Chattanooga Film Festival: The Rotting of Casey Culpepper (2022)

Daniel Slottje directed, wrote and co-stars — as the father — in this film about a young girl (Lilliana Ketchman) battling leukemia and being haunted by a sinister being she calls The Tumor Man (Kelsey Strauch).

You must decide if this monster is real or a metaphor for the pain that Casey, the little girl, is enduring. Slottje — who had a hormone-based disease in his childhood — is now developing the story into a feature film. I can’t wait to see it.


Chattanooga Film Festival: Underdogs (2021)

At the California Men’s Colony in Central California, dogs and their inmate handlers — who are preparing them to become fully operational service animals — share a special bond that helps both.

Director and writer Alex Astrella also made Trial By Fire, a documentary about inmate firefighters. As a dog owner, this movie spoke to me and shows how we are saved by animals instead of us saving them.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Days Counted (2022)

As a prisoner (Tazi Starfire) remembers a crime from years ago, he’s being visited by a ghost (Simon Boughey) from his past to either punish him or help him atone.

Directed by Chandler Gibson, this has a great story and good effects. There’s an interesting story here and it would even lend itself to a longer film.


Chattanooga Film Festival: The Devil Will Run (2021)

A young boy named Shah (Bryce Thompson) is convinced that the Devil lives in a hole in his backyard. I mean, I’ve been there, trust me.

Directed by Noah Glenn, who co-wrote the short with Imakemadbeats, this is a film about the power of a seven-year-old child’s imagination. It’s pretty wonderful and imaginative even with its short runtime.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Darkside (2022)

Directed and written by Spencer Zimmerman, this film is about astronaut Sam Bowman (Blakely David) who accepts an interstellar mission to save the lives of a missing crew on a deep space voyage. After abandoning his life on Earth and his wife Sara (Siobhan Connors), a critical failure leaves him without a crew, without hope and plenty of guilt.

The question is, “Who saves you when you can’t save the people you were supposed to be saving?”

Created as part of the Motion Picture Arts Program at Capilano University, Darkside uses practical effects, physical sets and remote locations to achieve its unique look. Production of the film took over 720 days to complete — 16 shooting days over two years and 9 months of post.

You can learn more at the official site.


Chattanooga FIlm Festival: Shapes Variation III (2022)

An excerpt from Dr. Malcom J. Backer’s Hyperexpiology Companion [revision 2b]: “…the destructive system is self-replicating and self-propelling. Functioning like a clock. Systematically. Efficiently. Relentlessly. A mindless machine. It will never be enough. The clockmaker eventually loses control. We are dreaming of a new day when a new day isn’t coming.”

This film by Matt Eslinger is a stop-motion animated film of, well, shapes moving in and out of one another. It’s intriguing, but I have no idea what the story is, if there is one or what I am supposed to get out of this than beauty.

Chattanooga Film Festival: In the Balance (2015)

Austin Quarles and Ryan Gentle are filmmakers out of Chattanooga, TN that “met as random roommates in college and hated each other so much that they decided to open up a film company together. They’ve been arguing about it ever since.”

Their film — co-written with Chris Holmes — In the Balance is about how Dr. Marie Mitchell and his assistant Jonathan Meyers face a moral dilemma after achieving a medical breakthrough. It feels like the start of something bigger and I hope at some point they expand it to become a full feature.


Chattanooga Film Festival: Broken Hearts (2019)

When Indigo (Maye Harris), a sheltered teenager with congenital heart disease, meets and befriends Sarah (Ellie Adrean), a more rebellious teen about getting a heart transplant, she decides to break free of her New Age parents’ strict worry and start living as an actual teenager.

Director and co-writer (with Max Kaplow) Alessandra Lichtenfeld has put together a cute glimpse into teenage life while being smart enough to reference The Parent Trap. There’s plenty of emotion in the short run time of this film.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Wish You Were Here! (2022)

In the year 2038, a rise in authoritarianism — look, let’s just admit this is our future and move on. Isaac (Nathan Whitfield) is trying to keep his sister Taylor (Kenny Cumino) safe — they live on the outskirts of society — which means keeping her old handheld game sticked with batteries to keep her from going through a painful and loud panic attack.

Director and writer John Christian Otteson has created a tense short that’s about family in the face of a rough world, while also having a Game Boy Color that has held up way better than mine.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Zeria (2021)

With a strange and surreal blend of masks, life-size puppets, miniatures and rear projection, writer and director Harry Cleven has created something I’ve never seen before: a post-apocalyptic puppet show.

In the year 2056 and on the eve of his hundredth birthday, Gaspard writes a video letter to the grandson he never met — and the first human born on Mars — Zeria to tell him of what his life was like on Earth.

Belgian actor and director Harry Cleven has created a handoff between humanity on Earth and their movement to Mars that approaches true art throughout, a calming and meditative odyssey on life. Gaspard will never meet Zeria, who will never go to Earth, so it falls to the elderly man to relate the story of how humanity lived on, died on and ultimately ruined the planet.

I can’t really explain this movie with just words, one that uses puppets as humans, humans as puppets, miniature sets, gigantic sets, animation and who knows what else to truly create a world so much unlike our own. It’s really something else in the most astounding kind of way.

You can learn more by reading the official Facebook page.