Cleveland International Film Festival } April 7 – April 20, 2021

The Cleveland International Film Festival is honored to present numerous competitions and awards that recognize our talented filmmakers with cash prizes (ranging from $1,000 to $10,000) for their work on features and shorts.

Calahan Foundation

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 34th year of this renowned award, which has a $10,000 cash prize.

Many of our awards are determined by audience vote, so make sure to vote using the star rating system on the CIFF virtual cinema platform. Winners will be announced during our virtual Closing Awards Ceremony. We hope you will join us on the CIFF YouTube page on Saturday, April 17th at 9:00 PM ET

George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Competition

George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Competition

Thirty-one years ago at the 14th CIFF, we launched a special focus on films from Central and Eastern Europe, the native lands of many Clevelanders.

This year the CIFF is proud to present its 19th Central and Eastern European Competition. And, for the ninth 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.

As determined by our jury, the winnner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $10,000 cash prize.

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Nesnadny + Schwartz Portrait Documentary Competition

Nesnadny + Schwartz Portrait Documentary Competition

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 17 years, N+S has sponsored the CIFF Documentary Competition. Five 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.

Portrait documentaries in competition that are screening in the Festival will be viewed by our panel of jurors throughout the week.

As determined by our jury, the winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $10,000 cash prize.

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New Direction Competition

New Direction Competition

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

Thanks to the support of Jules and Fran Belkin, we are proud to present our sixth New Direction Competition. Screening within this competition are films created by emerging filmmakers who we believe will define the future of filmmaking. Films in competition that are screening in the Festival will be viewed by our panel of jurors throughout the week.

As determined by our jury, the winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $10,000 cash prize.

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Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition

Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition

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.

Based on audience vote, the winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $7,500 cash prize.

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Ad Hoc Docs Competition

Ad Hoc Docs Competition

Audience at the CIFF love documentaries.

Over the past several years, almost half of the feature films we have presented have been documentaries, which have won the Roxanne T. Mueller Award six of the past seven years. Thanks to Tom & Anita Cook and Anne E. Bloomberg, we’re excited to once again present this competition featuring topics, subjects, and stories that go beyond the descriptions of our other competitions.

Based on audience vote, the winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $5,000 cash prize.

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Global Health Competition

Global Health Competition

The 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 eighth Global Health Competition, thanks to the generous support of Mark Smith & Janet Rosel Smith.

Based on audience vote, the winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $5,000 cash prize.

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American Independents Competition

American Independents Competition

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.

Based on audience vote, the winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $5,000 cash prize.

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Local Heroes Competition

Local Heroes Competition

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.

Based on audience vote, this winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $5,000 cash prize.

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International Narrative Competition

International Narrative Competition

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 fourth year of this competition, thanks to Tom Piraino & Barbara McWilliams.

Based on audience vote, the winner of this competition will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $5,000 cash prize.

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ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman

ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman

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–who make up 49% of our feature filmmakers–and the empowered female perspectives they provide within their films.

Based on audience vote, the winning director of this award will be announced at our Closing Awards Ceremony and receive a $10,000 cash prize.

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Shorts Jury Awards Program

Shorts Jury Awards Program

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 winners will each receive a $1,000 cash prize and be announced during our virtual Closing Awards Ceremony. We hope you will join us on the CIFF YouTube page on Saturday, April 17th at 9:00 PM ET!

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Shorts Audience Choice Awards Program

Shorts Audience Choice Awards Program

These shorts awards each come with a $1,000 cash prize and are determined by audience vote, so make sure to vote using the star rating system on the CIFF virtual cinema platform. Winners will be announced during our virtual Closing Awards Ceremony. We hope you will join us on the CIFF YouTube page on Saturday, April 17th at 9:00 PM ET!

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