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Chagrin Documentary Film Festival on pace for record year + Chagrin Falls’ Pumpkin Roll subject of new documentary




The Sundance, Cannes and Tribeca film festivals may have popcorn but the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival has its own Popcorn Shop.

Since its debut in 2010 when it attracted 1,800 visitors to the town of Chagrin Falls, the festival has become a destination spot for film lovers. Next month’s 2017 Chagrin Documentary Film Festival is expected to draw more than 10,000 people to the five-day festival with attendees from 28 states.

“We’re hoping for a new record this year,” says festival founder and executive director Mary Ann Ponce. “This is one of the most beautiful venues you can hope for. The way it (festival) is embedded around the village is part of the charm of it. That’s our canvas and it makes for a great festival experience.”

The 2017 festival will feature 80 films from across the world, celebrating the art of documentary film with compelling art and culture. Venues include the CDFF Filmmakers Lounge, the Chagrin Valley Little Theater, Chagrin Falls Township Hall, Federated Church, St. Joan of Arc Church and Chagrin Cinemas.

For the fifth straight year, the Chagrin festival has been selected as one of the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee by MovieMaker magazine. “That has really increased our submissions from filmmakers, which are up about 600 percent,” said Ponce of the honor.

Ponce, a Chagrin Falls resident, started the festival as a tribute to her son David, a film student who passed away at age 20 from leukemia. His film The Lost Sparrows of Roodeport, which documented an AIDS orphanage in South Africa, is screened at the festival each year.

“The spirit of the festival is palpable and I think that comes from David,” said Ponce, who came up with the idea for the Chagrin event while watching her son’s film at the 2008 International Film Festival Ireland.

While the percentage of film submissions grows each year, so does the festival’s reputation. “We’re getting more and more people from out of town each year,” said Ponce.

This year’s opening night film is Knife Skills, a tribute to the staff and founder of Edwin’s Restaurant in Shaker Square. The film, directed by Academy Award-winner Thomas Lennon, will be screened at 7:15 p.m. in the Chagrin Valley Little Theater. A local film sure to generate plenty of interest is Grove Hill: A True Story, a documentary of the Chagrin Falls Pumpkin Roll directed by Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Molly Gebler.

“What’s more Chagrin than the Pumpkin Roll?” laughed Ponce.

Individual tickets are $10 and $15 with membership packages for the festival ranging from an $80 All Festival Pass up to the $2,000 Visionary level. For tickets, a festival schedule and special event listings, visit

Chagrin Falls’ Pumpkin Roll subject of new documentary


When the leaves begin to turn in the bucolic community of Chagrin Falls, young men’s thoughts turn to pumpkins.

For the past five decades, the village’s annual Pumpkin Roll has morphed from a neighborhood prank to a highly publicized event that has taken on a life of its own. Left unattended, no pumpkin is safe as Chagrin Falls High School students stockpile the pilfered pumpkins for weeks prior to the Roll.

In days gone by, the Pumpkin Roll was a surprise to everyone but the participants. Today, the event is attended by students, parents and police who gather at Grove Hill, where the pumpkins are rolled, smashed and used as transportation for a wild ride down the hill.

The phenomenon that is the Pumpkin Roll is the subject of a new documentary Grove Hill: A True Story that will be a feature presentation at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival Oct. 4-8. The film is the brainchild of Chagrin Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Molly Gebler, who directed the documentary.

“I’m a huge supporter of the Film Festival but I sometimes felt that people who live in the neighborhood don’t really know how great it is,” said Gebler. “I wanted to do a topic that would interest the locals and whether you’re for or against it (Roll), everybody loves talking about it.”

With the help of executive producers Sean McCreary and Brandon Hoskinson of R43 Limited, a Chagrin Falls digital media firm, the film marks the Roll’s 50th anniversary and features interviews with local merchants and students and also includes footage of last year’s Roll.

“It was really interesting to tell the different perspectives people have about this,” said Hoskinson. “There were definitely good points made by both sides.”

“There was more of a rebel quality to it when it started,” said McCreary of the Roll. “Now the kids are used to having their parents show up and iPhone it.”

The film touches on each decade of the Roll, going back to 1967 and up until 2016. “A documentary should evoke feeling and create conversation whether it be for or against,” said Gebler. “That’s what we do with this. After watching this, some of the people who are against it may have a softer place in their hearts for it.”

To help celebrate the film and the festive October atmosphere in the Chagrin Valley, Lowe’s Greenhouse (which once had pumpkin insurance) is offering Pumpkin Roll candles while Burntwood and M Italian restaurants will feature Pumpkin Martinis.

The film premieres Oct. 3 when the orange carpet will be rolled out in Riverside Park for a special 7 p.m. screening that is open to the public. Grove Hill: A True Story is also scheduled for an 11 a.m. screening Oct. 7 at the Chagrin Valley Little Theater. For more information on the documentary, visit

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