beth Steele Radisek (CIFF Special Projects Director) volunteers for the first time at the CIFF.
  • Native Clevelander and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas attends Opening Night—the world premiere of TELLING LIES IN AMERICA, which was filmed in Cleveland in August 1996.
  • CIFF expands to four theaters at Tower City Cinemas.
  • A screening of FIRES OF KUWAIT (David Douglas; USA; 1992) is held at the Cleveland Clinic Omnimax Theater at the Great Lakes Science Center on March 20, 1997.
  • CIFF pays tribute to the 30thanniversary of the release of THE GRADUATE (Mike Nichols; USA; 1967) with a special screening.
  • CIFF holds a Critic’s Roundtable asking the question “Is Hollywood killing the movies?”
  • CFS establishes Cleveland Filmmakers, a program of advocacy and artistic, educational, and professional service for local filmmakers. The program holds three discussion forums during the Festival.


CIFF 20:
March 21–31, 1996
Attendance: 25,309
59 feature films
78 short films
28 countries

  • Opening: JACK & SARAH (Joe Sullivan; France, UK; 1995)
  • Closing: PALOOKAVILLE (Alan Taylor; USA; 1995)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: FIDDLEFEST (Allan Miller; USA; 1995)
  • Bill Guentzler (CIFF Artistic Director) attends his first screening at the CIFF.
  • Janet Leigh attends a screening of PSYCHO (Alfred Hitchcock; USA; 1960) and discusses the film with esteemed film professor Dr. Louis Giannetti.
  • CIFF salutes the Centennial of the Cinema with three programs: THE MOVIES BEGIN (International); LUMIERE AND COMPANY (France; Denmark; Spain; Sweden; 1995), and THE FIRST 100 YEARS: A CELEBRATION OF AMERICAN MOVIES (Chuck Workman; USA; 1995)
  • CIFF launches a new series called Pan-African Images, which includes five new films from the African diaspora.
  • Pixar animator Bob Peterson reveals the magic behind Disney’s TOY STORY (John Lasseter; USA; 1995) at a program called “The Making of Toy Story.”
  • As part of “To Life!” (a year-long celebration of Jewish arts and culture), CIFF presents the Yiddish film classic THE DYBBUK (Michal Waszynski; Poland; 1937), followed by a FilmForum.


CIFF 19:
March 30–April 9, 1995
56 feature films
71 short films
20 countries

  • Opening: MY FAMILY (Gregory Nava; USA; 1995)
  • Closing: FUNNY BONES (Peter Chelsom; UK, USA; 1995)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: THE SUM OF US (Kevin Dowling, Geoff Burton; Australia; 1994)
  • CIFF welcomes actress Kitty Carlisle Hart to discuss her career. In honor of her visit, CIFF screens A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (Sam Wood; USA; 1935), in which Hart stars with the Marx Brothers.
  • In memory of the distinguished actors who passed away the year before—Jessica Tandy and Burt Lancaster—CIFF screens DRIVING MISS DAISY (Bruce Beresford; USA; 1989) and ELMER GANTRY (Richard Brooks; USA; 1960).
  • CIFF screens THE LOST WEEKEND (Billy Wilder; USA; 1945) in celebration of the 50thanniversary of its initial release.
  • CIFF presents a Rock and Roll sidebar, featuring both new and old rock movies and a FilmForum.


April 7–17, 1994
54 feature films
94 short films
23 countries

  • Opening: FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (Mike Newell; UK; 1994)
  • Closing: BACKBEAT (Iain Softley; UK, Germany; 1994)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: BACKBEAT (Iain Softley; UK, Germany; 1994)
  • CIFF screens 32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD (Francois Girard; Canada; 1993). David W. Wittkowsky, Executive Director from 1992 to 2001, remembers: “This brings back vivid and wonderful memories of a film that absolutely spoke to me like few could. Watching it was a truly transcendent film experience for me. The director told a story in a new and exciting way, and music was featured as an important element. I’d taken my seat in the theater not knowing what to expect, and the impact was, indeed, unexpected.
  • CIFF celebrates the 25thanniversary of the release of BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (George Roy Hill; USA; 1969) with two screenings.
  • CIFF features a Performance Art of Film program in conjunction with Outside the Frame: Performance and the Object, an exhibition at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art and the Cleveland Performance Art Festival.


April 15–25, 1993
62 feature films
79 short films
22 countries

  • Opening: EL MARIACHI (Robert Rodriguez; USA; 1992)
  • Closing: BODIES, REST & MOTION (Michael Steinberg; USA; 1993)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: INTO THE WEST (Mike Newell; Ireland, UK; 1992)
  • CIFF adds a program for high school foreign language students called Students’ Foreign Film Fest, which uses film as an aide to learning foreign languages and understanding different cultures.
  • CIFF also highlights a new series of films: 10% Cinema—Lesbian and Gay Films.
  • CIFF launches the World Tour program, composed of a variety of international feature films.
  • In the new educational program FilmForums, CIFF presents the panel discussion “Lesbian and Gay in the ’90s: Movement on All Fronts.”


April 3–12, 1992
52 feature films
63 short films
20 countries

  • Opening: THE PLAYER (Robert Altman; USA; 1992)
  • Closing: THE WATERDANCE (Neal Jimenez, Michael Steinberg; USA; 1992)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: ENCHANTED APRIL (Mike Newell; Great Britain; 1992)
  • CIFF celebrates the 50thanniversary of the release of CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz; USA; 1942) by presenting the film with a brand new 35mm print.
  • Eric Stoltz attends the Closing Night screening of THE WATERDANCE.


April 5–14, 1991
57 feature films
67 short films
20 countries

  • Opening: Debra Winger Tribute and Retrospective
  • Closing: SWITCH (Blake Edwards; USA; 1991)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: CROSS MY HEART (Jacques Fansten; France; 1990)
  • Actress Debra Winger and film critic Leonard Maltin are the featured guests on Opening Night.
  • Encouraging participation from film lovers throughout Northeast Ohio, CIFF moves from the Cedar Lee Theatre to Hoyts Tower City Cinemas on The Avenue at Tower City Center.
  • For the first time, a committee of local artists and media professionals is assembled to help select the short films screened at the Festival from 150 submissions.
  • Screenings of THE EAR (Karel Kachyňa; Czechoslovakia; 1970) and THE FUNERAL CEREMONY (Zdenek Sirový; Czechoslovakia; 1969)—both banned because of their political content and only recently released by the Czech government—are shown at the Cleveland Cinematheque.
  • Director Hal Hartley attends the screening of his film TRUST (Hal Hartley; USA, United Kingdom; 1990).
  • The organization changes its name from the Cleveland International Film Festival to the Cleveland Film Society, with CIFF as its flagship program.


April 19–29, 1990
44 feature films
56 short films
18 countries

  • Opening: THE TALL GUY (Mel Smith; Great Britain; 1989)
  • Closing: CINEMA PARADISO (Guiseppe Tornatore; Italy, France; 1988)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: CINEMA PARADISO (Guiseppe Tornatore; Italy, France; 1988)
  • Opening Night is presented at the brand new Hoyts Tower City Cinemas.
  • The controversial film THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE, AND HER LOVER (Peter Greenaway; Great Britain, France; 1989) is well-received by Cleveland audiences, despite widespread disappointment with the film at the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival.
  • A special program of Eastern European Films, sponsored by the George Gund Foundation, is added to the Festival.


April 4 and 7–16, 1989
41 feature and mid-length films
75 short films
13 countries

  • Opening Night: MAJOR LEAGUE (David Ward; USA; 1989)
  • Closing Night: RED SORGHUM (Zhang Yimou; China; 1988)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: THE BEAST (Kevin Reynolds; USA; 1988)
  • Special guests at Opening Night, presented at the Ohio Theatre, include director David Ward, producer Chris Chesser, actors Corbin Bernsen, Bob Uecker, and Wesley Snipes, and Indians Hall of Famer Bob Feller.
  • CIFF showcases a Family Film Festival, which includes films in English that are suitable for audiences of all ages.
  • CIFF salutes the 50thanniversary of films produced in 1939.
  • CIFF also acknowledges the National Film Board of Canada, celebrating its 50thanniversary, through a six-program salute.


April 7–24, 1988

65 feature and mid-length films
34 short films
25 countries

  • Opening Night: A TIME OF DESTINY (Gregory Nava; USA; 1988)
  • Closing Night: THE GRAND HIGHWAY (Jean-Loup Hubert; France; 1987)
  • Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film: THE GRAND HIGHWAY (Jean-Loup Hubert; France; 1987)
  • The Festival is dedicated to beloved film critic Roxanne T. Mueller, who recently passed away.
  • The CIFF establishes the Roxanne T. Mueller Award for Best Film, to be presented annually to the Festival’s best film, as voted on by the Festival’s attendees.
  • JACKIE CHAN’S POLICE STORY (Jackie Chan; Chi-Hwa Chen; Hong Kong; 1985) entertains CIFF audiences.


March 27–April 12, 1987
100 feature films
21 countries

  • Opening: 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD (David Jones; UK, USA; 1987)
  • Closing: MAN FACING SOUTHEAST (Eliseo Subiela; Argentina; 1986) and WAITING FOR THE MOON (Jill Godmilow; USA, France, UK; 1986)
  • CIFF showcases a Contemporary Russian Cinema series at the Cleveland Cinematheque.
  • CIFF continues to present the Independent Film series at CWRU.
  • A corporate sponsorship program provides the Festival with some much-needed financial and in-kind support.
  • CIFF introduces a new membership program, which provides Festival supporters with free movie tickets to sneak previews of films throughout the year.


April 4–20, 1986
58 feature films
17 countries

  • Opening: VIOLETS ARE BLUE (Jack Fisk; USA; 1986)
  • Closing: SWEET LIBERTY (Alan Alda; USA; 1986)
  • CIFF revisits Strosacker Auditorium for its American Independents tribute.
  • The film HAIL MARY (Jean-Luc Godard; France, Switzerland, UK; 1985) ignites protests and even bomb threats at the Cedar Lee Theatre; security is hired to sit facing the audience during the sold-out screenings.


April 12–28, 1985
51 feature films
19 countries

  • Opening: PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders; West Germany, France, UK, USA; 1984)
  • Closing: STRANGER THAN PARADISE (Jim Jarmusch; USA, Germany; 1984)
  • Actors Harry Dean Stanton and Dean Stockwell attend Opening Night, held at the Ohio Theatre. Harry Dean Stanton sings a song in Spanish to introduce the film to the audience.
  • The CWRU Film Society helps to present a new sidebar, A Special Tribute to Independent Film, at Strosacker Auditorium.


March 30–April 15, 1984
32 feature films
11 countries

  • Opening: STREAMERS (Robert Altman; USA; 1983)
  • Closing: CONFIDENTIALLY YOURS (Francois Truffaut; France; 1983)
  • Tagline: Watch the World Unreel
  • “Just another film festival? Hardly.”—Jonathan Forman
  • With the support of the CWRU Film Society, CIFF presents a Robert Altman Retrospective at Strosacker Auditorium.
  • The special program Those Characters from Cleveland presents a collection of animated shorts featuring Strawberry Shortcake, Ziggy, the Care Bears, and others.
  • The Cedar Lee Theatre is newly refurbished. Through the installation of a new screen, CIFF is able to present additional screenings. The Cedar Lee Theatre also installs a stereo sound system, which allows all films recorded in Dolby to be seen and heard as intended.


April 8–24, 1983
25 feature films
13 countries

  • Opening: STARSTRUCK (Gillian Armstrong; Australia; 1982)
  • Closing: LIANNA (John Sayles; USA; 1983)
  • Current Executive Director Marcie Goodman recalls Opening Night: “STARSTRUCK was the first Opening Night I ever attended. And, as we all know, no one ever forgets their first time—especially when it’s that much fun!”
  • With the cooperation of the CWRU Film Society, CIFF presents a series of Scandinavian films at Strosacker Auditorium.
  • Jonathan Forman recalls the screening of SAY AMEN SOMEBODY (George T. Nierenberg; USA; 1982): “We screened this documentary before it was cool to show docs and it played like a general entertainment film. And the real thrill for me was that Willie May Ford Smith attended the screening and had the SRO crowd cheering. The added bonus is the day the film was shown, John Sayles and his partner Maggie Renzi were in town for their film LIANNA and wanted to watch SAY AMEN. I sat with them and enjoyed the whole experience.”


April 16–25 and April 28–May 2, 1982
23 feature films
14 countries

  • Opening: TICKET TO HEAVEN (Ralph L. Thomas; Canada; 1981)
  • Closing: MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (Louis Malle; USA; 1981)
  • “But as we alter our viewing habits and change our patterns of how and where we watch movies, we must not neglect the festival, which not only showcases the very best films from around the world, but also celebrates going out to the movies and presenting motion pictures the way they were meant to be seen—on a large screen, with an audience.”—Jonathan Forman
  • The Festival is presented in two parts to make it easier for patrons to see more films. The main program is held at the Cedar Lee Theatre, and the Contemporary Cinema Series is presented at CWRU’s Strosacker Auditorium.
  • Director Frank Ripploh introduces a standing-room-only showing of his controversial film TAXI ZUM KLO (Frank Ripploh; West Germany; 1980) on April 17, 1982. Hordes of people picket along the street outside the theater.


April 3–19, 1981
45 feature films
17 counties

  • Opening: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES II (Édouard Molinaro; France, Italy; 1980)
  • Closing: THE LAST METRO (François Truffaut; France; 1980)
  • CIFF introduces the Contemporary Cinema Series at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
  • CIFF presents the Nationality Film Series at the Capitol Theatre.
  • Ellen Burstyn attends a benefit screening of RESURRECTION (Daniel Petrie; USA; 1980)
  • CIFF holds special screenings of DON GIOVANNI (Joseph Losey; France, Italy; 1979) at the Colony Theater.


April 11–27, 1980
28 feature films
10 countries

  • Opening: THE TIN DRUM (Volker Schlöndorff; West Germany; 1979)
  • Closing: PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (Peter Weir; Australia; 1975) and POURQUOIS PAS? (Coline Serreau; France; 1977)
  • CIFF downsizes to a more manageable 17-day event.
  • With the help of George Gund III, CIFF presents the series German Film Tour 1980; Dr. Ronald Holloway, a Variety correspondent, introduces the films.
  • A day after winning an Academy Award, director Ira Wohl still makes it to Cleveland for the screening of his documentary BEST BOY (Ira Wohl; USA; 1979).
  • In addition to the Cedar Lee Theatre, CIFF screens films at the New Mayfield Repertory Cinema, the Capitol Theatre, and CWRU’s Strosacker Auditorium.


May 2–31, 1979
39 feature films / 10 countries

  • Opening: YOUR TURN, MY TURN (François Leterrier; France; 1978)
  • Closing: Focus on Director Herbert Ross.
  • CIFF builds a Board of Trustees, consisting of community leaders, film scholars, and film enthusiasts, to oversee the mission, funding, and growth of the Festival.
  • Jon Forman schedules a 30-day Festival, which he later dubs “the most ridiculous festival ever done in Cleveland.”
  • Peter Falk attends the screening of A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (John Cassavetes; USA; 1974) on May 3, 1979.
  • Frank Capra greets Festival attendees after a screening of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Frank Capra, USA, 1946), his personal favorite film, on May 10, 1979.
  • CIFF holds a workshop on Super 8 Filmmaking.
  • CIFF honors documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman on May 21, 1979.


April 5–May 25, 1978
13 feature films / 10 countries

  • Opening: THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (Luis Buñuel; France, Spain; 1977)
  • Closing: WE ALL LOVED EACH OTHER SO MUCH (Ettore Scola; Italy; 1974)
  • “Cleveland’s Second International Film Festival. Perhaps that doesn’t seem so remarkable. But to those of us who struggled to overcome the hurdles and obstacles of the first festival, it is a cause for celebration.”—Jonathan Forman
  • CIFF becomes a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, allowing it to get support from the George Gund Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, and the government program CETA.
  • With the added financial support, Jon Forman hires a staff of three employees.
  • CIFF features its first special program—a five-day, six-film tribute to the legendary filmmaker Howard Hawks, who died that year.
  • Each feature film is preceded by an award-winning short film.


April 13–June 2, 1977
7 feature films / 10 Countries

  • Opening: F FOR FAKE (Orson Welles; France; 1973)
  • Closing: MY FRIENDS (Mario Monicelli; Italy; 1975)
  • Debby Samples (CIFF Marketing Director) is born on April 13, 1977 – the same night as the opening of the first CIFF.
  • “‘They’ said it couldn’t be done! Cleveland’s first international film festival is a highly significant event because it proves ‘they’ were wrong.”—Jonathan Forman, Founder
  • The first Festival spans eight weeks, with two screenings per week on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. A short film made by a local filmmaker precedes each feature film screened.
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