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Cleveland International Film Festival gets underway at Playhouse Square

Film lovers from near and far made their way to Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace Theatre Wednesday to celebrate the opening night of the 47th Cleveland International Film Festival.

The 11-day festival kicked off with a screening of the documentary “Butterfly in the Sky,” which tells the story of the classic PBS television series, “Reading Rainbow.”

“We tend to make films about things that inspired us as young people, things that stuck with us and resonated with us, and ‘Reading Rainbow’ is certainly one of those things,” said Bradford Thomason, one of the films directors, in remarks prior to the screening.

“Over 25 years, so many people poured their hearts into this show and worked so hard to create something special for children, we knew we had a film and a really interesting story to tell,” he said.

The film is a nostalgic and uplifting look back through the origins of “Reading Rainbow,” a show that introduced millions of children to books and the importance of literature. Many voices are heard throughout the documentary, including Twila Liggett, the show’s creator, and beloved host, LeVar Burton.

Following the screening, Thomason and “Butterfly in the Sky” executive producer Dava Whisenant engaged in a post-film conversation with two producers of “Reading Rainbow,” Ellen Doherty and Kathy Kinsner. CIFF artistic director, Mallory Martin, moderated the discussion.

Later in the festival, this year’s centerpiece film will also feature a well-known and well-loved television personality. “Being Mary Tyler Moore” delves into the life and legacy of the influential actress, producer and women’s rights advocate. The screening is Tuesday, March 28, at 7:15 p.m. in the KeyBank State Theatre.

Additional film information along with a downloadable program guide can be found on CIFF’s website.

The in-person portion of the festival runs through April 1 at Playhouse Square and showcases 121 feature films and 199 short films. CIFF47 Streams runs April 2-9 online and includes nearly two-thirds of the in-person features and a full lineup of all the shorts.

Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.