The 44th Cleveland International Film Festival will be held March 25 - April 5, 2020 at Tower City Cinemas in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the spring of 2019, CIFF43 featured 450 films originating from 71 countries and an attendance of 105,839 film-lovers - making CIFF Ohio's premier film event and one of the largest and longest running regional film festivals in the US.

CIFF is one of the few Academy Award® qualifying festivals in the world for all three categories of short films – live action, animated, and documentary. CIFF is also one of the only festivals that continues to provide written feedback from our screening team. This past year, CIFF gave cash awards totaling over $125,000 to the winning filmmakers of 30 different competitions.

“The Cleveland International Film Festival may very well be the best kept secret in the festival world. No red carpets, no photo calls. And yet they somehow manage to pack theaters for several screenings in a row. Plus they make it easy for you to watch films, they offer food and drinks around the clock, and everyone goes out of their way to assist you with anything you might need. No one is stressed or arrogant or ignorant, everyone is in good moods and sincerely friendly, sharp, and efficient. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone – in today’s world, almost unbelievable. It’s a well-oiled machine dedicated to cinema, made of an army of caring humans.”
– Christina Kallas, Director, THE RAINBOW EXPERIMENT

“The Cleveland International Film Festival was a remarkable event, truly hospitable and a beautifully wide, eclectic mix of strong films. But most impressive for me were the audiences – regular viewers, not industry, there for one reason only: because they love film. You could really feel that.”
– Thomas Lennon, Director, SACRED

“We tell stories to connect and inspire one another. CIFF took the stories from the screens to the community to allow people to take action together to change the world. It’s the ultimate reward for filmmakers to see their work go from screens to the community. This is the love and community that every filmmaker, artist, and activist needs to have behind them.”
– Apo W. Bazidi, Director, RESISTANCE IS LIFE

Feature Film Awards:
Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film
Cash Award: $15,000
ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman
Cash Award: $10,000
George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Competition
Cash Award: $10,000
Nesnadny + Schwartz Portrait Documentary Competition
Cash Award: $10,000
New Direction Competition
Cash Award: $10,000
International Narrative Competition
Cash Award: $7,500
American Independents Competition
Cash Award: $7,500
Local Heroes Competition
Cash Award: $7,500
Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition
Cash Award: $7,500
Ad Hoc Docs Competition
Cash Award: $7,500
Global Health Competition
Cash Award: $7,500
Music Movies Competition
Cash Award: $7,500
FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Feature Film
Cash Award: $2,000
Short Film Awards:
All awards have a $1,000 cash prize. The Best Live-Action Short Award, Best Animated Short Award, and Best Documentary Short Award winners will qualify for consideration in the short films category of the Annual Academy Awards®.
Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film
Best Live-Action Short Award
Best Animated Short Award
Best Documentary Short Award
The Clover and Maggie Award: In Celebration of Life
The Sammy Award for the Short Film with the Biggest Heart
The Spalding and Jackson Award: In Celebration of Joy
Best After Hours Short
Best Comedy Short Award
Best International Short Award
Best LGBT Short Award
Best Ohio Short Award
Best Student Short Award
Best Women's Short Award
Programmer's Choice Award
FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Short
Perspectives Award for Immersive Storytelling (for New Media content only)

We now ask that all entrants submit their films through FilmFreeway. Please see below and check our Call for Entries FAQ on our website at for further detailed instructions on how to submit your film to CIFF.

All films must be submitted as either an online screener or Vimeo link for consideration. If links are password-protected, passwords must be valid through April 6, 2020 or your submission will be considered INVALID and will be DISQUALIFIED with no refund.

After submitting, please check your FilmFreeway account to make sure that your submission meets our requirements and has been accepted for consideration. It is your responsibility to make sure all requirements are met and necessary information is given. Within one week after your submission date, you'll receive a confirmation email that we've received your submission, as well as any potential notifications of further information we need from you.

Films selected for the 44th CIFF will be announced no later than Sunday, February 21, 2020. Written feedback from our screening team will be provided post-festival for all films that pay to submit in full, if requested.

Productions made after June 1, 2018 may be submitted, with the exception of those works previously submitted to CIFF. No works previously submitted to the festival will be considered.

All films under 45 minutes are considered short films.

Entries previously screened in Cleveland or aired on television in Cleveland or are publicly available on the web (ie Youtube, Vimeo) prior to the Festival will not be considered.

Do not submit works in progress. Do not submit industrial or instructional works.

CIFF is once again accepting VIRTUAL REALITY and NEW MEDIA content free of charge! If your submission meets the criteria for this category (please see requirements in the category section), you MUST email us directly at prior to submitting, with a description and example(s) of your project. If, after review, your project meets the requirements, we will then provide instructions to submit for free. Feedback from our screening team will not be provided for New Media submissions.

All feature films submitted must be available for exhibition in one of the following formats: DCP (preferably unencrypted) or as a CIFF-approved ProRes digital file. BLU-RAY AND DVD WILL NOT BE SCREENED FOR EXHIBITION.

All short films submitted must be available for exhibition as a CIFF-approved ProRes digital file. Short films will be transferred temporarily onto CIFF’s secure and private hard drive system for presentation in one or more of our compiled short programs. BLU-RAY AND DVD WILL NOT BE SCREENED FOR EXHIBITION.

Filmmakers are responsible for the shipment of the exhibition copy to CIFF by the requested deadline. CIFF will cover outbound shipping only.

CIFF reserves the right to use images from the films selected for marketing purposes (web, print media, and television).

Overall Rating
  • Colby Doler

    Cleveland IFF is fantastic! Thank you guys for an amazing festival! We will submit again and again!

    October 2019
  • Thiago Dadalt

    Amazing Festival! Paul and team are very welcoming and it was a beautiful celebration of awesome films during the festival. Can't wait to come back.

    July 2019
  • Simone Barros

    I greatly appreciated my experience at CIFF. I was delighted that the festival opened a second theater during the short screening selection that included my short doc to accommodate the overflow audience.

    I was so impressed that staff or volunteers sought out filmmakers in the hospitality lounge with reminders to attend the festival programmers panel discussion.

    Lastly the nightly gatherings complete with comp drinks for the filmmakers was an added enticement!

    May 2019
  • Michele Fiascaris

    A truly amazing festival: a fantastic venue with 9 cinemas, sold-out screenings all day long, top notch programme, and great hospitality - receptions and drinks in the coolest venues of the city.
    It doesn't get better than this!

    April 2019
  • Adam Vincent Wright

    We attended the 2019 festival with our short film, Welcome to the Ball. It was a great experience from start to finish. Cleveland is a wonderful town and how they manage to get a jammed back theatre for block of shorts is remarkable. Highly recommend.

    April 2019