One of three in-person venues at this year’s Chagrin Documentary Film Festival is Riverside Park in Chagrin Falls where a collection of short subject documentaries will be screened throughout the day into the evening. As in past years, the daily outdoor event will be free of charge. This photo was taken at a park screening prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To re-coin a phrase, the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival does not live by films alone and this year’s 12th annual cinematic celebration offers a variety of fun and informative extra added attractions in addition to the 97 documentaries from 38 countries.

“We are known for providing filmgoers with experiences which will deepen their understanding of the culture behind the story and so we have planned plenty of opportunities for our audiences to get to meet and interact with the 40 filmmakers who are planning to be in town this year, which is very special to us,” founder and Director Mary Ann Ponce said this week.

She explained this year’s festival – Oct. 5-20 – deserves the term “special” because it is also a celebration of a return to semi-normalcy. That was not the case last year when the coronavirus pandemic ended the special events programming that had been a prominent attraction in previous years.

Personal interaction and face-to-face discussion were not advised last year due to the pandemic, she said.

This year, a cautiously optimistic, pared-down schedule of events returns. Caution is being exercised because the virus is still present and not everyone is comfortable with in-person gatherings.

Instead of several screening venues, this year’s festival and events will be held at three in-person venues including the Chagrin Falls Intermediate School Theater, the Chagrin Valley Little Theater and outdoors in Riverside Park. Refreshments will be available at most of the special events.

Here is a list of some special events.

Live on Main – This event is new this year and is a creative way to keep up with everything going on throughout the festival. Patterned after a broadcast studio, Live on Main will take up residence in historical Chagrin Falls Township Hall in the heart of downtown.

There will be in-person interviews and panel discussions, celebrity hosts and a chance to meet one of the 40 filmmakers in town for the festival. Live on Main will be the place to go to catch up on daily festival happenings.

Light up the falls – As is festival tradition, the upper dam and natural falls will be illuminated throughout the run of the festival. The lights go on at dusk beginning Oct. 5.

Free films by the falls – This will be a daily feature of the festival, and Riverside Park is the place where film lovers can go to enjoy family-friendly short films, trailers and activities. Bring-along sit-upons, such as blankets and chairs, are also welcome.

Be part of the story – Don’t miss the light breakfast on Oct. 6 from 9-10 a.m. at Chagrin Falls Township Hall. There will be an exciting announcement about the future of the festival and how it has become an economic spark plug for the community.

Happy hour – It’s scheduled 5-6 p.m. Oct. 7 at Township Hall. This is a members-only event that offers the chance to meet the filmmakers. A panel discussion follows. Memberships are still available.

Quiet on the set – During a happy hour from 5-6 p.m. Oct. 8, at Township Hall, filmmakers will discuss what it takes to make a documentary from the inspiration through the challenges that bring these true stories to the screen and the outside world.

Music in the park – This event is 8:30-9:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 in Riverside Park featuring a live performance by the band Radderall.

Opening and closing night awards – On Oct. 5 at Chagrin Falls Intermediate School Theater, 65 Philomethian St., there will be a celebration marking the opening of the 12th Annual Chagrin Falls Documentary Film Festival with a red carpet reception and Midwest premiere screening of “War on the Diamond.”  It was produced by Chagrin Falls native Danielle Alberico. Award-winning director and Lorain native Andy Billman will be on hand. He won awards for “Believeland,” a 2016 ESPN documentary. Based on the award-winning book “The Pitch That Killed” by Mike Sowell, “War on the Diamond”  tells the story of Ray Chapman – the only MLB player killed by a pitch – that gave rise to the 100-year rivalry between two baseball teams. Opening night will offer ticket-holders a chance to meet the Indians beloved mascot, Slider, and other surprise celebrities, as well “Pitch That Killed” author Mike Sowell and Ms. Alberico.

Awards ceremony – See who wins during this event at 7 p.m., Oct. 9 at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, 40 River St. The event is free and open to the public. Gather for a “red carpet” meet and greet and the announcement of winning juried films in several categories and presentation of more than $10,000 in cash awards.

Closing night is 5:30 p.m., on Oct. 10 at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, 40 River St., Chagrin Falls. Get an inside look at the pressure-filled world of show choir competitions with “Full-Out: Inside Ohio Show Choir” by emerging filmmaker Audrey Leach, a Northeast Ohio native and recent graduate of New York University’s film school. This is Ms. Leach’s first full-length feature, which follows four competitive Ohio show choirs as they compete to win – and grow – in this intense and competitive world. There will be a special live performance by Garfield Height’s Musical Express Show Choir.

Tickets and passes may be purchased online at or at the CDFF office, 3 N. Franklin St. in Chagrin Falls, weekdays 4-6 p.m., or by calling 440-247-1591.

During the five-day festival, tickets will be available for purchase at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre Box Office, 40 River St., Chagrin Falls, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.

For those folks who want the full experience, membership packages are available through the website.

Individual tickets for each in-person film are $12 each. On demand home viewing of all films are available with a membership package or may be purchased individually on demand for $10 each.

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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