Looking Ahead to the Return of CFF

Local film festival has a new home and a stellar opening lineup

February features several things. Rodent weather prediction. An abundance of pink sentimentality. Quadrennial calendar corrections. Mattress sales. But for the last five years, it’s also brought Chattanooga a different sort of news. February marks the beginnings of Chattanooga Film Festival announcements. 

Festival Founder and Programmer Chris Dortch II is nothing if not a salesman—he knows instinctively how to build excitement. The build up to each CFF is almost as much fun as the festival itself. Following Dortch on Facebook (as well as the CFF page and Mise En Scenesters) might be a Master Class in vaguebooking, but one thing is always clear: Chris genuinely believes that each year of the CFF is going to be bigger and better than the last. 

From regular appearances of Joe Bob Briggs to a retirement party for Uwe Boll to a Moon Pie eating contest with Elijah Wood, the CFF has been wildly successful, far more successful than anyone would have imagined at the outset. 

Given the insanity that was the Catoosa County Film Festival (if that’s what you’d call it) last year, the last four years of the CFF seem nothing short of miraculous. It continues to be the best event in Chattanooga. And so, the CFF returns in 2018 by announcing three new films for opening night, one a world premiere, and a sensible new location for the duration of the festival.

As always, the films are the crux of any good festival. The event will feature the following, each with a Q & A by the directors:

  • Rock Steady Row by Director Trevor Stevens 

Rock Steady Row centers around a young college freshman who, after his bike is stolen, lands on a college campus and is compelled to take action against the reigning fraternities and ultimately the dean.

  • Summer of ‘94 by Directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell

After suspecting that their police officer neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spend their summer spying on him and gathering evidence in, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous. 

  • Life After Flash by Director Lisa Downs

The world premiere of Life After Flash explores the life of Sam J. Jones since his iconic performance as Flash Gordon in the 1980 classic of the same name, and the aftermath of the young stars’ clash with one of Hollywood’s biggest legends, producer Dino De Laurentiis. 

The announcement of these films highlights what makes the CFF so unique. They are a cross section of what audiences can expect. There’s no doubt that the festival is occasionally genre heavy—the festival is programmed by Dortch and genre films are one of his genuine loves. 

I’ve never seen a bad film there. I’ve frequently seen surprising films, strange films, and challenging films. All three of the opening night selections fit those categories. That audiences also get a chance to interact with filmmakers is something that can’t be found anywhere else in the region.

The second bit of news, beyond just the announcement of the films, is the CFF’s new partnership with the Chattanooga Theater Center, which will give them a new screening location away from Chattanooga’s AMC multiplexes. 

“Not only will CFF be holding the event in a place that feels like Chattanooga through and through, but we’ll also have the opportunity to creatively fill the entire building with film, education and movie related mischief,” Dortch says. 

While the Majestic 12 wasn’t the worst place for a film festival by any stretch of the imagination, it always felt a little strange seeing handcrafted independent films alongside usual Hollywood fare, making the festival seem almost corporate at times. Bringing together two Chattanooga arts scene staples only makes sense. 

“The Chattanooga Theatre Centre becoming the new home of the Chattanooga Film Festival represents a win-win for all, especially the arts going community,” agrees CTC executive director Todd Olson. “Arts groups should hold hands for a greater good, and CTC is committed and ready to embrace such partnerships wherever we can find them.” 

Thus begins the slow trickle of CFF related news. Stand by for more announcements, rumors, and great film selections as the weekend of April 5-8 draws near (did I hear something about Kevin Smith?). 

Badges are on sale now. 

Support local film.

by John DeVore

February 14, 2018