What To Stream NEO: Cleveland International Film Festival

The Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) virtually streams 116 films and 182 shorts for two weeks starting today through Tuesday, April 20. Opening Night begins at 7 p.m., and the Closing Night events begin streaming on Saturday, April 17. Most of these works are up for awards in various competitions, and CIFF announces the winners in the Closing Awards Ceremony. 

In addition to these films, CIFF provides opportunities to watch conversations with filmmakers in Q&As and Happy Hour events. The Closing Awards Ceremony, filmmaker conversations and other extras premiere on the CIFF YouTube page. Here are five virtual picks to stream at the festival.


Ashley O'Shay's film "Unapologetic" centers around Janaé and Bella, two Black women activists fighting for justice and police reform in Chicago. The documentary highlights their unfaltering advocacy and activism for Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald, who were both fatally shot by police.

For her work, CIFF presents O'Shay with its first annual Groundbreaker Award, an honor given to a filmmaker who uplifts marginalized voices. The award presentation streams during the Happy Hour show on Tuesday, April 13, at 8 p.m. The show features a live audience chat with the cast and crew members of "Unapologetic" as well as the film "Voodoo Macbeth."

"Swan Song"

Sandusky native Todd Stephens' "Swan Song" follows a senior hairdresser who must fix a former client's hair for her funeral. The work acts as the finale of his "Ohio Trilogy" of films that center on the queer experience in Sandusky. Next week, ideastream will share an interview with Stephens online and on The Sound of Ideas on WCPN. 

CIFF presents Stephens with the DReam Catcher Award, an honor that celebrates legendary LGBTQ+ filmmakers, on Thursday, April 15, at 8 p.m. The award ceremony is part of the live, interactive Happy Hour show that also features the filmmakers and subjects of "P.S. Burn This Letter, Please." 

"The Pink Cloud"

"The Pink Cloud" streams its eerily familiar storyline through April 20. Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Iuli Gerbase, the film depicts a life of quarantine despite being written and shot before the COVID-19 pandemic. When a pink cloud comes and forces everyone indoors, two strangers from a one-night stand must learn to live together in isolation.

The film features in the New Direction Competition, and Gerbase is in the running for the ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman

"A Costume for Nicolas" 

CIFF also features films for teens and kids. Written by Miguel Uriegas and directed by Eduardo Rivero, "A Costume for Nicolas" depicts the story of 10-year-old Nicolas and his cousin David's adventures together. After Nicolas defends David from a nightmare monster, they find themselves in the magical kingdom of the trunk. 

The English-dubbed film is up for consideration in the International Narrative Competition. Other family-friendly films are available to explore here

"Best Summer Ever"

CIFF premieres a scheduled screening of the musical love story "Best Summer Ever" on Saturday, April 17, at 7 p.m. The work follows Sage and Anthony's unexpected reunion after falling in love at a summer dance camp. With a fully inclusive cast, the piece alludes to common romance tropes as seen in "Grease" and "High School Musical." A version of the film with an audio description is also available for streaming.

The Closing Night Q&A streams at 8:15 p.m. on the CIFF YouTube page and features a conversation with the directors and cast of the film. The "CIFF Speaks" podcast also discusses the movie with lead actress Shannon DeVido.

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