The Narrative and Documentary Competition feature films for the 23rd annual New Orleans Film Festival were announced today by the New Orleans Film Society. The festival (October 11-18) chose their lineup from a record 1,250 submissions.
Of the fifteen competing feature films, ten are directed by women. All the films are having Louisiana premieres and winning filmmakers will get a $10,000 value camera package courtesy of Panavision.
A jury will determine each winner and the jury includes Michelle Satter (founder, Feature Film Program at the Sundance Institute), Neal Block (head of distribution, Magnolia Pictures), Tia Lessin (Academy Award-nominated director, “Trouble the Water”); Lois Vossen (founding and Emmy Award-winning series producer, “Independent Lens”); and Michael Lumpkin (executive director, International Documentary Association).
Jolene Pinder, Executive Director of the New Orleans Film Society, expressed her excitement over this year’s festival.
“We’re incredibly excited about this year’s competitive division lineup and believe it’s one of the strongest programs in the Festival’s history,” she said. “Our Festival has grown exponentially over the last three years. This year alone, we saw a 30% increase in submissions which made our task of selecting films more difficult than ever before.”
Feature films that won’t screen in competition, the short film lineup and the Louisiana film lineup will be announced later this month.
Advance tickets will be available for purchase October 1st for New Orleans Film Society members while tickets and passes will be available for the general public on October 8th. Society members also receive discounts on all festival events. If you’re interested in joining, visit the film society’s page here.
An official release of the narrative and documentary features in competition and their synopsis follows on the next page:Narrative:
Dead Dad (dir. Ken J. Adachi)
When their dad dies unexpectedly, estranged siblings Russell, Jane, and their adopted brother, Alex, come home to tend to his remains. Though a stubborn and proud bunch, they are able to agree on one thing: nobody wants to keep the ashes. With little guidance and mounds of resentment among them, the three must work together to achieve a proper goodbye. The man who split them apart brings them closer together as the siblings learn what it means to be a family without their dad.
Four (dir. Joshua Sanchez)
A steamy July 4th night brings four people together in two tales of seduction and conflicted desire. Joe is a black, middle-aged, married man out on an Internet date with June, a white teenage boy. Abigayle is Joe’s precocious daughter, out herself with a hot, wisecracking, Latino basketball player named Dexter. As the two couples get to know each other intimately, their realities are tested, and the outcome is bracing. Based on the play by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Obie-winning playwright Christopher Shinn, Four stars Wendell Pierce, acclaimed for his roles in the HBO series The Wire and Treme and Emory Cohen from NBC’s Smash.
Francine (dir. Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky)
Academy Award winner Melissa Leo gives a fierce and restrained performance as Francine, a woman struggling to find her place in a downtrodden lakeside town after leaving behind a life in prison. Taking a series of jobs working with animals, Francine turns away others and instead seeks intimacy in the most unlikely of places. Gritty, elliptical, and voyeuristic, Francine is a portrait of a near-silent misfit and her fragile first steps in an unfamiliar world.
It’s a Disaster (dir. Todd Berger)
Four couples meet for Sunday brunch only to discover they are stuck in a house together as the world may be about to end. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Disaster is one of the funniest films of recent vintage. The low-budget production looks good on the big screen, and in the hands of the right distributor could realize its strong potential as a theatrical release, fueled by critical response and word of mouth.”
Leave Me Like You Found Me (dir. Adele Romanski)
After a year of heartbreak and loneliness, Erin and Cal have forgotten enough of each other’s flaws to get back together. They take what they hope will be a romantic camping trip in Sequoia National Park. Alone in the majestic landscape, they begin to revisit their past relationship. As cracks start to show each is left wondering whether the other has changed enough to make it work this time.
Now, Forager (dir. Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin)
Lucien and Regina are foragers – they gather wild mushrooms and sell them to New York restaurants. Their lifestyle is simple, their income unstable. As Regina seeks more stability and Lucien wants to devote himself to full-time nomadic foraging, their individual desires put the marriage to a test. A food lovers’ film.
Pilgrim Song (dir. Martha Stephens)
Seeking escape from his stalled relationship and unhappy place in the world, James, a recently pink- slipped music teacher, sets out to hike Kentucky’s arduous Sheltowee Trace Trail. Ignoring his girlfriend Joan’s plea to stay in Louisville and look for work, James sets out on his two-month journey in hopes of discovering the source of his restless dissatisfaction. Named the Oxford American Best Southern Film at the Little Rock Film Festival.
Bayou Blue (dir. Alix Lambert and David McMahon)
In a poverty-stricken area of southeastern Louisiana, 23 men were murdered between 1997 and 2006. Local police departments had great difficulty finding the perpetrator, at least in part because Hurricane Katrina put great demands on them around 2005. This documentary reconstructs the events and reveals some of the least attractive aspects of this mysterious swamp region: the poverty, the racism, the drug problems, the ever-present environmental pollution, a lack of coordination between the various agencies involved, and the reasons behind this monster remaining at large for so long.
Call Me Kuchu (dir.Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright)
This film describes the life of David Kato, Uganda’s first openly gay activist, and his comrades-in- arms. His is a life constantly pervaded by fear of attack, but also characterised by moments of happiness and celebration. The film contains the hate-filled and sarcastic tirades of Christian fanatics, but also introduces us to Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, the only cleric to position himself on the side of the persecuted gay community and offer them his protection from attacks.
Captive Beauty (dir. Jared Goodman)
This film is about four female inmates raised on the streets of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin, Colombia. Jailed for murder, kidnapping, revolution, and con-artistry, these women are brought together by a surreal beauty pageant held inside the prison walls. The week-long pageant transforms the prison into colorful and controlled mayhem, and serves as a jumping off point to explore the contestants’ lives.It is a tale both universal and entirely unique, sexy and brutal, where themes of innocence and femininity are turned on their heads and the criminal, for a day, becomes queen.
A Girl Like Her (dir. Ann Fessler)
A Girl Like Her reveals the hidden history of over a million young women who became pregnant in the 1950s and 60s and were banished to maternity homes to give birth, surrender their children, and return home alone. They were told to keep their secret, move on and forget. The film combines footage from educational films and newsreels of the time period about dating, sex, “illegitimate” pregnancy, and adoption—that both reflected and shaped the public’s understanding of single pregnancy during that time—with the voices of these mothers as they speak today, with hindsight, about the long-term impact of surrender and silence on their lives.
The Informant (dir. Jamie Meltzer)
Informant takes a spellbinding look at Brandon Darby. Vilified by some and venerated by others as the FBI informant largely responsible for the imprisonment of two youths following the 2008 Republican National Convention, Darby was once a charismatic activist mythologized by the American Left for his aid work in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The film meticulously constructs a portrait of his life—before and after the death threats—through intimate interviews with Darby and tense reenactments starring the man himself.
The Mechanical Bride (dir. Allison de Fren)
The fantasy of creating the perfect woman is as old as Pygmalion, but how close is it to becoming a reality? This provocative documentary reveals the state of the art in artificial companions—from life-sized silicone sex dolls to humanoid robots—and offers a surprisingly human, at times humorous, look at the men who build, animate, and love them.
Trash Dance (dir. Andrew Garrison)
Sometimes inspiration can be found in unexpected places. Choreographer Allison Orr finds beauty and grace in garbage trucks, and in the men and women who pick up our trash. Filmmaker Andrew Garrison follows Orr as she joins city sanitation workers on their daily routes to listen, learn, and ultimately to convince them to collaborate in a unique dance performance. Hard working, often carrying a second job, their lives are already full with work, family and dreams of their own. But some step forward, and after months of rehearsal, two dozen trash collectors and their trucks perform an extraordinary spectacle. On an abandoned airport runway, thousands of people show up to see how in the world a garbage truck can “dance.”
Ultimate Christian Wrestling (dir. Jae-Ho Chang and Tara Autovino)
In 2006, two filmmakers fly to rural Georgia to capture a traveling pro-wrestling Christian ministry with the intention of coming back to New York with a documentary about the ridiculousness of American religious expression. What they find instead are three men within the ministry using their faith as a way to guide them through the most dire of circumstances, a faith that clashes not only with the conservative religious views of the Bible Belt, but also with the people who have chosen to reject Christianity as a direct result of its overbearing presence in the South.