Film » Film Features

Film Spotlight: The Chagrin Falls Documentary Film Festival is Going on this Weekend



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

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.