By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
The stars will shine brightly on Playhouse Square as the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) celebrates the return of an in-person format in a new home.
The theme of the 46th Cleveland International Film Festival is, “Shine On,” a campaign designed by the team at Type Twenty Seven. “One aspect of the film festival that has always resonated with our team is the dedication of the patrons and their unwavering love for the festival,” Brittyn DeWerth, Type Twenty Seven creative director said. “During the last few years of uncertainty, they persevered. This year, our goal was to express this dedication with a tagline that encapsulates their resilience with the beauty of the location. Everyone is a beacon of light celebrating together as they all shine on.”
The film festival kicks off its in-person return and 11-day Playhouse Square run on March 30 with, “Peace by Chocolate,” a narrative story of working together and overcoming unimaginable hardship. In “Peace by Chocolate,” after the bombing of his father’s chocolate factory, a young Syrian refugee struggles to settle into his new Canadian small-town life. There he is caught between his dream of becoming a doctor and preserving his family’s chocolate-making legacy. The film’s director, Jonathan Keijser, is scheduled to be in attendance on opening night.
Tickets to opening night at Playhouse Square are $100 per person and $80 for CIFF members. The evening includes the 7 p.m. screening of the film at the Connor Palace, as well as a post-film dessert reception with a cash bar.
The festival’s centerpiece screening is “Navalny,” a film that follows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in his quest to identify the men who poisoned him in Aug., 2020. Shot in Germany as the story unfolded, “Navalny” offers extraordinary access to the investigation, and is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that is also the study of Navalny as a man. The film made its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, where it took home the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, as well as the Festival Favorite Award.
“Navalny” director Daniel Roher will be in attendance for his screening. Additional special guest information surrounding this screening will be announced. Tickets for the Centerpiece Screening are $16 and $14 for CIFF members.
The Cleveland International Film Festival closes on April 9 with the film, “Linoleum,” directed and written by Ohio-born Colin West. The film tells the story of the host of a failing children’s science show who tries to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut by building a rocket ship in his garage. What follows is a series of bizarre events that cause him to question his own reality.
Stacked with comedic powerhouses, the cast is led by Grammy-nominated comedian Jim Gaffigan, along with Rhea Seehorn, Katelyn Nacon, Gabriel Rush, Amy Hargreaves, Michael Ian Black, Tony Shalhoub, West Duchovny, Elizabeth Henry and Roger Hendricks Simon. Director Colin West will be in attendance on closing night. Tickets are $16 and $14 for CIFF members. All those in attendance on closing night are invited to the closing night ceremony in the Connor Palace. An ice cream reception, sponsored by Pierre’s Ice Cream, will follow the ceremony.
The DReam Catcher Award, established in 2019 to honor the life and memory of David K. Ream, a CIFF trustee, will be presented to international award-winning filmmaker Chase Joynt as part of the closing night ceremony. The DReam Catcher Award celebrates LGBTQIA+ artists through recognition of an LGBTQIA+ filmmaker and that person’s work. The award is accompanied by $5,000 to support future work.
“Framing Agnes,” screening as part of this year’s festival, is Chase Joynt’s solo-directed documentary feature debut. Agnes is the pioneering, transgender woman who participated in Harold Garfinkel’s gender health research at UCLA in the 1960s and who has stood as a figurehead in trans history. In this film, which blends fiction with nonfiction, Joynt explores where and how Agnes’s platform has become a pigeonhole.
CIFF’s Groundbreaker Program focuses on educational efforts about structural racism and supports BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) and AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) filmmakers. This year’s Groundbreaker Program offers a number of feature and short films. The Groundbreaker Award, presented to a pioneering filmmaker whose work lifts up marginalized voices, is being presented to Brooke Pepion Swaney, the director of the film, “Daughter of a Lost Bird.”
Her first feature documentary, “Daughter of a Lost Bird” follows Kendra, an adult Native adoptee, as she reconnects with her birth family, discovers her Lummi heritage, and confronts issues of her own identity. Her story represents many affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Indian Adoption Project. Brooke Pepion Swaney is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation and a descendant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The Groundbreaker Program and Award is sponsored by Kent State University.
The Cleveland International Film Festival will be followed by CIFF46 Streams, which takes place on April 10 through April 17 on the CIFF streaming platform. Ticket prices for CIFF46 Streams are $10 and $8 for CIFF members. The film festival will showcase more than 300 films, as well as filmmaker Q&As and audience engagement opportunities. Visit www.clevelandfilm.org for more information.
The in-person festival events will follow Playhouse Square COVID protocols. Masks are required for attendees of all ages, including children. Vaccinations are strongly recommended. Transactions are cashless and food and beverage purchases can be made with a valid debit or credit card. Digital ticket delivery is suggested.
Cleveland International Film Fest set to ‘Shine On’ at Playhouse Square
By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN