Just how big a deal is it that the inaugural Chattanooga Film Festival starts today?
The smart answer is that we will not know for a couple of years. If it grows and is sustainable, we'd all probably say it is/was a very big deal. As it is today, I'd say it's still a noteworthy occasion.
It's important to note that a true film festival is not about marathon showings of popular movies. They are about pushing the envelope.
We've had other film festivals and film series here before. The Arts & Education Council produced an annual series for years. The Lookout Wild Film Festival, which focuses on outdoor adventure films, was staged just a couple of weeks ago and was a big success.
Just a few weeks before that, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera produced its second annual International Film Music Festival, which featured some of the biggest names in the movie scoring industry here to talk about their work.
We even have an anime film festival.
Chattanooga Film Festival executive director, founder and lead programmer Chris Dortch II reported a couple of weeks ago that enough CFF VIP badges had already been sold to break even, which is great news, especially considering our propensity for procrastination.
So why now? Dave Porfiri is a local filmmaker who has been preaching the word for a half a decade or more. He believes a strong film community is the missing link in our city's burgeoning art scene. As in so many things, it's all about timing, and he thinks the city is ready to embrace a large-scale festival.
"We just weren't ready before," he said. "I think it's great that we have one, and I think it means Chattanooga has finally arrived."
So here's what I hope happens. First, I hope the Chattanooga Film Festival draws so many people that next year they have to add more screens to the two they are using this weekend at the Majestic 12.
Secondly, I'd love to see the folks at Lookout Wild join forces with the Chattanooga Film Festival and the International Film Music Festival and create a huge film festival that would draw film fans from around the world. It's not as far-fetched as it might seem as each group is aware of the other and are open to the idea.
In part, pre-existing schedules prevented it from happening already. As you can imagine, each group was focused on making their event work and not what someone else was doing.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...