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Cleveland Cinematheque names new director

Bilgesu Sisman Cleveland Cinematheque
Cleveland Cinematheque
Filmmaker and educator Bilgesu Sisman will take the helm at the Cleveland Cinematheque on June 17, working alongside the theater's co-founder, John Ewing, for the final two weeks of his 40-year tenure. Sisman brings a background in film, philosophy and marketing to Northeast Ohio after previous work in Illinois, Nebraska and Maryland.

Bilgesu Sisman has been named the next director of the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.

Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, the filmmaker and educator has worked in programming and marketing for several years, most recently at the Maryland Hall cultural center in Annapolis and Film Streams in Nebraska. Sisman also taught “Philosophy and Film” courses at DePaul University, where she is a doctoral candidate.

A release from the Cleveland Institute of Art, home of the Cinematheque, said Sisman plans to "create educational and interactive opportunities to engage with film through innovative and diverse repertory arthouse programming—which she believes will help make cinema accessible to all audiences."

“I am a strong believer in the transformative potential of cinema, of it having a specific power to make us think in novel ways," she said.

John Ewing co-founded the Cinematheque in 1984 and retires at the end of June.

"I believe the Cinematheque is in good hands with Bilgesu,” he said in the release. “I’m excited to see where she takes the program.”

Ewing and co-founders Ron Holloway and George Gund III began showing films in 1985 at Case Western Reserve University. A year later, the theater moved to CIA. In 2015, the Cinematheque moved to a purpose-built space, the Peter B. Lewis Theater.

In announcing his retirement last year, Ewing said the Cinematheque grew from a desire to program films which aren't usually shown in multiplexes.

"Film history has been reduced to a short list of ‘greatest hits’ like ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ‘The Godfather’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’" he said. "But film history is so much richer than those titles."

Ewing will end his tenure with 25 films that have never screened at the Cinematheque. His final day, June 30, will close with his favorite film, "Shane."

Corrected: May 1, 2024 at 8:11 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story said Bilgesu Sisman had earned a doctorate from DePaul University in 2023. The Cleveland Institute of Art erred in its press release. She is currently a doctoral candidate.
Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.