The 43rd Cleveland International Film Festival will kick off its 12-day run with a story of love and forgiveness and close with a look at the power of social justice. 

The festival’s opening film will be “The Etruscan Smile,” which follows the story of Rory MacNeil, an old-fashioned Scottish man who travels from his beloved and beautifully slow-paced home on Hebridean Island to seek medical treatment in fast-paced, high-tech San Francisco. Rory finds himself and his world transformed when he moves in with his estranged son and forms an unbreakable bond with his grandson. 

The film, based on the bestselling book, “La Sonrisa Etrusca” by Jose Louis Sampedro, stars a bevy of acclaimed and talented actors, including Brian Cox, Rosanna Arquette, Thora Birch, JJ Feild, Peter Coyote and Treat Williams. It’s produced by Arthur Cohn, winner of multiple Academy Awards, and co-directed by Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun.

CIFF43 will close with “The Public,” directed by, written by and starring Emilio Estevez. The film’s story unfolds when a record-setting cold spell hits Cincinnati and the public library becomes an unlikely stage for a protest in which issues of homelessness and human rights take the spotlight. Estevez stars alongside an ensemble cast including Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Gabrielle Union, Taylor Schilling, Jacob Vargas, Michael Kenneth Williams and Jeffrey Wright.

PHOTO | The Public

CIFF43 will be run from March 27 to April 7 at Tower City Cinemas as well as the Gordon Square Arts District and University Circle.

“The Etruscan Smile” will screen at 7 p.m. March 27 at Playhouse Square. Tickets are $225 per person ($200 for CIFF members) for an evening that includes the screening in Connor Palace followed by a reception in the KeyBank State Theatre. 

All those in attendance at any of the closing night films showing April 7 at Tower City Cinemas, including “The Public,” are invited to the closing night ceremony (dessert reception and awards presentation) around the Tower City Center Grand Staircase after the screenings. Tickets to any closing night film are $14 for CIFF members and $16 for nonmembers. Closing night is sponsored by University Hospitals.

For more information on the more than 500 screenings that will be shown during CIFF43, visit beginning at 11 a.m. March 1. Program Guides will be available at all Dollar Bank branches and throughout the region the week of March 4.

Tickets go on sale to CIFF members at 11 a.m. March 8 and to the public at 11 a.m. March 15. Tickets will be available online at, by phone at 1-877-304-FILM (3456) or in person at the film festival box office in the lobby of Tower City Cinemas.

Lead image: PHOTO | The Etruscan Smile

The Cleveland International Film Festival will feature two new festival hubs when the 2019 film festival kicks off this spring.

CIFF West will debut March 28-30, the first weekend of CIFF43, with screenings at Near West Theatre and Capitol Theatre, both in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.

CIFF East will offer programming April 4-6, the second weekend of CIFF43, with screenings at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Museum of Natural History, both in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood.

“We are proud and excited to establish residencies in two premier arts districts within the city of Cleveland,” CIFF executive director Marcie Goodman said in a news release. “Complementing our presence in downtown Cleveland with these additional locations will result in a very robust CIFF43.”

CIFF43 will take place March 27 to April 7. More than 500 screenings will take place at the festival’s longtime home base, Tower City Cinemas in downtown Cleveland.

CIFF East and CIFF West screenings are presented with support from PNC Bank. 

“University Circle and Gordon Square have experienced a tremendous amount of growth in recent years and have become gathering places for people from across the region,” said Paul Clark, PNC regional president of Cleveland. “The Film Festival draws such a diverse audience that it’s fitting to expand the world-class experience to these thriving Cleveland neighborhoods.”

CIFF43 program details will be available at starting March 1, and program guides are expected to hit newsstands the week of March 4. Tickets will go on sale to CIFF members on March 8 and to the general public on March 15. For more information, visit

Lead image: Last year's CIFF closing ceremony. PHOTO | Cleveland International Film Festival

The Cleveland International Film Festival hosts more than 100,000 filmgoers during its 42nd festival

By Michael C. Butz

The Cleveland International Film Festival recently wrapped up yet another successful season.

During the 12-day event, CIFF42 welcomed 105,656 attendees to its 615 screenings at Tower City Cinemas in downtown Cleveland and four additional neighborhood locations. Also, in partnership with Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, CIFF42 raised $160,963 in Challenge Match donations, according to a news release.

The festival showcased 216 feature films, 253 short films, 14 virtual reality films and six interactive media projects – all of which represented 72 countries. It also hosted more than 400 filmmakers from around the world who engaged with audiences in post-film Q&As and moderated panel discussions.

A record-breaking 10,677 students from 105 schools attended FilmSlam, CIFF’s media literacy program and mini-festival of films for middle, junior high and high school students.

Winners of the competitions and awards were announced at the Closing Night Ceremony on April 15:

  • Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film: “The Drummer and the Keeper,” directed by Nick Kelly
  • ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman: Dana Nachman for “Pick of the Litter”
  • George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Competition: “Men Don’t Cry,” directed by Alen Drljević
  • Nesnadny + Schwartz Portrait Documentary Competition – May the Schwartz Be with You Director’s Award: “Love Means Zero,” directed by Jason Kohn
  • New Direction Competition: “Quality Time,” directed by Daan Bakker
  • Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition: “6 Weeks to Mother’s Day,” directed by Marvin Blunte
  • Global Health Competition: “Burden of Genius,” directed by Tjardus Greidanus
  • American Independents Competition: “Life Hack,” directed by Sloan Copeland
  • Local Heroes Competition: “Manry at Sea – In the Wake of a Dream,” directed by Steve Wystrach
  • Music Movies Competition: “If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd,” directed by Stephen Kijak
  • Ad Hoc Docs Competition: “Breaking the Bee,” directed by Sam Rega
  • International Narrative Competition: “Edie,” directed by Simon Hunter
  • FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Feature Film: “Science Fair,” directed by Cristina Maria Costantini and Darren Foster
  • Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film Overall: “Bagheera,” directed by Christopher Watson
  • Best Animated Short Award: “The Driver is Red,” directed by Randall Christopher
  • Best Documentary Short Award: “Period. End of Sentence.,” directed by Rayka Zehtabchi
  • Best Live Action Short Award: “Sacred Hair,” directed by Mario Morin
  • FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Short Film: “Joint Custody,” directed by Carlus Fábrega

For a full list of short subject film award winners, visit

The 43rd Cleveland International Film Festival will take place March 27 through April 7, 2019 at Tower City Cinemas.

Lead image: Last year’s CIFF closing ceremony. PHOTO | Cleveland International Film Festival