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Home | News | The Chattanooga Film Festival Announces 2022 Award Winners

The Chattanooga Film Festival Announces 2022 Award Winners

The 9th annual Chattanooga Film Festival wrapped last week, and celebrated genre films, up and coming filmmakers, and a third successful virtual run.

Chattanooga, Tenn. (July 8, 2022) – The Chattanooga Film Festival celebrated another extremely successful virtual edition, which wrapped last Wednesday, June 29th. The 9th edition consisted of 40 feature films, 72 short films, and plenty of filmmaker Q&A’s along with unique virtual events.

Awards were handed out among the features and events, with Eric Pennycoff’s The Leech taking home the Best Feature prize. The film served as the Opening Night Film of the festival, and the commentary from cast and crew during The Leech Live Commentary event will serve as the commentary track for the film’s upcoming release via Arrow Films in the UK, US, IE and Canada this December.

CFF’s After Hours Opening Night Film The Ones You Didn’t Burn, written and directed by Elise Finnerty, earned the Best Feature by First Time Director. Best International Feature was granted to filmmaker Nikias Chryssos’ A Pure Place, which was a buzzed about film among attendees. Ryan Maxey’s One Road to Quartzsite was awarded the Best Documentary for its beautiful, poetic, and observational portrait of people trying to live outside of the constraints of American society, or to simply escape the winter.

Special Jury awards were handed out to not one, but two features this year. First to Cryo, an ambitious sci-fi feature from student filmmaker Barrett Burgin. The second jury prize went to the hilariously wonderful Make Popular Movies, helmed by Bryan Connolly.

Shane Brady’s Breathing Happy took home the Audience Award for Best Feature. Critic Michelle Swope summed it up in her review, “Breathing Happy is an intimate, beautiful exploration of recovery and grief presented in such a passionate way. It’s very easy to fall in love with this film.” Clearly the CFF audience fell in love with the film.

On the short film side of things, Best Short went to Dirtbag from filmmaker Karsten Runquist, with the Audience Award for Best Short going to Anthony Cousin’s Everytime We Meet For Ice Cream Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes. Last, but certainly not least, Allison Shrum was awarded with the Tennessee Filmmaker Award for her short Roger Must Die and the Student Filmmaker Award bestowed upon John Otteson for Wish You Were Here.

This year’s Secret Screening was Rustic Films’ Something in the Dirt, making CFF attendees the second audience behind the Sundance Film Festival to feast their eyes on the mind-bending film from Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead and David Lawson Jr. In addition to the Secret Screening, the audience was also able to view a snippet of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. Yes, the CFF team Rick Rolled the audience.

Rustic Films’ David Lawson Jr. also spearheaded the 3rd Annual Pitch Competition, with help from filmmaker and journalist BJ Colangelo, who won the first year of the competition. From the submitted scripts, 7 projects were pitched during the live streamed event, with Wolfe Macready winning the competition for their unique project, The Dream of Drowning. Lawson says, “It was clear from the onset of Wolfe’s pitch that this story was incredibly important and personal. Their pitch was passionate and informative but most of all captivating. One of the real joys of working in film is our ability to create fantastic worlds that can help us explain or work through very real issues and situations. The pitch for THE DREAM OF DROWNING took me somewhere magical and then ripped my heart out. I look forward to assisting them on the steps of the journey.”

In 2020, CFF was the first film festival to successfully embrace the virtual route, complementing their programming with a live in-studio component and the ever popular Discord server dedicated to the festival lineup.

Although many events have returned to in-person this year, festival organizers were faced with having to secure venues around the time Omicron was reaching its height. Shortly after internally making the call to go virtual among team and board members, the Sundance Film Festival canceled their in-person portion. Festival director Chris Dortch says, “It did feel like a risk to go in-person with the uncertainty at the time. On the upside, throughout the festival we saw comments from attendees via social media who truly appreciate fests that offer virtual components, as they are folks who would not be able to make it to a festival in-person due to a variety of circumstances. It thrills me to know that we are making these films accessible to audiences who may not otherwise get to go to a film festival in-person.”

With the popularity of the Discord Watch Parties this year, CFF organizers are planning a series of virtual events throughout the coming months. To stay up-to-date on all events, you can sign up for their mailing list at chattfilmfest.org.


Best Feature

dir. Eric Pennycoff

Best International Feature


dir. Nikias Chryssos

Best Feature By A First-Time Director 


dir. Elise Finnerty

Audience Award Best Feature 


 dir. Shane Brady

Audience Award Best Short


dir. Anthony Cousins

Best Short Film


dir. Karsten Runquist

Best Student Short Film


dir. John Otteson

Tennessee Filmmaker Award


dir. Allison Shrum

Special Jury Prize


dir. Barrett Burgin

Special Jury Prize


 dir. Bryan Connolly

Best Documentary


dir. Ryan Maxey


About the Chattanooga Film Festival:

The Chattanooga Film Festival (CFF) loves everything about cinema: the films, filmmakers, and the open-minded cinephiles that have watched films with us since early popup screenings as the Mise En Scenesters film club. The club evolved into the first-ever Chattanooga Film Festival, which began in 2014 and has been quickly making a name for itself among film lovers, filmmakers, and the entertainment industry. Over the years the festival has been hailed as the “Southern Sundance” by Southern Living Magazine and was chosen as one of the “Bloody Best Genre Fests in the World” for three years running by MovieMaker Magazine and has been included annually in “Dread Central’s Best Horror Festivals in the World” since 2019.


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