If Chattanooga doesn’t count as an artistic city, I don’t know what does. Everywhere I look, I see sculptures, murals, street musicians, and concerts. It should not have surprised me that Chattanooga also encourages creative cinema by hosting a yearly film festival. This year, it is showing from March 31 to April 3, and includes four busy days of film, food, and panels.
The Chattanooga Film Festival is running for its third year, and is successful in its variety of movies presented. Last year, Southern Living called it “the Sundance of the South,” and in 2014, the festival brought actor Elijah Wood to Chattanooga to introduce a premiering film he produced.
Chris Dortch, one of the festival’s organizers, said he wanted “films that are unique, challenging, critically significant and a helluva lot of fun. We particularly love little films that feel like big films, because we like to think of Chattanooga as a small town with big ideas. Our ultimate goal is to remember, discover and cultivate cinema worthy of everyone’s love and respect.”
Another goal of the festival is to bring movies and community together. One way the festival accomplishes community is by showcasing films devoted to issues in Chattanooga (such as A Mural on MLK), or those written by playwrights from the area (One Hundred Miles North). The festival partners with several diverse venues to host varying aspects of the festival. The opening ceremony is held at the Hunter Museum of American Art, the movies are held in the Cine-Rama (a specific theater refurbished from an old grocery store), and the panels are held at the Double Tree Hotel. Food is provided by local restaurants.
Considering this year’s list of feature-length films, viewers are sure not to be disappointed. The films cover a large range of topics. There is a movie about missionaries in Colombia (Camino), a serial killer in a karaoke bar (Karaoke Crazies), and a traveling office worker reminiscing about her childhood in Tokyo working in anime animation (Only Yesterday). There are also different types of short films, films about music (such as the 2015 Hank Williams biopic, “I saw the Light”), horror/psychological thrillers, and others.
In addition to screenings, the festival hosts other events. Throughout the festival, there are different panels directed to actors, producers, and directors, but which may also be enjoyed by novices such as myself. These panels include topics on “making your own monster,” and workshops for acting, editing animation, and independent crowdfunding. There is also a karaoke event, opening and closing ceremonies (which includes Best Picture Awards), and a late-night “Pajammy jam” at Alleia’s, featuring live music from Rock Floyd and Sam Killed the Bear.
You can participate in this festival in one of two ways: go to an individual event for ten dollars, or buy a daily pass for seventy-five dollars. If you chose the daily pass, it is an all day, six-hour event. However, that only includes one day, and not the entire festival.
I hope to pick one or two movies that interest me, and watch them individually. Expensive, I know, but going to a regular movie theater costs around the same. However, no theater I know of has had a critic (Emily Best, Seed&Spark) say this about it: “The Chattanooga Film Fest has...collected an electric group of filmmakers and connected them to a community tremendously eager to meet them. The energy is palpable, the films exceptional, and the backdrop of Chattanooga’s arts and technology scene only serves to create one of the most attractive young festivals in the nation.”