The CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (CIFF) is an annual regional festival of films from around the world. Founded in 1977 by Jonathan Forman, the festival initially screened eight films over eight weeks at the Cedar-Lee Theater in CLEVELAND HTS. The festival experimented with other formats until the fourth festival in 1980, when a concentrated seventeen-day schedule spanning three weekends was adopted. It was cut back to its present (2004) eleven days during the tenth festival. Though other venues were used on occasion, the Cedar-Lee continued as the festival's flagship theater until 1991, when it moved downtown to the Cleveland Cinemas Tower City Cinemas on the Avenue at Tower City Center. To reflect the broadening of its activities, the organization's name was changed to the Cleveland Film Society (CFS) in 1991. In 1992 founding director Forman turned over day-to-day operations to David Wittkowsky, who was named executive director. Marcie Goodman, who had served as associate director from 1987 to 1994, returned to the CFS in 1998 to take the Managing Director position. When David Wittkowsky left his position in 2001, Goodman became executive director; in 2004 she still held that post.
After undergoing a financial crisis in 2001-2002, the Cleveland Film Society recovered in 2003. By the twenty-eighth CIFF in 2004, the organization was again fiscally sound. Through the early 2000s, the organization offered membership programs such as the Hot Tickets Movie Club, the Students Foreign Film Fest, and the Cleveland FilmForum. However, due to the organization's financial predicament, programs were reassessed and many were eliminated so that the organization could focus all of its efforts on its principal event, the CIFF. The 2004 festival featured eighty-six full-length films and seventy-one short films from fifty different countries; attendance was approximately 39,500.
Throughout it's history, a myriad of celebrities - actors, producers, screenwriters, and directors - have been guests at the CIFF, including Robert Altman, former Clevelander Debra Winger, Alan Alda, Ellyn Burstyn, Lina Wertmuller, Clevelander Harvey Pekar, Frederick Wiseman, John Sayles, Frank Capra, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Peter Falk, and Atom Egoyan.