The 45th Cleveland International Film Festival, which will take place April 7-20, 2021, will be held online in its entirety.

This decision, which was unanimously approved by the CIFF Board of Directors at its September 29, 2020 meeting, is based on science and community circumstances, as well as the state of the film, theater, and event industries. In addition, during this time of great uncertainty and in the throes of a resurgent coronavirus pandemic, the organization believes it is the most responsible option when it comes to the safety of all those involved – including attendees, filmmakers, volunteers, trustees, and staff.

After quickly pivoting from an in-person Festival to the online CIFF44 Streams earlier this year, the CIFF’s invaluable connections to film, filmmakers, and the community remain unbroken, as well as deepened. The organization is viewing CIFF45 as a bridge to its future and looks forward to CIFF46 taking place in its new home at Playhouse Square during the spring of 2022.

Looking back, on March 11, 2020, exactly two weeks before the Opening Night of CIFF44, the Festival was cancelled in accordance with a municipal order concerning the COVID-19 virus. Because we knew how important it was for the CIFF44 lineup to be seen in whatever way possible, for both our audience and our filmmakers, we quickly pivoted to present CIFF44 Streams within a matter of weeks. This first-ever virtual CIFF showcased more than 325 CIFF44 feature and short films, and resulted in approximately 42,000 streams by Ohio residents. Multiple digital events, many of which included filmmakers, were held among audience members and with CIFF community partners, sponsors, and funders.

CIFF45 Streams will consist of hundreds of films, post-film conversations and Q&As with filmmakers, balloting, awards, and a slew of activities to make the online Festival a robust experience for all involved. The Festival will also include two extra days (making it a 14-day presentation) for extended viewing and engagement opportunities. CIFF Speaks (the organization’s podcast series) will be returning with episodes surrounding and during the Festival.

In a time of many changes, we are happy to report that CIFF remains on MovieMaker Magazine’s list of 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, and continues to be one of the few festivals in the world that is Academy Award® qualifying for all three categories of shorts films—live action, animated, and documentary. CIFF accepts films of any runtime, any genre, and from every country. In recent years, CIFF awarded a total of over $125,000 to the winning filmmakers of 30 different competitions.

As CIFF is one of many festivals to sign Seed & Spark’s 2020 Film Festival Survival Pledge, we have committed to relaxing premiere restrictions and extending production deadlines to June 1, 2019, for all CIFF45 Streams submissions. We will also accept any films screened online in an official ticketed festival capacity.

As always, CIFF will continue to provide written feedback from our screening team—a diverse volunteer committee comprised of 150 film enthusiasts assembled from our audience base, ranging from industry professionals to local film students. CIFF is also happy to once again offer submission waivers to any CIFF Alums whose current film meets the CIFF45 Streams requirements.

Now, more than ever, the world needs your voices and your stories. Thank you for sharing your films with us, and thank you for continuing to make much needed art during these turbulent times. No matter what the future holds, the Cleveland International Film Festival remains dedicated to supporting the work of filmmakers everywhere and uniting our community through the power of film.

For all questions related to submissions, please see our Terms and Conditions or email our Special Programs Director, Beth Steele Radisek, at

Terms and Conditions

By submitting your film for consideration to the 45th Cleveland International Film Festival (“CIFF45” or “Festival”) in accordance with the procedures outlined below, you acknowledge that you have read, understood, and voluntarily agreed to abide by these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions.

Festival Details

The Cleveland Film Society, an Ohio nonprofit organization d/b/a The Cleveland International Film Festival (“CIFF”), will hold CIFF45 from April 7–20, 2021.

CIFF values the health and safety of all Festival participants, audience members, staff, and volunteers and takes their well-being seriously, especially in view of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. To protect audience, filmmaker, staff, and volunteer health and safety and comply with any applicable orders or guidelines issued by federal, state, or local authorities, CIFF reserves the right to cancel CIFF45; institute rules governing in-person participation at CIFF45, such as theater- or event-capacity limits and face-covering requirements; or revise the dates, location, and in-person format of CIFF45 at any time, including, but not limited to, after having accepted films for screening during the Festival. CIFF reserves the right to hold CIFF45 as an entirely online event if CIFF, in its sole discretion, determines that circumstances so require. CIFF is committed to communicating any changes to the CIFF45 program to applicants, participants, and audience members in a timely manner via its website and/or direct communication with filmmakers.


All filmmakers or other film-rights holders who submit films for consideration for CIFF45 (“Applicants”) must do so using FilmFreeway. As FilmFreeway users, all Applicants therefore agree to be bound by the FilmFreeway Terms of Service for Filmmakers, Screenwriters, and Non-Festivals ( If any provisions of these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions conflict with the FilmFreeway Terms of Service, then these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions will control.

All films submitted to FilmFreeway must be in the form of an online-screener or Vimeo link. If a link is password protected, then the password must be valid through April 21, 2021, otherwise your submission will be considered INVALID and will be DISQUALIFIED with no entry-fee refund. For further guidance on the process of submitting your film for CIFF45 consideration, please visit CIFF’s Call for Entries FAQs.

Once your film has been submitted via the CIFF45 FilmFreeway portal, it is your responsibility to check your FilmFreeway account to ensure that your submission meets CIFF’s requirements; that you have provided all necessary information to CIFF; and that your film has been accepted by CIFF for consideration. Within one week after your submission date, CIFF will send you an email confirming that it has received your submission and, if applicable, requesting any further information needed from you.


Films whose productions were completed after June 1, 2019, are eligible for submission to CIFF45.

There are no premiere restrictions for CIFF45 submissions. Films that have been previously screened online in an official ticketed-festival capacity are eligible for CIFF45 submission.

All films under 45 minutes in length are considered short films.

Please do not submit any works in progress or any industrial or instructional films.

At this time, CIFF regrets that it has no plans to include New Media presentations in CIFF45, due to CIFF’s concerns that it will be unable to implement reasonable measures to protect participants’ health and safety in interactive environments. CIFF therefore will not consider any New Media submissions for CIFF45, including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Video Games, or Interactive Media. Should this policy change, CIFF will update its FilmFreeway page and permit New Media submissions to remain free of charge in accordance with CIFF’s past practice. CIFF encourages any New Media creators who are interested in submitting work for CIFF45 to check CIFF’s FilmFreeway page regularly for any updates.


Submission fees for CIFF45 increase over time. Early submissions are therefore encouraged. For further details, please see the Dates & Deadlines and Categories & Fees sections on CIFF’s FilmFreeway page.

CIFF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Fees collected through the Call for Entries process assist in our operations, so please do not request a waiver, unless you meet one of the following requirements.

If your film was submitted to and selected for CIFF44, then you may resubmit your film for CIFF45 with a waiver. If your film was submitted for CIFF44, but not selected, then you will not be able to resubmit the same film for CIFF45.

If you are an Applicant who is also a CIFF Alum, meaning that CIFF has screened one of your feature or short films in a previous festival, then CIFF will waive your submission fee for any film meeting the CIFF45 requirements outlined herein.

To request a fee waiver, please contact Beth Steele Radisek, CIFF’s Special Programs Director, at


CIFF will not honor any requests for submission-fee refunds. Refunds will not be issued to any Applicant for any submission, regardless of selection for CIFF45, for any reason, including changes to CIFF45’s dates, venues, or format that CIFF may announce at any time.

Selection and Exhibition

Applicants whose works have been selected for inclusion in CIFF45 (“Participants”) will be announced by CIFF no later than March 5, 2021. Written feedback from CIFF’s screening team will be provided upon request to Participants after the Festival’s conclusion, but only to those Participants whose submission fees have been paid.

Participants’ films must be available for secure online streaming at CIFF45 as a .mp4 or another CIFF-approved digital file. DCP, 35MM, BLU-RAY, AND DVD ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE FORMATS FOR CIFF45 EXHIBITION.

Participants must upload all exhibition files electronically to CIFF’s secure-storage platform, powered by CineSend. CIFF will not accept any exhibition files for CIFF45 that are submitted on a hard drive. If you are a Participant and you upload your exhibition file to CineSend, then you are a user of CineSend and agree to be bound by the CineSend Terms and Conditions (“CineSend Terms and Conditions”). If any provisions of these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions conflict with the CinseSend Terms and Conditions, then these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions will control.

Warranties and License

All Applicants and Participants warrant that they own the copyright to the film that they have submitted for CIFF45 consideration. Applicants and Participants further warrant that they have secured all necessary rights and clearances to exhibit their film during CIFF45; are authorized to accept these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions; and are authorized to grant CIFF a license to exhibit the film during the Festival. Participants hereby grant CIFF a non-exclusive license to exhibit their film during CIFF45.


All Applicants and Participants agree, to the extent permissible by applicable law, to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless CIFF and its directors, officers, employees, affiliates, licensees, and agents from and against any and all claims, losses, liabilities, demands, legal costs (including court costs and reasonable experts’ and attorneys’ fees), judgments, and other expenses that arise at any point in time, before, during, or after CIFF45, out of or on account of the Applicants’ or Participants’ involvement in CIFF45 and/or CIFF’s selection process for the same.

Choice of Law

These Filmmaker Terms and Conditions will be governed by the laws of the State of Ohio, without regard to its conflicts-of-laws principles, except those necessary to enforce the choice of applicable law; may be enforced only in a state or federal court sitting within Cleveland, Ohio, with respect to which court CIFF and the Applicants and Participants agree to personal jurisdiction and venue, further waiving any right to challenge venue; and is binding upon, and inures to the benefit of, CIFF’s and the Applicants’ and Participants’ successors, assigns, heirs, and personal representatives.


If any provision of these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions is determined to be invalid, illegal, or unenforceable, then that provision will not affect the enforceability of any other provision of these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions. Rather, the invalid, illegal, or unenforceable provision shall be deemed severed from these Filmmaker Terms and Conditions, which will be enforced as if they did not contain the invalid, illegal, or unenforceable provision.

Overall Rating
  • I was sad that CIFF had to move to an online festival due to Covid-19 just weeks before the festival was supposed to happen. I was really looking forward to attending! That aside though, every step of the way with them was very well-done. I dealt mostly with Paul Sloop who was in charge of the Shorts programming, and he was amazing. So nice, so supportive. He, personally, gets HUGE marks! :) And although there was no in-person event, I still gave 5 stars for Networking, because Paul mentioned my music video "Fine, I'll Write My Own Damn Song" to people he knew at several other festivals, who then invited me to submit. I was chosen as an Official Selection at other festivals because of Paul's kind/supportive words about my project, so I've been able to network with other organizers and filmmakers because of that. I have nothing but great things to say about Paul and about CIFF in general. I hope to be able to attend a future CIFF in person with another project.

    August 2020
  • Paul Sloop was a great ambassador for the festival and Cleveland film. Very supportive of filmmakers, and wonderfully communicative. I was so excited to have a film in this festival for the first time (a premiere no less), but everything was cancelled and then moved online due to Covid. So wish we could have screened in person. I look forward to submitting my future work and attending in person one day!

    July 2020
  • John Hill

    I'm giving this festival 5 stars across the board but I have to add a caveat, I was part of the 44th Covid-19 festival, which was cancelled and then held online. I had entertained the idea of attending the festival in person, but around the time i was making the decision they were also being forced to make theirs. My film was part of a package being shown to middle schools, and I was delighted by the idea that it would be seen by so many children. Of course, none of that was to be. I allowed them to include my film in their online screenings, but there was no way that experience was going to come close to a curated selection for a captive audience of kids.

    That is to say, none of this was the festivals fault. And throughout the entire process they were cordial, kind, receptive, responsive, and went way beyond what was expected (or provided) by many other festivals dealing with the same hardships. I hope to have the opportunity to screen with the Cleveland International Film Festival in the future, and would be honored to attend. They are great people and their passion and dedication was evident during this entire time.

    Congrats to them.

    May 2020
  • 2020 is a year to remember and as so many film festivals struggled to rally, the CIFF family rallied and persevered.

    From the very beginning, Bill and his amazing team were super communicative, helpful, and supportive. You could tell that everyone we connected with saw our film, championed our film, and were passionate about the film festival.

    We are so honored to have this opportunity to be on CIFF Speaks, CIFF 44 Streams, and proudly display our laurel with pride.

    April 2020
  • April Kelley

    I adore this festival and it was a bucket list tick to be selected for it. The team has been nothing but amazing in terms of every department. Paul Sloop is a legend. So personable, encouraging and genuine - easily one of my favourite festival folk out there. Heartbreaking that the festival can't go ahead it the traditional sense this year, but huge kudos and appreciation for moving it online.

    April 2020