Black Girls Get Excited About CIFF?

I became a foreign film enthusiast years ago. Something about seeing the world through a different lens captivated me and satisfied my curiosities about the world. Through these films, I learned to appreciate other cultures, languages, and experiences that I may never see in my lifetime.

Believe it or not, I prefer to watch foreign movies only. And thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Eros Now, and the Film Movement, they’re easier to watch than ever!

But nothing quite compares to watching a foreign film in a theater full of people who actually like to read subtitles. And there’s nothing like experiencing the energy of a film festival where you have your pick of the latest and greatest foreign films.


The Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) is right around the corner opening March 29 and closing April 9. Films from the USA and 71 countries around the world will be illuminating screens mostly at Tower City with neighborhood screenings at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, Beachland Ballroom & Tavern, downtown Akron, Cedar Lee, and the Capitol Theatre.

I’ve attended the Toronto Film Festival and the Chicago Film Festival before, but CIFF holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it recognized as the premier festival in Ohio, it’s a hometown gem that brings the globe to our beloved city. Before Cleveland became the "Land”, it was the "Land” to me because of CIFF.

If you’ve never attended CIFF, you should. It’s been around for 41 years and each year it continues to grow. In 2016, over 100k movie-goers attended.

I first started attending in the late 90s and have made it a holiday of sorts. Anyone who’s a regular, I’m sure, has their way of doing the festival. Here’s how I do it.

  • Renew membership before the festival starts. Members get a discount on tickets and other perks. Memberships range from $30 to $1500 with, of course, higher levels receiving premium benefits.
  • Review the film schedule. This can be done in several ways. Get your hands on a hard copy of the program. Browse films from A-Z online or use the interactive guide. To easily navigate the schedule, search for films by special categories called Sidebars. Be prepared to spend time reviewing and scheduling films. The program is jammed packed with so much! It helps when trailers are posted with the films.
  • Create a schedule. In more recent years, CIFF allows you to create a personal schedule online. You don’t have to write down selections like I used to back in the day. (Later in this post, I’ll share my schedule of top picks for CIFF 2017.)
  • Purchase tickets early and online. Popular movies sell out quickly and go on stand-by. This year CIFF tickets are $14.00 for members and $16.00 for non-members. (Premium members get an all access pass to all films.) A $4.00 handling fee is charged when tickets are purchased online, by phone, or mail. Tickets can also be purchased in the lobby of Tower City Cinemas. For more information, see FAQ about tickets and vouchers.
  • Invite a friend. Because I’ve been on this mission of dispelling myths about watching subtitled films, I usually invite someone with me to CIFF. I don’t give them an option of selecting one because I know it can be daunting. I ask them to trust me and most times they’re pleased with my choice.

Sidebar: Now, don’t get me wrong. I won’t hesitate to go solo, especially if it’s one of my favorite genres. (Lately, I’ve had a thing for watching international thrillers from around the globe. My true favorites? Indian, Brazilian, and Korean films, but I also like Arabic, Spanish, Scandinavian, French and African films.)

Last night I attended the 41st Cleveland International Film Festivals Short Program Preview at the Alex Theater in the 9. It was a great way to see trailers of feature films and be introduced to a couple of shorts, which I usually don't choose to see at CIFF. I noted a few films and shorts featured that I'd like to see under my top picks*.

  • Volunteer at CIFF. For a few years, I volunteered at CIFF. It was a great way to be in the mix, meet people, and help out. Volunteers also received a t-shirt and free movie tickets, which is always cool.

Zoe’s Top CIFF 2017 Picks

This year, I picked several films that I’d like to see. I probably won’t get to see them all, but at least I have an idea.

Click each link for details about my picks.

A Wedding (2016) Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Pakistan

Amerika Square (2016) Greece, United Kingdom, Germany

Clash (2016) Egypt, France, United Arab Emirates, Germany

El Revenge (2016) Argentina and Brazilian

Half Ticket (2016) Indian

Jeffrey (2016) The Dominican Republic and France

Jesus (2016) France, Chile, Germany, Greece, Columbia

Kati Kati (2106) Kenya and Germany

Lantouri (2016) Iran

Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) India

Psycho Raman (2016) India

Shorts Program 6  Short films from the US and the United Kingdom

Woven (2016) USA

Realive (2016)* Spain

Ticking Giants (2016)* Egypt and USA

Fanny Pack (2016)* USA

A Quiet House (2016)* CLE USA - Winner of 2016 Cleveland 48 hr Film Project

Trust me when I say that CIFF is a gem of the Land. This year, over 500 films will be screened over 11 days all day long mostly under one roof, Tower City, which makes CIFF truly a unique experience.

If you don't believe me, watch this.

If you’re considering attending, use my tips and the Festival 101 FAQs to help you navigate the festival. And I strongly recommend that you become a member. That way you can stay abreast of CIFF activities all year long.

Join our new Meet Up group, Friends of CLE and be on the lookout for a movie night with us. If you plan to go any other time, let Black Girl in the CLE know what movies you're going to see. It’ll be fun discussing your impressions of CIFF when it’s over. Use #CIFF41 and #BlackGirlinCLE to share on IG and Twitter.