Film based on Noble crematory scandal coming to Chattanooga

Film based on Noble crematory scandal coming to Chattanooga

October 2nd, 2012 by Casey Phillips in News

Caskets from the former Tri-State Crematory are seen in this file photograph provided by the Walker County Sheriff's Department.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

On Oct. 12, Carmike Majestic 12 will screen an independent film based on the Tri-State Crematory scandal.

"Sahkanaga" will be shown exclusively at the Majestic at least through Oct. 18, according to Todd Coffman, Carmike Cinemas Chattanooga city manager.

"They wanted to have a release locally so the people who were in the movie and had connections to the events that happened can come see it," Coffman said. "If the public likes it and it continues to do very well, we may extend [the screening] a little bit longer."

The film is a dramatic story based on the events at the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Ga., where more than 300 uncremated bodies were discovered strewn about the Northwest Georgia property in 2002.

Operator Ray Brent Marsh was sentenced to a 12-year prison term after pleading guilty to dumping corpses in the woods and in burial vaults and giving grieving families cement dust instead of cremated remains, according to Times Free Press archives.

"Sahkanaga" -- Cherokee for "Great Blue Hills of God" -- was shot on site in Walker County. The film was written and directed by John Henry Summerour, 35, a Chickamauga native and son of a Methodist minister now living in New York City, according to his Facebook profile.

Summerour's father presided over funerals for some whose bodies were disposed of improperly at Tri-State, the director said in a news release. He returned to Northwest Georgia to make the film as a "community outreach endeavor," according to the statement.

The 80-minute film stars Trevor Neuhoff, 20, a Boulder, Colo., native who moved to Chattanooga at 13. According to the Internet Movie Database, Neuhoff made his film debut in Summerour's 2008 short film, "Chickamauga."

In "Sahkanaga," Neuhoff plays Paul, a teenager who stumbles upon the first body to be found. Since his father is the funeral home owner, Paul must deal with the stresses of keeping his discovery secret.

Variety.com called "Sahkanaga" "a richly atmospheric drama ... somewhere between 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Blue Velvet.'" According to the Internet Movie Database, the film won the audience award for best narrative film at the 2011 Atlanta Film Festival, the R.I.F.F. Jury Award for Best Film at the 2011 Rome International Film Festival USA, and the staff prize for narrative feature at 2011 San Francisco Indiefest.

On Sept. 23, the film received awards for best dramatic feature film and the audience award for favorite feature at the Secret City Film Festival in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.