The 12th International Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, featuring 98 films from 33 countries, will take place Oct. 5-10 in Chagrin Falls. Above is a still from “The Conservation Game,” directed by Michael Webber. The film investigates celebrity conservationists who may be secretly tied to the exotic big cat trade. For a list of films accepted to this year’s fest visit

Opening night of this year’s 12th International Chagrin Documentary Film Festival sticks close to home with the screening of “War on the Diamond,” the story of the 1920s Cleveland Indians and the pitch that hit and killed Tribe shortstop Ray Chapman, fest officials announced this week.

The fest is Oct. 5-10 in Chagrin Falls.

The Andy Billman film is based on Mike Sowell’s award-winning book “The Pitch That Killed.” A sports fan, Mr. Billman is an Elyria native and director of the 2016 ESPN 30 for 30 Documentary “Believeland.”

The filmmaker notes that even though the Ray Chapman tragedy was a staggering blow to the team, the Tribe went on to win the World Series that year. The incident also sparked what would become a century-old rivalry between the Cleveland and New York ball clubs.

Opening party details are being worked out, but CDFF founder and Director Mary Ann Ponce said that plans include the appearance of some Cleveland Indians ball club members before the team officially becomes the Cleveland Guardians next season.

Fest officials announced films accepted for this year’s event.

Mrs. Ponce said the fest will include a return of the hybrid film-streaming model started last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing some documentary film lovers to stay home and watch films any time of the day or night. Patrons so enjoyed the freedom of the streaming option, Mrs. Ponce said, that the team promised to continue the feature in 2021.

The team is keeping an eye on the COVID-19 case count situation, she added.

“Last year, by this time, we had made the call to do a virtual festival,” she said, adding that in the run up to October, her staff still has options for a safe festival should the virus take center stage again.

“We will follow whatever CDC guidelines are in place and will likely ask our volunteers and visiting filmmakers be fully vaccinated,” Mrs. Ponce said.

This year’s festival includes 98 films from 33 countries including filmmakers from Myanmar to Switzerland; France to Sri Lanka and Ireland to Costa Rica to name a few.

Screening venues include the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre which has been shuttered for more than a year and the auditorium at the Chagrin Falls Intermediate School, Chagrin Cinemas in Bainbridge and Riverside Park in Chagrin Falls serving as an open-air theater for a morning-until-night daily schedule of short subject documentaries.

Mrs. Ponce added that there will be programs, panel discussions and events connecting festival audiences with many of the films, and these extra added attractions will be announced at a later date.

As in past years, the CDFF will present cash prizes to the best of the fest in the categories of Emerging Filmmaker, Environmental, The Human Spirit, International, U.S. Documentaries, Local Films, Shorts and Student Documentaries, Mrs. Ponce said.

Among the local offerings are two films produced by the Chagrin Falls Historical Society, including the premiere screenings of “Saving Grove Hill,” a tribute to local activism, and “Chagrin Falls – The Early Years” with filmmaker Skip Church, a member of a prominent Chagrin Falls founding family. Both films were directed by Chagrin Falls Historical Society President John Bourisseau.

The Chagrin Documentary Film Festival is more than entertainment, Mrs. Ponce pointed out. Before the pandemic, it put Chagrin Falls on the map to visitors and filmmakers worldwide who had never heard of the place.

“In 2020, it is estimated the virtual fest reached an audience of more than 37,000 from 28 states, and before that we had people attending the festival every year from on average 140 Ohio ZIP codes,” she said.

In addition to films, the festival will host “CDFF Live on Main,” which will transform Chagrin Falls Township Hall into a hub of activities, including filmmaker Q&As, a lounge and happy hour events, as well as serve as the studio for live broadcasts daily Wednesday through Saturday during the festival, Mrs. Ponce said.

Annually, the festival has contributed more than $1 million to the local economy and for eight years running has been on MovieMaker Magazine’s “Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” list, according to CDFF organizers. The magazine is considered “the Bible” among filmmakers worldwide.

CDFF did not come about without inspiration of a very personal kind for Mrs. Ponce and her husband Ed. It was founded in memory of their son, David, an aspiring filmmaker, who lost his battle with cancer in 2006 at the age of 20.

No film festival runs smoothly without the work of dedicated volunteers, she said. This year is no different.

An informational meeting for all volunteers – both new and seasoned – will be held Aug. 24 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Frohring Meadows Pavilion in Bainbridge Township.

Volunteer opportunities include greeters, ticket scanners, box office attendants and film techs.

Those intending to take part in the session are asked to RSVP to volunteer manager Joe Constant via email at

For more information about the fest, visit or call 440-247-1591.

On tap this year

The following films have been accepted to the fest this year. 

2021 Accepted Film Categories: 

Documentary film categories include: Emerging Filmmaker, Environmental, The Human Spirit, International, U.S. Documentaries, Local Films, Shorts and Student Documentaries. 

Emerging filmmakers:

The Emerging Filmmaker category is for directors who have completed their first feature documentary:

The Best Show in Town directed by Amity Hoffman (United States); Duty Free directed by Sian-Pierre Regis (United States); The Edge of Purpose directed by Winslow Perry (United States); Eternal Harvest directed by Karen Coates, Jerry Redfern (United States, Lao People's Democratic Republic); Fireboys directed by Jakob Hochendoner, Drew Dickler (United States); How to Throw Your Own Goodbye Party directed by Lauren Coleman (United States);  directed by  (); The Irritable Heart directed by Richard Poller (United States); Kili Big directed by Ida Joglar (United States); The Last Out directed by Sami Khan, Michael Gassert (United States); Leaving Tracks directed by Nick Davis (United States); Medicine Man: The Stan Brock Story directed by Paul Angell (United Kingdom); A Mirror for the Sun directed by Neta Ariel (Israel); The Neurosurgeon directed by Magdalena Zagała (Poland); Theirs is the Kingdom directed by Christopher Zaluski (United States). 

Environmental Films:

In the Dark of the Valley directed by Nicholas Mihm (United States); The Conservation Game directed by Michael Webber (United States); The Last Horns of Africa directed by Garth de Bruno Austin (South Africa). 

The Human Spirit: 

The Adventures of Saul Bellow directed by Asaf Galay (Israel, United States); Anatomy of Wings directed by Nikiea Redmond, Kirsten D'Andrea Hollander (United States); Behind the Strings directed by Hal Rifken (United States); The Book Keepers directed by Phil Wall (United States); Building A Bridge directed by Evan Mascagni, Shannon Post (United States); Fireflies Patagonia - A Handful of Dust directed by Jay Creagh (United Kingdom); The Price of Cheap directed by Barry Stevens (Canada, India); The Rescue directed by Matthew Heineman (United States, Thailand); Selfish directed by Geraldine Andre, Stephane Santini, Laurence Hoenig, Pierre-Yves Bernard (Switzerland); Sweet Home Monteverde directed by Robin Truesdale (United States, Costa Rica).

International Documentaries:

Alien On Stage directed by Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer (United Kingdom); Edward & Jo Hopper, the Violence of Silence directed by Aventurier Catherine (France); The Gig is Up directed by Shannon Walsh (Canada); Indian Space Dreams directed by Sue Sudbury (United Kingdom, India); Memory Project 1956:2021 directed by Réka Pigniczky (Hungary); Salaryman directed by Allegra Pacheco (Costa Rica, Japan); The Wikipedia Promise directed by Lorenza Castella, Jascha Hannover (Germany); Writing With Fire directed by Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh (India).

U.S. Documentaries:

Dog Valley directed by Dave Lindsay (United States); Enemies of the State directed by Sonia Kennebeck (United States); Franklin Manor directed by Richard Sherman, John Beale (United States); Home From School: The Children of Carlisle directed by Geoff O'Gara (United States); Miracle Fishing: Kidnapped Abroad directed by Miles Hargrove, Christopher Birge (Columbia, United States); Missing in Brooks County directed by Lisa Molomot, Jeff Bemiss (United States); Mixed directed by Leena Jayaswa (United States); Raise Your Voice directed by Maribeth Romslo (United States); Red Heaven directed by Lauren DeFilippo, Katherine Gorringe (United States); Surviving Sex Trafficking directed by Sadhvi Siddhali Shree (United States); The Accidental President directed by James Fletcher (United States); The Conductor directed by Berndadette Wegenstein (United States); The First Wave directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (United States); The Long Journey directed by Robert Herbolich (United States); The Real Right Stuff directed by Tom Jennings (United States); Tiny Tim: King for a Day directed by Johan von Sydow (Croatia, Norway, Sweden, and United States); War on the Diamond directed by Andy Billman (United States). 

Local Connections: (Stories which focus on Ohio )

Chagrin Falls - The Early Years directed by John Bourisseau, Skip Church (United States); Full Out: Inside Ohio Show Choir directed by Audrey Leach (United States); Open Hearts directed by Travis Pollert, Jacob Kostelli (United States, Haiti); Saving Grove Hill directed by John Bourisseau, Skip Church, Cody Linck (United States); Training for Freedom directed by Kathy Conkwright (United States); We Still Make Things directed by Ian Cook (United States); Who Fights for You? directed by Maddie Stambler (United States).

Student Documentaries: 

Growing Peace in the Middle East directed by Steven Hoffen (United States); I Am directed by Hana LeBrew (United States); Jude directed by Amos Menin (United Kingdom); Life, Again directed by Anna Maité Kaplan, Orion Huang (United States); Persian Blue directed by Sam Mohseni (Canada); Shoe Bob directed by Angela Xayavong (United States).

Short Documentaries:(Films which run for less than 40 minutes)

Aguilucho: Dance of the Harpy Eagle directed by Daniel Byers (United States); Apollo Road Presents: Maude Andrade directed by Alex Velasquez (United States); Bryan Zanisnik's Big Pivot directed by Nick Ravich (United States); Charlie Surfer directed by Pia Strømme (Norway, Ireland); Fraser Syndrome & Me directed by Kyle Anne Grendys (United States); Full Picture directed by Jacob Reed (United States); Hello Sunshine directed by Joe Quint (United States); It's Rocket Science directed by Rachel Knoll (United States); Life on Air directed by Louis Leblique (United States); The Linesman: Both Sides Matter directed by Dominic Gill (United States, Myanmar); The Little Tea Shop directed by Matteo Servente, Molly J. Wexler (United States); Lost in the Shuffle directed by Sophia Nino (United States);Love Reaches Everywhere directed by Sean Bloomfield (United States); The Master Craftsman directed by Philip Sieb (United States); MerBy's directed by Jamie Miller (Canada); Michael Murrell: Art, Nature and Catawampus directed by Hal Jacobs (United States); Miss Alma Thomas: A Life in Color directed by Cheri Gaulke (United States); Nanmin directed by Adam Shaw (United States); Naya: David Kim directed by AJ Valente, Janice Chung (United States); One All the Way directed by David Baram (United States); Out of the Dark: Hannah directed by Sarah Klein, Tom Mason (United States); Rabari: The People of the Leopard directed by Ashwin Gokhale (United States); Renaissance Man directed by Carson Hunt (United States); RIP Seni directed by Daisy Ifama (United Kingdom); The Roads Most Traveled: Photojournalist Don Bartletti directed by Bill Wisneski (United States); Saving Juliette directed by Evey Wilson Wetherbee (United States); Slim Pickins directed by Justin Jeffers (United States); Tanagokoro: A Culinary Portrait directed by Victoria Fistes, Masashi Nozaki (United Kingdom); The Unisexuals directed by Katie Garrett (United States); Understory: A Journey into the Tongass directed by Colin Arisman (United States); We are Like Waves directed by Jordyn Romero (United States, Sri Lanka); Wild Winds: Spirit of the Bison directed by Sawyer Pasma (United States).

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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