The Screen Scene: The 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival Virtual Edition preview

The Screen Scene with Scott Phillips

(Image from Chattanooga Film Festival)

You don’t need me to tell you that the coronavirus is changing the face of the world. Until six weeks ago, I thought Zoom was just a 1970’s TV show that used to be broadcast on public television when I was a kid. Now, I know it’s how most of us conduct our business meetings in these socially-distanced times. Healthcare has changed.

Business has changed. The economy has changed. But, here at The Screen Scene, I’m looking at how entertainment has changed. With multiplexes closed and film festivals (big and small) across the world (Cannes, Venice, etc.) being cancelled, how do film lovers get their fill of new, cutting edge films, interviews with filmmakers, and master classes about film-making?

Chris Dortch and the Chattanooga Film Festival are offering one creative solution over the Memorial Day Weekend. From Friday, May 22nd through Monday, May 25th, my favorite festival from the state of Tennessee is taking their programming online. CFF has partnered with Microsoft and other tech companies to provide a “virtual film festival” that delivers all the exciting content to audiences while simultaneously protecting the filmmakers from piracy and leaving their future distribution options in play.

This virtual edition of CFF will see the world premiere of a pair of new genre films. The Wanting Mare from director Nicholas Ashe Bateman is a tale of a family of women who pass recurring dreams down from one generation to the next. This dark fantasy film was partially crowd-funded through IndieGoGo.

Skull originates from Brazil and follows a Jason Voorhees-type killer on the loose on the streets of Sao Paolo. It promises to scratch that gonzo midnight movie itch. Although it’s not a world premiere, CFF 2020 will offer the second U.S. screening of Jumbo starring Noémie Merlant (Portrait of a Lady on Fire). The film had its world premiere at Sundance in February and garnered significant critical praise at that festival.

Although movies may obviously be your top priority at a film festival, the one-of-a-kind interviews, Q&A’s and podcasting sessions are always a blast. The virtual edition of CFF 2020 will have actor Ice-T and director/cinematographer Ernest Dickerson discussing their classic 1994 thriller Surviving the Game. The film was an obvious source of inspiration for the 2020 release The Hunt, so it couldn’t be a more timely film-making discussion.

CBS All Access will soon be unveiling its brand new mini-series of Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s the tale of a super flu that wipes out about 99% of the Earth’s population. For some, that may be a little too topical for a 2020 TV binge. However, it’s definitely the perfect time for southern, drive-in loving film critic Joe Bob Briggs to interview writer/director Mick Garris about his 1994 adaptation of King’s epic novel that was recently released on Blu-ray for the first time.

Joe Dante, the famed director of Piranha, The Howling and Gremlins, will be accepting a lifetime achievement award from CFF 2020 and discussing his lengthy film-making career. The Shock Waves horror podcast, the Junkfood Cinema podcast, the Screen Drafts podcast, and the Scripts Gone Wild podcast will all be recording new live episodes during the festival, and audience members will be able to see these podcasters during their broadcast.

These are just my personal highlights. You can head over to for all of the details. Passes go on sale on Friday, May 15th. You can choose the level of access that fits your budget. The VIP pass that grants access to every film and special event is only $ 100.00 for the entire four-day weekend. So, by film festival standards, the virtual edition of the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival is a bargain.

I’ll be back in early June with an episode of The Screen Scene to give my thoughts on the online festival experience and review some of the films I see over Memorial Day Weekend. I hope you join me and support a worthy attempt to keep film festivals rolling along during COVID-19.

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