Your Guide for the Cleveland International Film Festival

Please note the 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival will be virtual.

The Cleveland International Film Festival is one of my favorite annual events in Cleveland. Each spring, hundreds of feature and short films come to Tower City Cinemas (and a variety of other theaters in the area). People come from all over the world to celebrate and showcase their work. The goal of the festival is to promote artistically and culturally significant films through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community. This festival has been in Cleveland for 44 years and typically runs 12 days, giving you ample time to view one of the featured films.

I’ve volunteered at the film festival in past years, which “pays” you though two comped tickets per shift. This year I’ll only be attending as a guest, so I won’t be able to share the behind the scenes buzz. What I can do is provide helpful tips for attending the festival.

Tips for CIFF:

  • Pick up a program guide (located in Tower City and around town at coffee shops, etc.) or go online to pick the shows that sound the most interesting to you.
  • Buy your tickets in advance. Don’t wait until the day of the show, because the majority of shows sell out and you’ll be placed on stand-by. Tickets go on sale to the public March 15 at 11 a.m.
  • Arrive at least 15-20 minutes early for the film to ensure you get a decent seat in the theater. It’s first come, first serve and you wait in line before they let everyone into the theater at once.
  • If you do choose to wait until the day of to buy tickets, you’ll most likely be placed in the stand-by line. Many times there will be seats available, but it is never guaranteed. You’ll wait until the regular line is seated before they pull from the stand-by line.
  • If you live downtown, walk. If you don’t live downtown, try and take the RTA buses or Rapid. Parking is limited at Tower City, especially if there is also a game that evening. Save yourself the hassle.
  • If you do park at Tower City, make sure you get your ticket validated before you leave the festival. Parking only costs $5 with validation, whereas Tower City charges $16!
  • Attend one of the Short Programs if you get the chance. The Comedy Shorts are my favorite and feature films from a couple of minutes to longer, and usually include at least six different films. It gives you a good taste of the festival in about 90 minutes.
  • Be ready to get addicted. The energy and buzz at CIFF is unreal. People take off the entire 12 day festival and go on a movie watching frenzy. Once you go, you’ll understand why.

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