CIFF is honored to present numerous competitions and awards that recognize our filmmakers with over $130,000 in cash prizes. Without further ado, this year's winners:

Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: Callahan Foundation

WINNER: 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture, Sharon "Rocky" Roggio

All CIFF feature films are eligible for the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award, presented with generous support from the Callahan Foundation —started in 1968 by Cleveland nuclear engineer, inventor, and businessman Joe Callahan. Join us in celebrating the 35th year of this renowned award.

ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing By a Woman

Award Presented By: Deborah Bachman Ratner

WINNER: Christine Yoo (26.2 to Life)

We are thrilled to once again celebrate female filmmakers at the CIFF, thanks to Deborah Bachman Ratner.

In an industry historically dominated by men, we are honored to showcase these women and the empowered female perspectives they provide within their films.

George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Competition

Competition Presented By: The George Gund Foundation

WINNER: Pamfir, Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk

honorable mention: SHTTL, Ady Walter

At the 14th CIFF, we launched a special focus on films from Central and Eastern Europe, the native lands of many Clevelanders.

This year CIFF is proud to present its 21st Central and Eastern European Competition. And, for the eleventh year, we are deeply honored to showcase this competition in loving memory of George Gund III with the support of an endowment from The George Gund Foundation.

Nesnadny + Schwartz Portrait Documentary Competition

Competition Presented By: Nesnadny + Schwartz

WINNER: Joonam, Sierra Urich

HONORABLE MENTION: Little Richard: I Am Everything, Lisa Cortés

The Nesnadny + Schwartz Portrait Documentary Competition and the "May the Schwartz Be with You" Director's Award is dedicated to the life and work of our longtime board member and friend, Mark Schwartz (1956–2014).

For 19 years, N+S has sponsored the CIFF Documentary Competition. Seven years ago, we focused more exclusively on portrait documentaries. Like Mark himself, the subjects in these documentaries are determined, dedicated, and daring. The same qualities define the best of what art can achieve in all mediums, including graphic design.

The films are artistic and passionate, telling stories with insight, power, and revelation. Never a man to back down from controversy, this genre of filmmaking exemplifies the way Mark led his life and ran his design firm. Since his death, the firm has continued to honor his vision. Their work is big and bold, grounded in logic, and informed by research.

New Direction Competition

WINNER: Joyland, Saim Sadiq

HONORABLE MENTION: Plan 75, Chie Hayakawa

At the 39th CIFF we premiered our focus on debut directors whose innovative films transform the traditional notions of cinematic storytelling.

We are proud to present our eighth New Direction Competition. Screening within this competition are films created by emerging filmmakers who we believe will define the future of filmmaking.

Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition

Competition Presented By: The George Gund Foundation

WINNER: 20 Days in Mariupol, Mstyslav Chernov

In 2005 The George Gund Foundation granted the CIFF with an endowment to create the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition as a tribute to Greg Gund. Greg's friends and family described him as "intensely creative and talented, and wholly without pretension."

For five years Greg lived in Playa Negro near Tamarindo, Costa Rica where he immersed himself by becoming part of the local community. As much as he deeply loved his home there, Greg was also an extensive world traveler with an adventurous spirit and an insatiable curiosity about different cultures and people. He lived by this Mahatma Gandhi quote inscribed in his passport: "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." Greg died at the age of 32 in a small plane crash off the Pacific Coast in 2005.

Standing Up started as a sidebar to focus on films with the mission to change the world and grew into a celebration of activism and the fight for social justice. Our Standing Up Competition includes "films with a conscience." Many of these films highlight personal stories featuring individuals who set out to teach lessons on how to live a better life. One of the aspects all these films share is the impact they make on viewers long after the credits roll. Through the films, Standing Up honors Greg Gund - as well as others with a different view of the world - and the continual fight to make it better.

Ad Hoc Docs Competition

Competition Presented By: Tom and Anita Cook

WINNER: Chop & Steele, Ben Steinbauer, Berndt Mader

Audiences at CIFF love documentaries.

Over the past several years, almost half of the feature films we have presented have been documentaries. Thanks to Tom & Anita Cook, we’re excited to once again present this competition featuring topics, subjects, and stories that go beyond the descriptions of our other competitions.

American Independents Competition

Competition Presented By: Mike and Nicki Cancelliere

WINNER: Playing Through, Balbinka Korzeniowska

Thanks to Mike & Nicki Cancelliere, we're thrilled to once again present this competition featuring films with big dreams and small budgets, and representing the finest in contemporary American cinema.

Global Health Competition

Competition Presented By: Mark Smith & Janet Rosel Smith

WINNER: Nurse Unseen, Michele Josue

CIFF has always recognized the power of film to change people’s viewpoints about the world. This competition includes films that delve into human health-related issues (both mental and physical) and films about the health of the environment.

The selections in this competition will encourage viewers to question the true definition of health as it relates to individuals and the planet.

This year the CIFF is proud to present our tenth Global Health Competition, thanks to the generous support of Mark Smith & Janet Rosel Smith.

International Narrative Competition

Competition Presented By: Tom Piraino & Barbara McWilliams
WINNER: My Sailor, My Love, Klaus Härö

CIFF is a great way for Clevelanders to experience the different cultures, languages, and customs of the entire world.

We are recognized for our well-rounded international program, and we’re happy to showcase films from around the globe in the sixth year of this competition, thanks to Tom Piraino & Barbara McWilliams.

Local Heroes Competition

Competition Presented By: Lauren Rich Fine & Gries Financial Partners

WINNER: We Are the Troopers, Jonathon Kimble

Local Heroes is our annual celebration of films made about Ohio, in Ohio, or by Ohioans.

Thanks to Lauren Rich Fine & Gries Financial Partners, we are honored to once again support these films and filmmakers, hoping to empower the already booming independent film community of Cleveland and Ohio alike.

FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Feature

Award Presented By: Tom Piraino & Barbara McWilliams

WINNER: Juneteenth: Faith & Freedom, Ya'Ke Smith

FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Short

Award Presented By: Overdrive

WINNER: Foreign Uncle, Sining Xiang

Programmer's Choice Award: Given in Celebration of the Life of Toni Oliverio

Award Presented By: The Sloop Family

WINNER: Native Ball: Legacy of a Trailblazer, Megan Harrington & Jonathan Cipiti

Shorts Audience Awards Program

Audience Choice Award for Best Overall Short

Award Presented By: Char & Chuck Fowler

WINNER: One Small Visit, Jo Chim

Best After Hours Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: Friends of Patrick McFadden

WINNER: Get Away, Michael Gabriele

Best Black Cinema Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: Equius Group LLC

WINNER: Black Strings, Marquise Mays

Best Family Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: University School

WINNER: Pete, Bret Parker

Best LGBTQIA+ Short Award: Given in Celebration of the Life of Nikki Babbit

Award Presented By: Jamie Babbit

WINNER: Campfire, Austin Lee Bunn

Best LatinX Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: La Familia Watilo Blake

WINNER: Bad Hombrewood, Guillermo Casarín

Best Ohio Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: Bill and Teri Koeth

WINNER: Lunchbox, Anne Hu

Best Student Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: MP Star Financial

WINNER: Backlog, Jacqueline Elyse

Best Women's Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: Jinny & John Johnson

WINNER: Hello, Muscles, Marnie Baxter

Best Comedy Short Audience Choice Award

Award Presented By: (Endowed) David K. Ream

WINNER: TheY Grow Up So Fast, John F. Beach

Shorts Jury Awards Program

Best Live-Action Short Jury Award (Oscar Qualifying

Award Presented By: Alan Gordon Lipson, Judy Harris, and Jules and Fran Belkin

WINNER: Girl No. 60427, Shulamit Lifshitz

HONORABLE MENTION: Hello, Muscles, Marnie Baxter

Best Animated Short Jury Award (Oscar Qualifying)

Award Presented By: MP Star Financial

WINNER: It's a Gray, Gray, World, Seyed Mohsen Pourmohseni Shakib

HONORABLE MENTION: Rosemary A.D. (After Dad),Ethan Barrett

Best Documentary Short Jury Award (Oscar Qualifying)

Award Presented By: Jules & Fran Belkin

WINNER: A Chocolate Lens, Gabriel Veras

HONORABLE MENTION: The Ruth Brinker Story, Apo Bazidi

Three jurors select winners of the Best Animated, Best Documentary, and Best Live Action categories. Winners of these awards will qualify for consideration in the Short Films categories of the annual Academy Awards®. The Programmers’ Choice Award is determined by the CIFF Short Films Programming Team.

The Ophelia Award: In Celebration of the Life of Dakota Ophelia Berg

Award Presented By: Jim Brumbaugh and Carolyn Berg

WINNER: 30 Meetings / 30 Days, Duane Anderson

The Clover & Maggie Award: In Celebration of Life

Award Presented By: Barbara Hawley & David Goodman

WINNER: Voice Activated, Steve Anthopoulos

The Spalding & Jackson Award: In Celebration of Joy

Award Presented By: Marcie Goodman and John C. Williams

WINNER: Around the World in My Neighborhood, Taylor D Plecity & Natalie HG London

The Tom and Ginny Knoll Award: In Celebration of Acts of Kindness

Award Presented By: Tom and Ginny Knoll and The Knoll Family Fund Promoting Civility and Acts of Kindness of Akron Community Foundation

WINNER: The Ruth Brinker Story, Apo Bazidi

CIFF47 Awards Artist

Each year the Cleveland International Film Festival commissions a local artist to create the Festival’s coveted Filmmaker Awards. With more than 25 awards going to filmmakers from across the world, CIFF’s locally designed and produced awards are a calling card of the thriving arts community in Ohio.

CIFF is thrilled to announce that this year’s Award Artist is April Bleakney.

April Bleakney is an artist, entrepreneur, and student of history. After graduating from Kent State University and working in the nonprofit world at the height of the recession, she launched her one-woman creative business, APE MADE, in 2011.

While primarily working as a screen printer, April also creates photographic, hand drawn, and mixed media work. She only utilizes eco-friendly hand printing techniques in her studio. April engages with the community with both teaching and public art projects. She has completed local and international artists residencies and recently created multiple large-scale murals and commissioned artworks.

Filmmaker Awards will be presented throughout the Festival and as part of the Closing Night Ceremony, taking place on Saturday, April 1, 2023.

CIFF47 Awards Artist April Bleakney