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Cleveland International Film Festival kicks off in new venue

The festival returns Wednesday night in-person and at a new location: Playhouse Square.

CLEVELAND — For the first time since 2019, the Cleveland International Film Festival is back in-person, this time with a new home.

From 1991-2019, the festival was held at Tower City Cinemas, where 10 screens showcased the work of filmmakers. However, in 2019, the festival's board made the decision to move the festival to Playhouse Square.

Patrick Shepherd, associate director of the festival, says the decision was made because "our location was uncertain over at Tower City," adding that the event had outgrown the space. Now, CIFF will occupy six spaces in Playhouse Square, a seemingly full circle moment.

"Many of these theaters were built as movie palaces and vaudeville stages in the 1920s, and they were saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s," Shepherd noted. "And here we are, in 2022, returning them to their original purpose of screening films."

CIFF BEGINS: See the 2022 lineup

The screenings will take place from March 30 to April 9, but despite returning to an in-person format, the festival actually has two parts. Essentially, it's now hybrid in the sense that it is also offering a streaming option.

"After we wrap on Saturday, April 9, we're going to have eight days of streaming," Shepherd said. 'Forty-six streams will run April 10 through the 17th."

The excitement of being back in theaters is not lost on those participating, including Jonathan Keijser, director of the opening night film "Peace by Chocolate."

"It's a powerful and really engaging experience, and I think those experiences when you get to share a story together stay with you and help inform what you feel and think and reflect on the world," Keijser explained. "There's so many films from all around the world at this festival that that's really an amazing experience if you can come out and support."

Another cause for excitement? The beauty of the theaters themselves.

"I cannot wait for our filmmakers to show up and see where their films are screening," Shepherd said, "because I don't think many of them have the sense of the truly historic nature of Playhouse Square."

Mark Camacho, an actor in "Peace by Chocolate," was certainly surprised at what he saw when he entered the venue.

"I was admittedly ignorant about everything the brilliance that Cleveland has to offer," he told us. "Other than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Browns, I was so unbelievably ignorant. This place is astounding. It's eye popping. You walk in and you don't feel like you're anywhere in North America, for that matter. It's just an incredible place to have our film being shown. It's fantastic."

"It's like art on art," Laurent Pitre, another "Peace by Chocolate" star, concurred. "It's amazing. I don't know where I am, but it feels like Europe, but I'm not in Europe. This place is amazing."

The festival sports 146 feature films and 182 short films and runs for three weeks. For more information or to purchase tickets, head to the Cleveland International Film Festival website.

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