Home » 10 under-the-radar films to see at the 2023 Cleveland International Film Festival

10 under-the-radar films to see at the 2023 Cleveland International Film Festival

CLEVELAND, Ohio — At the Cleveland International Film Festival, the opening and closing night films usually get the most attention– and the biggest crowds. In 2021, the event introduced the Centerpiece Screening to promote a third film worthy of the spotlight. Indeed, last year’s entry, “Navalny,” went on to win Best Documentary Feature at the 95th Academy Awards.

But what are some other films at CIFF47, now at Playhouse Square through April 1, that deserve your attention? There are 121 feature-length films of various genres, flavors and vibes listed in the 65-page printed program. Selecting one, two or ten films to see can be tricky, particularly if you’re not going at it alone.

CIFF47 Preview: Cleveland International Film Festival offers eclectic lineup of 320 feature-length and short films

That’s why we asked CIFF artistic director Mallory Martin to do the vetting for you and select 10 feature-length films that aren’t simply worth watching, but also give you a taste of what the festival is all about.

“These under-the-radar gems are typically some of the programming team’s must-see films in the festival,” she said. “These include debut films from some of the most daring voices in cinema, international films that connect us to the rest of the world and truly independent films you may not be able to find outside of the festival circuit.”

Each of the screenings listed below takes place once or twice between Monday, March 27 and Friday, March 31. Most of the films will also be available to watch online on CIFF47 Streams from Sunday, April 2 to Sunday, April 9.

Israeili filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer’s “America” is screening at CIFF47 on Thursday, March 30.

“America”

Upper Allen

Thursday, March 30 at 7:15 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams (Ohio only), April 2-9

In this moving drama from Israel, a swimming coach from Chicago returns to his childhood home in Tel Aviv for his father’s funeral. Once there, he reconnects with an old friend until a tragic accident changes everything.

A Still Small Life

From the director of “Midnight Family” comes “A Still Small Voice,” which follows a year in the life of Margaret “Mati” Engel, a chaplain resident at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City in the early days of COVID.

“A Still Small Voice”

Mimi Ohio Theatre

Monday, March 27 at 7:35 p.m.

Tuesday, March 28 at 11:55 a.m.

Get a glimpse into an extraordinary year in the life of a New York City hospital chaplain during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in this life-affirming documentary and Sundance award winner.

“Chrissy Judy”

Mimi Ohio Theatre

Wednesday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams (OH, PA, MI, IN only), April 2-9

This dark comedy centers on Judy, a New York City drag queen left to pick up the pieces after their best friend and performance partner suddenly breaks up their act and moves away.

Cowboy Poets

“Cowboy Poets” is a documentary that takes the audience to the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

“Cowboy Poets”

Mimi Ohio Theatre

Wednesday, March 29 at 2:30 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams (OH, PA, MI, IN only), April 2-9

Forget what you think you know about the American cowboy. This eye-opening documentary takes the audience to the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, where cowboys of all sorts wax poetic about their slowly disappearing way of life.

“Follow Her”

KeyBank State Theatre

Friday, March 31 at 10 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams, April 2-9

This After Hours selection is a psychological thriller that doubles as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of internet fame. Dani Barker writes and stars as a social media personality hired by a screenwriter to help finish his horror script. The gig leads her to a cabin in the woods, where not everything is as it seems.

“The Gravity”

Mimi Ohio Theatre

Thursday, March 30 at 10 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams (OH, PA, MI, IN only), April 2-9

French filmmaker Cédric Ido directs and co-writes this crime/sci-fi genre mashup about how a mysterious planetary event disrupts the balance in a Parisian neighborhood below where a drug dealer and an ex-con run afoul of a new, younger gang taking over the streets.

“Home is Somewhere Else”

Mimi Ohio Theatre

Tuesday, March 28 at 5:05 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams, April 2-9

Described as powerful and poignant, this animated documentary from Mexico reveals the humanity behind the statistics of undocumented migrants, telling the stories of three families torn apart by the U.S. immigration system.

Ithaka

Told from the perspectives of his father and fiancée, “Ithaka” is a personal look at controversial figure Julian Assange.

“Ithaka”

KeyBank State Theatre

Wednesday, March 29 at 7:25 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams (OH, PA, MI, IN only), April 2-9

Julian Assange’s father and fiancée tell the story of the WikiLeaks founder locked up in a London maximum-security prison since 2019 and currently wanted in the U.S. for publishing top secret documents.

“It Runs in the Family”

Upper Allen

Thursday, March 30 at 2:20 p.m.

online @ CIFF Streams, April 2-9

Dominican filmmaker Victoria Linares Villegas honors her cousin, queer Dominican filmmaker Oscar Torres, in this film that explores the institutional and familial attempts to erase his legacy while giving his work new life in a series of reenactments of his unproduced screenplays.

Joonam

In “Joonam,” director Sierra Urich challenges her mother and grandmother to revisit memories of their emigration from Iran to the United States.

“Joonam”

KeyBank State Theatre

Wednesday, March 29 at 2:25 p.m.

Friday, March 31 at 11:45 a.m.

In this deeply personal documentary, Iranian-American filmmaker Sierra Urich seeks to fill the gaps in her knowledge of her family’s story, asking her mother and grandmother to recall the sometimes painful memories of their immigration to the United States during the Iranian Islamic Revolution.

The 47th Cleveland International Film Festival is going on now through April 1 at Playhouse Square. The event will be followed by CIFF47 Streams, an online version of the festival April 2-9. Tickets for in-person screenings are $16 for CIFF members and $18 for non-members. Tickets for CIFF47 Streams screenings cost $12 for CIFF members and $14 for non-members. Go to clevelandfilm.org for more information.