LeVar Burton in Butterfly in the Sky
LeVar Burton in Butterfly in the Sky by Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb

The 47th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) kicks off on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 with Butterfly in the Sky, a documentary about the PBS series Reading Rainbow, which inspired millions of children to “take a look, it’s in a book.”

The Festival present its Being Mary Tyler Moore as the Centerpiece Screening on Tuesday, March 28, 2023; and on Saturday, April 1, 2023 will present its Closing Night Film, I Like Movies.

Starring one of the most beloved television hosts of all time – LeVar Burton – Opening Night film Butterfly in the Sky tells the story of the group of broadcasters, educators, and filmmakers who came together to create space for kids to discover the magic and power of reading. The film chronicles how, for 25 years, Reading Rainbow encouraged kids to bring literature into their lives, and to look beyond the pages to learn about the people, places, and experiences each story brought to life.

The film’s co-directors Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb were joined on the project by fellow co-producer Bryan Storkel, and co-executive producers Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Leonardis, Bryn Mooser, Justin Lacob, Kathryn Everett, Tony Hsieh, Andy Hsieh, John Brooks Pounders, and Dava Whisenant. In addition to LeVar Burton, the film’s revered subjects include Alisa Reyes, Kenny Blank, Dean Parisot, Stephen Horelick, Jamie Duneier, Jason Reynolds, Cecily Truett, and Larry Lancit.

Directed by James Adolphus, Centerpiece film Being Mary Tyler Moore documents the trailblazing legacy of Mary Tyler Moore. Putting her feminist priorities to work both on and off camera, Mary Tyler Moore – who was a complex icon – masterfully redefined the roles of women in media, while inspiring multiple generations to break down social barriers.

The film includes interviews with, and footage of, a star-studded cast of Mary Tyler Moore’s colleagues, including Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel, Betty White, and Fred Grandy.

Directed, written and co-produced by Canadian filmmaker Chandler Levack, this coming-of-age dramedy I Like Movies, follows the story of a socially inept 17-year-old cinephile, Lawrence Kweller, who gets a job at a video store, where he forms a complicated friendship with his older female manager. As a co-producer of the film, Chandler Levack is joined by her fellow co-producers Lindsay Blair Goeldner and Evan Dubinsky.

The cast – led by breakout star Isaiah Lehtinen – includes celebrated actors Romina D’Ugo, Krista Bridges, and Percy Hynes White.

CIFF47 named its fifth DReam Maker Award recipient: award-winning filmmaker, director, and co-producer of the CIFF47 film 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture: Sharon “Rocky” Roggio. The DReam Maker Program and Award celebrates LGBTQIA+ artists through the recognition of an LGBTQIA+ filmmaker and that person’s work – as well as the presentation of a slate of films made by LGBTQIA+ directors and featuring LGBTQIA+ themes.

With a career spanning over 15 years, Rocky has received awards and accolades in television and film. In addition to her work on award-winning shows (House of Cards and Parks and Recreation), Rocky premiered her film GOOK at Sundance in 2017, winning the Audience Award in the Next category. The film was subsequently picked up for a select theatrical run, followed by release on Netflix and other digital platforms.

Rocky will spend her time in Cleveland meeting with organizations in Northeast Ohio whose missions support the LGBTQIA+ community. The DReam Maker Award, which is accompanied by $5,000 to support future work, will be presented to Rocky at her film’s screening at Playhouse Square.

1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture – screening on Thursday, March 30, 2023, is a feature documentary that follows the story of tireless researchers who trace the origins of the anti-gay movement among Christians to a grave mistranslation of the Bible in 1946. It chronicles the discovery of never-before-seen archives at Yale University, which unveil astonishing new revelations and casts significant doubt on any biblical basis for LGBTQIA+ prejudice. Featuring commentary from prominent scholars as well as opposing pastors, including the personal stories of the film’s creators, 1946 is at once challenging, enlightening, and inspiring.

CIFF’s Groundbreaker Award and Program – now in its third year – focuses on educational efforts about structural racism and elevates and supports BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) and AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) filmmakers.

At CIFF47 the Groundbreaker Award is being presented to two pioneering filmmakers whose work has proven to lift up marginalized voices. This recognition comes with a $5,000 cash award to support the filmmakers’ future work. The Festival is honored to present its Groundbreaker Award to Vivek Bald and Alaudin Ullah, co-directors of the CIFF47 film In Search of Bengali Harlem.

Vivek Bald’s award-winning career spans more than 25 years across film, television, literature, and education. His films and projects have long been celebrated for their exploration of the South Asian lived experience in the U.S and Britain. His success is reflected in the screening of his films in more than 13 countries, his consulting and on-screen work with the Peabody Award winning PBS documentary series, Asian Americans, as well as his current role as faculty Director of MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.

Alaudin Ullah is a playwright and actor, and the son of one of the first Bengali Muslim men to settle in Harlem. He is the author of the acclaimed one-man show, “Dishwasher Dreams,” based on his father’s life in New York City in the 1930s-60s. Alaudin premiered “Dishwasher Dreams” at the New Works Now! Festival, and was awarded one of the Public Theater’s prestigious Emerging Writers Group Fellowships. In the years following the play’s premiere, Alaudin has performed “Dishwasher Dreams” in theaters nationwide.

In Search of Bengali Harlem, screening at CIFF47 on Saturday, March 25, 2023 , is about actor Alaudin Ullah, who grew up in Harlem’s Washington Carver Projects and intentionally neglected his Bengali Muslim roots. He travels to Bangladesh to uncover the secret history of his South Asian parents, and learns to look beyond the stereotypes of his immigrant ancestry in a post-9/11 world.

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