Director Issa Lopez offers a violent look at the blurred shapes of fantasy and reality in her new film, “Tigers are Not Afraid.” (Image: Videocine)

The 2018 Chattanooga Film Festival starts Thursday, and movie buffs across the country are getting ready to descend upon the Scenic City to fill all 44,000 square feet of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

The fest will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with a trio of screenings for “Lowlife,” “Madeline’s Madeline” and the “WTF (Watch These Films)” block of shorts.

You can purchase tickets and see the full schedule of films here.

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This year’s schedule includes films from all over the globe, focusing on adaptive filmmakers who aren’t looking for easy narratives and simplistic emotional connections. These films dig deep into our subconscious, revealing things which we’d like to keep tucked away in the shadows and away from prying eyes. There are also films that burst across your field of view like dazzling fireworks and offer complex and often dark stories of survival, love and desperation. You might not have heard of some of these before attending the festival, but you’ll certainly be thinking of them for weeks to come.

In an effort to offer a guide of sorts for the Chattanooga Film Festival, I have compiled a list of 5 films which I feel are essential watching for you to get the best experience from the festival. This is by no means a comprehensive list of must-see movies (come find me at the festival if you want more suggestions), only a handful of recommendations that’ll leave you spellbound, amazed and ready to see them again the second the credits start to roll. Check them out below with their respective trailers.

Tigers Are Not Afraid
Following the lives of 5 children who are trying to survive in the middle of the Mexican drug war, this film blends reality and fantasy in a way that recalls director Guillermo Del Toro’s films, with moments of celebratory magic interspersed with bursts of gruesome violence, fear and innocence. Its images are not easily shaken, and it provides a heartbreaking reminder of the often desperate situations that force children to grow up before they’re really given time to be kids.

Gemini
Written and directed by Aaron Katz, “Gemini” is an atmospheric neo-noir that propels itself through a narrative of crime and mystery that’ll have you guessing and sitting precipitously on the edge of your seat. Doused in a haze of celebrity vanity and punctuated by comments on the ills of social adoration, the film works its own specific magic on its audience, pulling you into its world of sleazy personalities and dogged investigations.

Let the Corpses Tan
Gold can make people do terrible and funny things. Just ask the thieves in “Let the Corpses Tan,” a bizarro-western that looks at the aftermath of a heist that is anything but peaceful. Filled with beautiful Mediterranean landscapes, moral flexibility and a substantial level of violence, it’s a film that finds considerable substance in its over-the-top style and imagery.

I Kill Giants

We all have developed coping mechanisms to help us deal with our everyday problems. But for Barbara Thorson (played by Madison Wolfe), sometimes it takes a bit of giant slaying to ease the world around her back into a state of semi-normalcy. Blurring the line between reality and metaphorical fantasy, “I Kill Giants” attempts to show just how extreme our reactions to life can be, and how we can use those feelings to forge an honest (if at times mythical) reality for ourselves.

Lu Over the Wall
On his latest animated film, director Masaaki Yuasa explores the life of Kai, a budding musician whose family has recently moved from Tokyo to a small fishing village. When word gets around about his talent, he is invited to join a band with a few of his classmates, and it’s through the band that he meets and befriends a mermaid named Lu whose fins turn into feet when she hears their music. She soon begins singing with the band, discovering a mysterious talent that leads to clashes with the people in Kai’s village. Vivid and brilliant in color and technique, “Lu Over the Wall” is a joyous and energetic look at the ways in which we try to find our place in the world.

Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on FacebookTwitter or by emailThe opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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