CIFF47: PSQ March 22 – April 1, 2023 | Streams April 2 – April 9, 2023

Special Programs

Festival Groundbreaker
You are currently viewing the CIFF46 lineup. Programming for CIFF47 will be announced in early March 2023.

Now in its second year, Groundbreaker is one of the Cleveland International Film Festival’s newest programs and awards. The Groundbreaker Program and Award is generously sponsored by Kent State University.

The CIFF Groundbreaker Program was born from our commitment to educate our audience and community about structural racism and the importance of working toward racial equity through film. The Groundbreaker Program was also designed to specifically elevate and support filmmakers of color, continuing to ensure that these stories are told by artists who share lived experiences. This year’s program will offer a number of feature and short films, sharing diverse stories from diverse perspectives.

The Groundbreaker Award is presented to one filmmaker in particular who we feel is a pioneer in their field, and whose work has proven to lift up marginalized voices. This recognition comes with a $5,000 cash award to help support the filmmaker’s future work. We are beyond honored to present this year’s Groundbreaker Award to Brooke Pepion Swaney, the Director and Producer of the CIFF46 film DAUGHTER OF A LOST BIRD.

Groundbreaker Program and Award sponsored by:

Kent State University

Brooke Pepion Swaney grew up on, and then off of, the Flathead Reservation, when her single mother moved the two of them to the “big city,” or Helena, Montana. Brooke works to tell contemporary Native Stories, including her first feature documentary, DAUGHTER OF A LOST BIRD. Most recently and notably she made the Blacklist’s inaugural Indigenous List with “Tinder on the Rez,” along with her co-writer Angela Tucker. She also produced “Bella Vista”, “Sixty Four Flood” (PBS & PBS Digital), and the podcast All My Relations with Matika Wilbur and Dr. Adrienne Keene. In 2019 she was selected to participate as a NATIVe Fellow at the European Film Market/Berlinale. She holds an M.F.A. in Film from NYU. When not working in the film industry, Brooke shares her skills with her screenwriting students as a Faculty Mentor at the Institute of American Indian Arts' Low Residency MFA program. Brooke is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation and a descendent of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Brooke will spend her time in Cleveland meeting with local Indigenous organizations. The Groundbreaker Award will be presented to Brooke at her first CIFF46 screening on Saturday, April 2, 2022 at 7:40 PM ET.



Directed By Dan Chen
Running Time: 92 Minutes

In rural Louisiana, where education standards are among the lowest in the country, Michael and Tracey Landry wanted to be part of the solution. Their mission began with just five students in their kitchen, but their ambitious T.M. Landry College... {more}

After Sherman

Directed By Jon-Sesrie Goff
Running Time: 88 Minutes

When the real estate of the southern U.S. coast is eyed by the wealthy, tax hikes and land auctions threaten the homes of the Gullah people who live there and have been stewards of the region for generations. Under the... {more}


Directed By Iman Zawahry
Running Time: 90 Minutes

This charming rom-com follows Pakistani-American sisters and their newly immigrated cousin as they juggle their love lives, careers, and familial expectations in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. The three young Muslim women must contend with equal pressures of family and career.... {more}


Directed By Julia Bacha
Running Time: 73 Minutes

When a news publisher in Arkansas, an attorney in Arizona, and a speech therapist in Texas are told they must choose between their jobs and their political beliefs, they launch legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech... {more}

Daughter of a Lost Bird

Directed By Brooke Pepion Swaney
Running Time: 66 Minutes

Kendra always knew she was adopted, and she loved her parents and childhood growing up in her predominantly white Oregon community. When encouraged to seek out her birth family, Kendra discovers her Lummi heritage from the Lummi Nation in Northwest... {more}

Dealing with Dad

Directed By Tom Huang
Running Time: 106 Minutes

The Chang siblings live vastly different lives: Margaret is a perfectionist, Roy is sad about his divorce, and Larry has no interest in leaving his parents’ house. When Margaret gets word that their dad isn’t acting like himself and has... {more}


Directed By Emily Kuester, Brad Lichtenstein
Running Time: 94 Minutes

Football players were dwindling for teams at Milwaukee’s Messmer (urban and predominately Black) and Shorewood (affluent and largely white) high schools. To give boys the opportunity to play under the famous Friday night lights, the communities decided to merge their... {more}


Directed By Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing
Running Time: 91 Minutes

In 2016 Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, began an ethnic cleansing campaign began against Rohingya Muslims, blaming them for all of the problems in their communities. Over the last few years, tens of thousands of Muslims have been killed in... {more}


Directed By Isabel Castro
Running Time: 88 Minutes

Doris Muñoz desperately longed for better representation in the indie music she listened to as a teenager. At 23, she took matters into her own hands and began a career in music talent management, passionately advocating for rising Latinx artists.... {more}

On the Divide

Directed By Maya Cueva, Leah Galant
Running Time: 79 Minutes

The Whole Women’s Health Clinic in McAllen, Texas is the only remaining facility that provides abortions along the U.S./Mexico border. Just down the street, the Women’s Health Clinic (purposely named to create confusion) boasts free pregnancy tests and sonograms, encouraging... {more}

One Pint at a Time

Directed By Aaron Hosé
Running Time: 89 Minutes

To Shaun Harris, co-owner and brewmaster of Harris Family Brewery, the first Black-owned brewery in Pennsylvania, sharing a beer with someone is a way to establish common ground and start conversations that matter; brewing beer is his contribution to the... {more}


Directed By Vee Bravo
Running Time: 96 Minutes

“What you don’t share will be lost.” This call to solidarity is the heartbeat of PRIMERA. When a student revolt against inflated metro prices sparks a national revolution in Chile, the Primera (“First Line”) is established by the people. Armed... {more}


Directed By Sarah Jones
Running Time: 97 Minutes

When Sarah Jones wrote and performed her one-woman off-Broadway production Sell/Buy/Date, she aimed to tackle the age-old question, “Is sex work empowering or exploitative?” For her work, Jones received a plethora of praise for tackling the complexities and nuanced viewpoints... {more}

Terrible Children

Directed By Shanti Thakur
Running Time: 57 Minutes

In TERRIBLE CHILDREN, director Shanti Thakur shares a deeply personal account. Her father, Hari, gives her a letter written by his dad that he didn’t open for 20 years. When he hands it to her, he says, “maybe you can... {more}


Directed By Bretten Hannam
Running Time: 107 Minutes

In Indigenous communities, the term “two-spirit” is used to describe individuals who have both a masculine and a feminine spirit within one body. Lincoln, a two-spirit teenager of Mi’kmaw heritage, has grown up estranged from both his Native community and... {more}

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