Black Girls Experienced CIFF?

This year, I finally checked the Cleveland International Film Festival off my bucket list, although I admit planning was a little overwhelming in the beginning. Even when I got my hands on the program guide, I had difficulty choosing movies because there were so many. I’d never heard of any of these movies, and since they weren’t your typical Hollywood type, they didn’t come with lots of buzz (or at least any that I was aware of).

Program Guide from CIFF 41

Program Guide from CIFF 41

The program guide is the CIFF Bible. It includes everything you need to know about the festival from film summaries to hotel info, if you're an out of towner. I thought if I read it cover to cover, I'd be ready to make my plan. Definitely a wrong move for a CIFF newbie!


It wasn’t until I started getting emails from organizations I follow sponsoring films that I was able to map my film festival journey. By exploring the movies’ websites and watching the trailers, I learned how special these movies were. I began to search by movie categories documentaries, Race Relations and African Diaspora, I spent what seemed like hours on the website watching trailers.

Check out the trailers to movies we watched: Score  Tickling Giants and  Pop Aye

Soon I discovered that I could plan my schedule online and I began putting movies in my cart. By the end of the night, I was psyched, but quickly saddened by my shopping cart that had over $200 of movie tickets in it. I hadn’t budgeted $200 for movies, so I got my cart down to four movies. Next year, I'll be sure to budget for CIFF.

After watching the first movie, Tickling Giants, a documentary about Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian Jon Stewart, I was hooked. After each screening, I searched the Program Guide and website to learn more about CIFF. Not only did I watch four movies, I also attended the #CIFF41 Live Show hosted by The CLECast, I learned about Perspectives, a storytelling, interactive exhibit.

You can make the most of the experience by keeping these suggestions in mind for next year.

A second chance to see a movie after tickets are no longer available on line.

A second chance to see a movie after tickets are no longer available on line.

  • Know your favorite genre of movies. There were over 200 films to choose from, which can be overwhelming when trying to choose your first CIFF film.

  • Get to your movie early. Unlike the regular movies, you can’t arrive right before the show with hopes to get your popcorn and snacks and find the perfect seat. We lined up for Tickling Giants 20 minutes before the movie started like the ticket stated, and the line stretched to the Q walkway! I even missed one of my movies because I didn’t arrive early.

  • Pace yourself. CIFF is a marathon, not a sprint. Because it runs 12 days, with movies playing all day, if you schedule multiple movies in a day or every day of the festival, you may tucker out. (I hate admitting that as a rookie this happened to me!) There are no refunds for tickets unless the movie screening is canceled, but you can exchange tickets for a fee.

  • Turn in your ballot after the movie. Many of the films are competing for different awards. Viewers can cast a ballot rating the movies from poor to excellent. Check out a few of this year’s winners.

  • Participate in other CIFF events. There’s so much more to CIFF than watching films. There are panel discussions, exhibits, and screenings throughout Cleveland.

I learned CIFF is more than just watching films but it is a total a movie experience. Hopefully, my first time insights will encourage you to attend next year! See you at CIFF 42 April 4th-15th, 2018

Check out additional pictures from our time at CIFF on Facebook