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'Minister of Culture' Michael Heaton talks with Cleveland International Film Festival goers

The CIFF opened Wednesday.

Opening night of the 43 Cleveland International Film Festival drew people from all over Northeast Ohio. A sold out house at the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square gathered to see “Etruscan Smile”. The father and son reunion story was the source of more than a few tears. But the mood in the crowd was mostly joyful.

Event planner Chris Axelrod was there in one of his trademark “peacock” sports coats. “I love the sense of community the festival brings about. This the 15th year I’ve been here.”

Home designer Chris Shimp from Ohio City said “I’ve always been proud to be a part of this celebration. I never miss it.”

Jay Westbrook was in the house. “Thousands of people attend this festival every year. It’s a great thing for the city.”

Cindy Barber, owner of the Beachland Ballroom was in attendance. “I been a part of this since 1977. It’s been getting better and better ever year. They do a great job.”

Actress Jean Zarzour was in a festive mood. “So happy to support this. I’m not even in any of the movies this year,” she said laughing. “This event puts Cleveland on the map.”

Digital imager Martin Reuben and his wife Barb Fazio were on hand. “We love this event. So amazing to see how everybody comes out to support this,” he said. “So much fun.”

Fran and Jules Belkin were there. “We’ve been big supporters of the film festival going all the way back. We love it,” she said.

Attorney Brian McGraw summed it up. “It’s must see event. We never miss it.”

Photographer and former WMMS deejay Billy Bass said, “I love movies. I always see as many as I can. This is my favorite event of the year.”

Attendee Tracy Benton said, “Half the fun of the (CIFF) is the people you meet in line waiting to go into the movies. It’s a great event. A great thing for the city.”

RELATED: 'Minister of Culture' Michael Heaton previews opening night of Cleveland International Film Festival

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