The Chagrin Documentary Film Festival kicks off next week so if you haven’t heard or read about it by now then please get back on the grid and find a paper program or computer because this is the premiere arts and culture event of the year.

Although we here at the Chagrin Valley Times have covered every aspect of this 12th annual tribute to documentary filmmaking, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to tell. There always is when it comes to CDFF which we lovingly call “the-festival-of-many-moving-parts.”

We asked the staff at the festival office to fill us in on some little known facts and little-known stories about fests past and present. Here is what they told us.

Murphy’s Law was part of those early festivals, according to founder/director Mary Ann Ponce who remembers . . .

“In the beginning, the films came to us as DVDs and because the festival had no equipment to speak of, volunteers would bring their DVD players from home in order to show the films.”

She recalls this worked with varying degrees of success and when things would go awry, volunteers with knowledge of electronics would scurry between venues, fixing glitches and thanking audiences for their patience.

“Now we’re all digital and it is a first class film experience with a professional streaming platform which we’re very proud of.”

Each year, no fewer than 100 volunteers show up to perform tasks both large and small and all are knowledgeable about some facet of the festival.

Once in a great while, a volunteer from one field of knowledge is pressed into service to help out in an area that is not in their realm of expertise.

And so it was when a gentleman was asked to introduce a film about an LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community.

He read the introduction in a loud, clear and confident voice but hesitated when he came to the LGBTQ acronym. Thinking on his feet and without missing a beat, he went off-script and noted the film was designated “LGBTQ . . . whatever that is.”

And now for some tidbits we have labeled FFF, an acronym for Festival Fun Facts.

This year, 49 percent of the filmmakers are women.

Approximately 250 shorts and 350 feature documentaries were entered into this year’s competition – the largest number ever experienced by the festival.

Festival marketing and communication director Daniel Wingenfeld said “the surge could be credited to COVID-19. It stands to reason filmmakers may have taken lockdown time to edit and finalize their films meant for the largely-canceled 2020 festival season.”

Of the 97 films, 69 will be making their debut in the Midwest, the U.S. or internationally.

For the first time ever, the festival is offering a different level of participation, pass wise, with their new Short Stories Pass. For $50, short film lovers can get their fill with access to all 43 accepted short subject films plus streaming. And they are good throughout the festival.

So far, 40 filmmakers are expected to attend the festival this year but just one, Neta Ariel of Israel, will be coming to Chagrin Falls from outside the U.S. Her film is “A Mirror for the Sun.” Festival officials are holding their breath that government policies for COVID-19, testing regulations and last minute protocol changes do not spoil her plans.

Here’s the small print on COVID-19 and the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival: CDFF will abide by State of Ohio guidelines and venue guidelines as they become available.

Masks are recommended but not required. Hand sanitizer and masks will be available at the venues. Virtual streaming options are available for all films as an alternative to in-person events.  

Cancellation of events due to changes in guidelines and the resulting losses will be exchangeable or refundable at the ticketholder’s request.

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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