On a snowy February evening in 2009, the Chattanooga Film Festival began life as a film club with a pop-up double feature screening of Repo Man and Return of the Living Dead in a building that had formerly been a fire hall.
The club affectionately (and perhaps stupidly) named Mise En Scenesters (MES for short) was founded with one simple goal—to bring more great movies to town by any means necessary. We begged and borrowed projectors, extension cords and folding chairs, we saved every extra dollar we could out of our paychecks to pay for film licensing fees, and booked screenings the way DIY punk bands book their tours. We featured screenings and shows in every bar, restaurant, warehouse or abandoned building we could make the electricity work in, though often not the heat in winter or the AC in summer.
The city, to our surprise and delight, seemed to get a kick out of what we were doing. The audience members at our screenings grew, and with them so did our desire to schedule more and more (and more) films. We went a little crazy with it. Our insatiable urge to share cinema only seemed to get worse. There was only one logical course of action.
With only one chain of cinemas dominating our city, it meant we got almost nothing in the way of classic, independent or genre cinema, let alone film education, and we thought we didn’t have the right to complain about this unless we’d directly try to do something to change it. The film club had been a hit, and with the launch of our Halloween/horror event the Frightening Ass Film Festival, we learned we could stage a mini version of what would later become the CFF formula. The next step was a full scale, multi-day, as-many-great-movies-as-we-could-stuff-into-it film festival.
We had to try. We loved this city nearly as much as we loved movies, and it seemed sad that if we stopped doing what we had been doing, there wouldn’t be much left for serious film fans to watch in a theater setting. Suddenly, it all become so much bigger than us—people were counting on us! To us there is no mission as sacred or as much fun as that of sharing the movies we love with the people we love in a place that we love. And one of the most noble and important things we can all hope to do is inspire future storytellers and world builders to create and learn to use the medium of film as their canvas.
It’s with that in mind the Chattanooga Film Festival non-profit was created. Every dollar we raise thorough donations, grant support and ticket sales goes directly into keeping the Chattanooga Film Festival alive the following year and helps us keep our classes and workshops free to attend and to bring some of the most unique, profound, educational and of course entertaining films that we discover each year right here to our home—Chattanooga, Tennessee.
To curate and share the best of cinema’s past and present while educating and inspiring future generations to create films of their own.
We hope to create a world where the medium of motion pictures is treated as culturally and intellectually essential to the human experience as music and art by fostering love and respect for great cinema of all types and from all eras.
The Chattanooga Film Festival loves everything about cinema: the films, filmmakers and audiences; the critics, collectors and curators; and most especially the popcorn. The first ever Chattanooga Film Festival was held in 2014, and has been quickly making a name for itself among film-lovers, filmmakers and the film industry. The festival’s record-breaking third year drew more than 12,000 people to its films, workshops and special events.
We share films and events 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. As always, CFF is proudly continuing its mission to “Respect Cinema,” in hopes of increasing film exhibition, education and production in the state of Tennessee.