Stay up to date on CIFF46 Health and Safety Protocols at Playhouse Square

Stay up to date on CIFF46 Health and Safety Protocols at Playhouse Square

Stay up to date on CIFF46 Health and Safety Protocols at Playhouse Square

Stay up to date on CIFF46 Health and Safety Protocols at Playhouse Square

Stay up to date on CIFF46 Health and Safety Protocols at Playhouse Square

CIFF46: PSQ March 30 – April 9, 2022 | Streams April 10 – April 17, 2022
You are currently viewing the CIFF45 lineup. Programming for CIFF46 will be announced in early March 2022.

Groundbreaker is the Cleveland International Film Festival’s newest program and award, born from our previous Focus 2020: Racial Equity program. The Groundbreaker program is generously sponsored by Case Western Reserve University and Puffin Foundation West.

CIFF’s Racial Equity programming is designed to educate our audience and community about structural racism and the importance of working toward racial equity. We were thrilled to partner with Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards to share our Focus 2020: Racial Equity program in a virtual capacity in fall of 2020. 

For CIFF45 Streams, we’ve decided to reframe this program to not only educate our audience, but also to specifically elevate and support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) filmmakers. The Groundbreaker program will offer a number of feature and short films, with a pre-recorded CIFF45 Streams Roundtable panel discussion among some of the filmmakers, available on the Filmmaker Conversations page. 

The Groundbreaker Award, sponsored by CoverMyMeds, is presented to one filmmaker in particular who we feel is a pioneer in their field, and whose work has proven to lift up marginalized voices. This recognition comes with a $5,000 cash award to help support the filmmaker’s future work. We are beyond honored to present the first-ever Groundbreaker Award to Ashley O’Shay, the Director, Producer, and Cinematographer of the CIFF45 Streams film UNAPOLOGETIC.

Groundbreaker Program and Award sponsored by (respectively):

Case Western Reserve University
Puffin Foundation West
Ashley oshay

Ashley O’Shay is a documentarian based in Chicago, Illinois, whose work focuses on illuminating marginalized voices. She has produced work for national brands, including Lifetime, Ford Motor Company, Boost Mobile, KQED, and Dr. Martens. Most recently, she filmed the final episode of Dr. Martens' "Tough As You" series, starring the band Phony Ppl, accruing over 65K views on social and web. In 2019, she co-produced the Chicago episode of KQED’s award-winning series “If Cities Could Dance,” which became one of their most viewed episodes to date. Her work also appeared in the critically-acclaimed Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. 

Although she has crafted many short films, UNAPOLOGETIC is her first venture into the feature world. Several experiences have elevated the project’s status in the industry, as Ashley was previously a fellow with Firelight Media, the Bay Area Video Coalition, Film Independent, Kartemquin’s Diverse Voices in Docs, Hedgebrook, Cucalorus Film Festival, and UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program. She is currently an associate with Kartemquin Films.

Ashley will spend her time during CIFF45 Streams meeting virtually with organizations in Ohio whose missions support communities of color. The Groundbreaker Award will be presented to Ashley during the live, interactive broadcast of CIFF45 Streams’ Happy Hour show on Tuesday, April 13th at 8:00 PM ET on the CIFF YouTube page.


A Beautiful Nightmare

United States
Directed By Kevin Maxwell
Running Time: 9 Minutes

Daniel, a highly accomplished dancer, comes home from college only to find himself entangled in a battle between himself and his concerned father. {more}

Down a Dark Stairwell

Directed By Ursula Liang
Running Time: 83 Minutes

In November 2014, Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by a police officer while walking down a dark stairwell in Brooklyn’s New York City Housing Authority Pink Houses. Peter Liang, a Chinese-American officer, was the person... {more}


Directed By Cecilia Aldarondo
Running Time: 91 Minutes

When Hurricane María made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico in 2017, the storm devastated the territory’s land, infrastructure, and inhabitants. The U.S. government’s response was nothing short of catastrophic. For months, people went without food, water, and electricity.... {more}


United States
Directed By Ciani Rey Walker
Running Time: 18 Minutes

When they learn their friend has kidnapped a cop on the night of MLK Jr.’s assassination, two sisters and leaders of the Black Panther Party must set aside their differences to navigate one of the most turbulent nights in history. {more}


United States
Directed By Tania Taiwo
Running Time: 5 Minutes

The story of a quirky, Black pharmacist drowning in student loan debt, who rebels against the system and becomes the drug dealer pharmacy school never taught her. {more}

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It

Directed By Mariem Pérez Riera
Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rita Moreno, an EGOT-winner with 70 years in the entertainment industry, has become a revolutionary icon for women and the Latinx community. But she had to overcome rampant racism and sexism during her arduous rise to stardom. In her early... {more}


Directed By Carlos López Estrada
Running Time: 95 Minutes

Like his energetic and impactful debut, “Blindspotting,” Carlos López Estrada’s sophomore feature SUMMERTIME is a love song to the West Coast that blends poetry and hip-hop with themes of home and belonging. Taking place over one summer day in bustling... {more}

Tangled Roots

United States
Directed By Samantha Knowles
Running Time: 20 Minutes

This film follows Attica Scott, the only Black woman in the Kentucky Legislature, as she fights to dismantle a system of discrimination against Black people penalized for something seemingly innocuous—their hair. {more}

Through the Night

Directed By Loira Limbal
Running Time: 72 Minutes

Nunu and Patrick are a godsend to parents working odd hours, long days, and multiple jobs. The couple owns and operates Dee's Tots Childcare, one of the few 24-hour daycares in their New York community. Nunu and Patrick care for... {more}


Directed By Ashley O'Shay
Running Time: 86 Minutes

Janaé and Bella are Black female activists fighting for transformative justice, responsible policing, and legal reform in Chicago, Illinois. Frustrated that Black women are frequently excluded from leadership in mainstream movements, they unapologetically advocate for racial justice through a Black,... {more}

Voodoo Macbeth

Directed By Dagmawi Abebe, Victor Alonso-Berbel, Roy Arwas, Hannah Bang, Christopher Beaton, Agazi Desta, Tiffany Kontoyiannis Guillen, Zoe Salnave, Ernesto Sandoval, Sabina Vajraca
Running Time: 108 Minutes

It’s October 1935. America is in the midst of The Great Depression, and millions of unemployed are struggling to survive. Still, Harlem’s Lafayette Theater continues operations and is the most active Negro Theater unit of the Federal Theater Project, a... {more}

Call for Entries >

Call for Entries

CIFF46 Call for Entries are now open! Films made after June 1, 2020 will be accepted for consideration.

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