The Chagrin Falls Documentary Film Festival, which runs through Oct. 6, features an impressive lineup of 78 films from 22 countries. Mary Ann Ponce created the festival to honor her son David, who died of leukemia at the age of 20 in 2006. David was an alumnus of Chagrin Falls High School and an aspiring filmmaker himself.
"I have sworn to myself to produce something substantial in propagating the idea of hope and joy in the face of something so ugly," David wrote in a letter six weeks before his death. He had just seen The Lost Sparrows of Roodeport, a documentary about an AIDS hospice center in South Africa.
Ponce wanted to make her son's dream a reality. Now in its fourth year, the festival will showcase work from emerging artists and filmmakers around the globe. More than 1,800 guests went to the festival in its inaugural year, 5,000 showed up last year and Ponce expects a record-breaking year again.
"The growth has been remarkable," says Ponce.
This year, the festival was named to Moviemaker Magazine's top-50 festival list (out of 7,000 worldwide), and the press has been an incredible boost. "We had over 400 submissions," Ponce reports. "And we've got a really nice range of topics. We love the international flare. Over 50 countries submitted."
Ponce says choosing a favorite film is "like choosing between your children," but she recommends Amazon Gold ,about the effect of gold mining on the rainforests; and Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution, told from the perspective of Syrian rebels.
Among others, we're looking forward to Davy Rothbart's Medora, a doc about a failing rural town in Indiana, and the high school basketball team's quest to end a losing streak. Also, David Greathouse, the monster make-up artist whose blood effects and ghastly alter-egos have graced Scene's pages before, will be down in Chagrin with his haunted house troupe (in costume!) for the screening of his Legions of Terror documentary.
Tickets are $10 for single films and $70 for an unlimited weekend pass. Joel Schroeder's Dear Mr. Watterson will highlight the opening-night gala on Thursday. — Sam Allard