The 9th annual Chattanooga Film Festival wrapped last week, and celebrated genre films, up and coming filmmakers, and a third successful virtual run.
The 9th edition consisted of 40 feature films, 72 short films, and plenty of filmmaker Q&A’s along with unique virtual events. Awards were handed out among the features and events, with Eric Pennycoff’s The Leech taking home the Best Feature prize. The film served as the Opening Night Film of the festival, and the commentary from cast and crew during The Leech Live Commentary event will serve as the commentary track for the film’s upcoming release via Arrow Films in the UK, US, IE and Canada this December.
CFF’s After Hours Opening Night Film The Ones You Didn’t Burn, written and directed by Elise Finnerty, earned the Best Feature by First Time Director.
Best International Feature was granted to filmmaker Nikias Chryssos’ A Pure Place, which was a buzzed-about film among attendees. Ryan Maxey’s One Road to Quartzsite was awarded the Best Documentary for its beautiful, poetic, and observational portrait of people trying to live outside of the constraints of American society, or to simply escape the winter.
Special Jury awards were handed out to not one, but two features this year.
First to Cryo, an ambitious sci-fi feature from student filmmaker Barrett Burgin.
The second jury prize went to the hilariously wonderful Make Popular Movies, helmed by Bryan Connolly. Shane Brady’s Breathing Happy took home the Audience Award for Best Feature. Critic Michelle Swope summed it up in her review, “Breathing Happy is an intimate, beautiful exploration of recovery and grief presented in such a passionate way. It’s very easy to fall in love with this film.” Clearly the CFF audience fell in love with the film.
On the short film side of things, Best Short went to Dirtbag from filmmaker Karsten Runquist, with the Audience Award for Best Short going to Anthony Cousin’s Every Time We Meet For Ice Cream Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes. Last, but certainly not least, Allison Shrum was awarded with the Tennessee Filmmaker Award for her short Roger Must Die and the Student Filmmaker Award bestowed upon John Otteson for Wish You Were Here!
This year’s Secret Screening was Rustic Films’ Something in the Dirt, making CFF attendees the second audience behind the Sundance Film Festival to feast their eyes on the mind-bending film from Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead and David Lawson Jr.
In addition to the Secret Screening, the audience was also able to view a snippet of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Yes, the CFF team Rick Rolled the audience.
Rustic Films’ David Lawson Jr. also spearheaded the 3rd Annual Pitch Competition, with help from filmmaker and journalist BJ Colangelo, who won the first year of the competition. From the submitted scripts, 7 projects were pitched during the live streamed event, with Wolfe Macready winning the competition for their unique project, The Dream of Drowning. Lawson says, “It was clear from the onset of Wolfe’s pitch that this story was incredibly important and personal. Their pitch was passionate and informative but most of all captivating. One of the real joys of working in film is our ability to create fantastic worlds that can help us explain or work through very real issues and situations. The pitch for The Dream of Drowning took me somewhere magical and then ripped my heart out. I look forward to assisting them on the steps of the journey.”
As for me, I had a blast watching the many films of this outstanding film festival. It was literally the best run fest I’ve done yet, providing an easy-to-watch interface, a lively Discord server and an overall friendly experience that felt so inclusive that I was spurred on to watch as many films as I could handle.
Here’s a recap of all the movies I watched. Click on any link to read the review.
You can also see a Letterboxd list of all my festival watches here.
Can I come back next year?