By BARRY GOODRICH
In 2010, the inaugural Chagrin Documentary Film Fest drew 1,800 visitors to the idyllic setting of Chagrin Falls.
Last year, more than 12,000 people flocked to the festival. They came from 140 Ohio zip codes, 30 states and five countries and added over $1 million to the local economy. In just eight years, the event has evolved into a world-class festival that has become a haven for filmmakers and film lovers alike.
The 2018 Chagrin Documentary Film Festival will be held Oct. 3-7, featuring 89 documentary films and social events in venues throughout the village. For the sixth time in festival history, “MovieMaker Magazine” has named this year’s event as one of “50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”
Mary Ann Ponce, the festival’s founder and executive director, created the event to honor the memory of her son David, a film student and documentary filmmaker who passed away at age 20 from leukemia. His film, “The Lost Sparrows of Roodepoort,” chronicled an AIDS orphanage in South Africa.
“From the beginning, we thought that this was an event that was meant to be, and the growth has been tremendous,” said Ponce. “This is a natural venue for a film festival. People have the ability to walk around the village and 90 percent of those who attend the festival either shop or dine here.”
The town of Chagrin Falls has become somewhat of a starring character in the festival experience. Each day during the festival, the Filmmaker Lounge at 49 West Orange Street will be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. to answer any festival questions. Festival Members can stop in for refreshments and meet visiting filmmakers.
Other village venues participating again this year include the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, the Chagrin Falls Township Hall, Federated Church, South Franklin Circle, St. Joan of Arc Church and Chagrin Cinemas. Due to the increased interest over the past few years, the festival has invested in a new ticketing system. Also new this year is a high school program funded by a grant from Wells Fargo Advisors that will have over 500 students from nine different school districts viewing short films on Oct. 5.
Among the events leading up to the official opening of the festival are a Film Fest 5K Race in Chagrin Falls on Sept. 30 and an Oct. 2 preview of the event scheduled for Riverside Park, featuring short documentary films and activities.
The festival opens Oct. 3 with a red-carpet event at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre beginning at 6:30 p.m. The film “Love, Gilda,” a documentary of beloved comedian Gilda Radner, will be screened at 7:15 p.m.
The Festival Awards Ceremony is set for Oct. 6 at the Little Theatre with a red carpet at 7 p.m. and awards ceremony at 8 p.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
The festival’s closing ceremonies get underway at 6 p.m., Oct. 7 at the Little Theatre. The final film, “Fiddlin,” will be followed by a musical performance from the film’s subject Presley Barker.
Festival memberships are available with levels ranging from $80-$1,500. Individual tickets are $10 per film with advance online purchasing encouraged. For more information, call 440.247.1591 or visit chagrinfilmfest.org.