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One of the main goals of The VHS Graveyard is to introduce people to films and filmmakers that they might not be familiar with. By this point in cinematic history, stretching back over a century, there’s too much for even the most dedicated cinephile to keep track of, much less folks who don’t devote every waking minute to the subject. While we certainly don’t know everything (or even most things) about film, you can bet that the folks behind the annual Chattanooga Film Festival probably do.
Beginning as a film club, in 2009, before becoming a full-fledged movie festival in 2014, the Chattanooga Film Festival is one of those amazing grab-bag events, like the higher-profile Fantastic Fest, that offers a little bit of everything, programming-wise.
From ultra-low budget indie fare to soon-to-be breakout hits and reshowings of classic genre offerings that might’ve gone missed, back in the day, there’s something for everyone, regardless of what they’re looking for. Throw in the usual panel discussions, seminars, salutes to industry legends and assorted workshops and it’s pretty obvious that the CFF stands tall with the best of them.
If this was all there was to the story, however, this festival would remain something that the Graveyard respected but didn’t pay much attention to. What’s managed to imprint the CFF on our overstuffed brain?
Quite simply, the Chattanooga Film Festival successfully did the one thing that so few other larger festivals have even attempted: they took their event online, to spectacular results.
When the global Covid pandemic shut physical get-togethers down in 2020, the CFF responded by taking their party directly to the masses, films, events and all. Despite our love of cinema, we’ve never attended one of the big festivals: between the travel, the crowds and the expense, there was never enough of a reason to draw us out of our comfortable cocoon, in the past. The announcement of the CFF’s all-digital version in 2020, however, was too good to pass up.
Suffice to say, that first year impressed us so much that we eagerly bought passes for the following two years as soon as they went on sale. As a now dedicated fan, the Graveyard can honestly say that the difference with the Chattanooga Film Festival comes down to one thing: these folks not only know about but love film, in all its wild, wonderful and occasionally trashy glory.
Whether celebrating a new, unseen film that’s poised to take the world by storm or paying tribute to an ultra-cheesy TV movie from the ’70s, the CFF does nothing ironically or archly: they’re unapologetic about loving what they love, which gives us all the freedom to love what we love with like minded folks.
While the CFF has more short films, special events and workshops than one person could reasonably attend, it’s the full-length features that always get our full and undivided attention. Since 2020, we’ve made a game of trying to see every last feature and haven’t succeeded yet but have come pretty close.
Since 2020, many of the films that have ended up at the top of our Best Of lists (for both horror and non-horror) have come directly from the vaunted online halls of the Chattanooga Film Festival: films like Scare Package, Koko Di Koko Da, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, Coming Home in the Dark, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, Something in the Dirt and The Leech were all first seen via the CFF.
One of the biggest compliments we can pay the Chattanooga Film Festival, ultimately, is that we’ve had such a good time, virtually, that we’d happily make the trip (at some point in time) to experience the fest in person. While we have nothing, specifically, against either Chattanooga or Tennessee, we never would have entertained this notion before 2020.
At the end of the day, every film festival must be judged on a few simple criteria but the most obvious one should be: is it actually any fun? As someone who has eagerly looked forward to and massively enjoyed the (virtual) CFF for the past few years, I can answer that with a very resounding and definite “Fuck yeah!”