Set Hernandez

CLEVELAND, Thursday, February, 22, 2024: The 48th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) is delighted to announce a selection of exciting program highlights.


CIFF48 will kick off its in-person, 11-day run at Playhouse Square on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 at 7:00 pm with THELMA – a celebration and playful subversion of the action genre as well as a soulful exploration of aging and autonomy.

Ninety-three-year-old Thelma Post is strong, sturdy and in-charge. Defying a lifetime of odds, she’s successfully brushed off assisted living well into her nineties; instead living alone in her cherished condo. Her independent world is rocked when she falls victim to elder-abusing phone scammers posing as her beloved grandson Daniel, and regrettably sends them $10,000 in cash. With her family now worried she is entering a “new phase,” Thelma decides to do the unthinkable – confront the scammers and get her money back. Enlisting the help of a reluctant old friend Ben, and his high-powered mobility scooter, the two set out on a perilous mission across Los Angeles, determined to prove she’s as capable as ever.

The cast is led by June Squibb (Thelma) as she steps into her first leading role in her storied 70-year-career. Squibb is joined by a bevy of talent who deliver powerhouse performances, including Fred Hechinger (Daniel), Richard Roundtree (Ben), Parker Posey (Gail), Clark Gregg (Alan), and Malcolm McDowell (Harvey).


THELMA marks the final on-screen performance by the legendary Richard Roundtree. The film was dedicated in loving memory of his celebrated and extraordinary life.

The film’s director and writer Josh Margolin was joined on the project by producers Zoë Worth, Chris Kaye, Karl Spoerri, Viviana Vezzani, Nicholas Weinstock, and Benjamin Simpson.

CIFF48 Opening Night special guests will be announced in the coming weeks.

Tickets to Opening Night at Playhouse Square are $100 per person ($80 for CIFF members). The evening includes the 7:00 PM screening of the film in the Connor Palace, as well as a post-film reception in the KeyBank State Theatre Lobby, with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

The 48th Cleveland International Film Festival Opening Night is sponsored by Dollar Bank.



On Saturday, April 13, 2024 at 7:30 pm, CIFF48 will present its Closing Night Film DEVO.

Through never-before-seen archival interviews with Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothersbaugh, and Jerry Casale, director Chris Smith (Wham!, Fyre, 100 Foot Wave, and Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond) explores the highs, lows, surreal moments, and incredible performances spanning Devo’s 50-year career. From their lo-fi beginnings at Kent State University to the height of their mainstream fame in the 1980s as pioneers of the music video in the early days of MTV, DEVO embraces the spectacle of the band’s gloriously radical spirit.

CIFF48 Closing Night special guests will be announced in the coming weeks.

Tickets for Closing Night are $18 ($16 for CIFF members). All those in attendance at any of the films showing on Closing Night are invited to the Closing Night Awards Ceremony in the Connor Palace after the screenings.

The 48th Cleveland International Film Festival Closing Night is sponsored by Case Western Reserve University.



CIFF’s Groundbreaker Award and Program – now in its fourth 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. This year’s Groundbreaker Award and Program will include a number of feature and short films.

The Groundbreaker Award is presented to a pioneering filmmakers whose work has proven to lift up marginalized voices. This recognition comes with a $5,000 cash award to support the filmmaker’s future work. The Festival is honored to present its Groundbreaker Award to Set Hernandez, director of the CIFF48 film UNSEEN.

As part of the program, Set will connect with organizations whose missions support the themes and topics in their film. The Groundbreaker Award will be presented to Set during their time at CIFF48.

Set Hernandez (they/she/he) is a filmmaker and community organizer whose roots come from Bicol, Philippines. As a queer, undocumented immigrant, they dedicate their filmmaking to expand the portrayal of their community on screen. Their feature documentary debut UNSEEN had its World Premiere at Hot Docs 2023. Set’s past documentary work includes the award-winning short COVER/AGE (2019) and impact producing for CALL HER GANDA (Tribeca, 2018). An alumnus of the Disruptors Fellowship, Set is also developing both a TV comedy pilot and a feature-length screenplay. Since 2010, Set has been organizing around migrant justice issues, from deportation defense to healthcare access. They co-founded the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, which promotes equity for undocumented immigrants in the film industry. Set’s work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, NBC Universal, The Gotham Institute, Field of Vision, among others. In their past life, Set was a published linguistics researcher, focusing in the area of bilingualism. Above all, Set is the fruit of their family’s love and their community’s generosity.

UNSEEN, screening at CIFF48 on Friday, April 5th at 2:25 pm and Saturday, April 6th at 5:00 pm, is about Pedro, an aspiring social worker who must confront political restrictions as a blind, undocumented immigrant to get his college degree and support his family. As he finally graduates, uncertainty looms over Pedro. What starts as a journey to provide mental health care for his community, ultimately transforms into Pedro’s path towards his own healing. Through experimental cinematography and sound, UNSEEN reimagines the accessibility of cinema, while exploring the intersections of immigration, disability, and mental health.

The 48th Cleveland International Groundbreaker Program and Award is sponsored by Stephanie and Bruce Hearey.



Each year the Cleveland International Film Festival commissions a local artist to create the Festival’s coveted Filmmaker Awards. Locally designed and produced, the more than 30 awards going to filmmakers from around the world are a representation of the wealth of talent in the Ohio arts community.

CIFF is delighted to announce this year’s Award Artist is R.C. Sanford of Sankora Studios.

A woodworker with a love of art, glass, architecture, and nature, R.C. began his woodworking career in the mountains of Colorado, where he amassed skills from hand hewing timbers to precision cabinetry. After years of custom woodworking across the United States, he returned to Ohio where he focused on his illuminated designs, taking the leap into full time artist, designer, and craftsman. He formed Sankora Studios along with his wife, Trisha Sikora, who assists with finish and glass. Together they design and create lamps and window decor, exhibiting at some of the country’s top art festivals.


CIFF48 Artist Statement

“Combining wood and art glass requires attention to detail at every step, from the selection of locally sourced hardwoods to the milling and finishing of the piece. The filmmakers selected by the 48th Cleveland International Film Festival produce the highest quality and most evocative films of the time. I am honored to have been chosen to create the Filmmaker Award, and aim to provide the highest quality craftsmanship to reflect their excellence.”

Filmmaker Awards will be presented throughout the Festival and as part of the Closing Night Ceremony, taking place on Saturday, April 13, 2024.



CIFF48 will take place April 3-13, 2024 at Playhouse Square, followed by CIFF48 Streams, sponsored by PNC, which will take place April 14-21, 2024 online. The full Festival lineup will be announced on Friday, March 8, 2024. Tickets go on sale to CIFF members on Friday, March 15, 2024 and to the public on Friday, March 22, 2024. For information on CIFF, please continue to visit

The Cleveland International Film Festival is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. Also, the Cleveland International Film Festival is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically.