October 5, 2021, marks the start of the 12th annual Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, a five-day film-lover’s dream featuring 97 powerful and compelling documentaries from 38 countries. Since its founding in 2010, CDFF has not only garnered national acclaim, but – perhaps even more remarkably – has become a beloved fixture in the area, where its host of volunteers, venues, special events, and community sponsors have helped weave the event deeply into the Chagrin Falls’ fabric.
South Franklin Circle, the bucolic Judson community within walking distance of the village’s namesake falls, has long played an important role in sponsoring and supporting the annual fest. “The Chagrin Documentary Film Festival has been honored to partner with South Franklin Circle since the inception of the festival,” says festival director Mary Ann Quinn Ponce. “They have hosted us with screening venues for almost all of the festivals [2020 and 2021 being exceptions, due to COVID] and the residents have been so involved and helpful with many aspects of the fest.”
The relationship has been nothing short of a win-win, according to South Franklin Circle resident Tom Brick, retired CEO of Keithley Instruments who served as mayor of the village during the festival’s inception.
From the moment Mary Ann first approached him with the idea of launching a film fest, Tom says he was intrigued. “It seemed like something that would be very positive for the village,” he recalls. And when he was subsequently invited to join the CDFF board, in 2011, he did not hesitate to accept.
It is a role Tom continues to relish. “The offerings are absolutely tops,” he says of the annual program, “and the CDFF has become one of the best documentary film festivals in the country. It is well organized; it provides personal support to many of the filmmakers – some of whom are actually hosted during the festival by village residents; and the subjects, while varied, are uniformly compelling.”
Historically, South Franklin Circle residents have played a significant role in the selection of those films, serving each year as members of a screening panel. “There are about 15 to 20 panel members at South Franklin Circle,” Tom explains, noting that their help is essential. “With perhaps 600 to 800 submissions each year, the judges help the staff narrow down the options, and that leads to what becomes an outstanding slate of films.”
Mary Ann concurs. “The dedicated group of SFC residents spend months reviewing short documentary films to help to choose the very best films to be presented. It is truly a wonderful partnership.” (While not part of the official SFC panel, Tom’s wife, Louise, reviewed nearly 200 films this year herself, Tom proudly notes!)
The benefits, of course, go both ways. “Residents’ involvement in the festival is just one more way that we maintain an active presence in the wider community,” Tom says, making it part of Judson’s ongoing focus on arts, culture, and lifelong learning as means to maintain community connections. “And once the campus is again able to serve as a screening venue, it makes it very convenient for residents to attend.”
Meantime, this year’s festival takes place Oct. 5 to 10, and includes both in-person screenings and streaming options. Among the many special events surrounding the festival, South Franklin Circle is delighted to be sponsoring the Festival’s closing celebration; the party kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, and includes a special live performance by Garfield Heights’ Music Express Show Choir and the world premiere of the student film, Full Out: Inside Ohio Show Choir.
Tickets, schedules and full details are available here.