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Arts & Culture

Cleveland International Film Fest Director Looks Back at 2020 and Ahead to In-Person Return in 2022

Playhouse Square chandelier
Kabir Bhatia
The 45th Cleveland International Film Festival was supposed to be the first one primarily based at Playhouse Square, after 30 years at Tower City. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has moved the festival online.

The 2020 Cleveland International Film Festival had been scheduled to take place just as the coronavirus pandemic hit. Organizers quickly moved online – and plan to stay there in 2021.

The 45th festival was supposed to be the first one at their new home in Playhouse Square, after spending the past 30 years primarily at Tower City. Instead, programming will be online from April 7-20. Executive Director Marcie Goodman says many of the films received this year seem to pre-date social distancing, mask-wearing, and quarantines.

“Our submissions -- we've received as many as we did last year, so that tells us that most of the films we're getting were pretty much completed by the time the pandemic happened.”

But Goodman says in 2022 – when they hope to hold the festival in-person again – it will be interesting to see if coronavirus is a popular topic for films.
And even though they were virtual for most of the year, there have been some silver linings. One is the student-focused FilmSlam series, which tripled its audience after moving online.

“It worked out so well that we formalized the program this fall and made it year-round. We put a lot of our content online for teachers to access and we did live Q&A's with filmmakers and we ended up having close to 35,000 students registered. In a few weeks, we’ll start it again.”

Goodman adds that the paper catalog for the film fest will be online in 2021 – no printed copies will be distributed. Whether that continues in the future remains to be decided.

The festival’s offices remain in Ohio City across from the West Side Market. Goodman says there has been no discussion about moving after their lease ends in 2024.