Every October, there comes a festival that seems to mark the true start of fall. The air gets cooler, our want for warm drinks begins, and life in New Orleans becomes almost cinematic. New Orleans Film Festival ushers in the season with red carpets, panels, parties, special guests, and films. With over 230 films being screened across eight days, New Orleans Film Festival is a film lover’s dream. Throughout the festival’s eight days, it serves as the epicenter of culture, bringing never-before-seen documentaries, animated shorts, music videos, and feature films to New Orleans from around the world.
Actors, writers, and directors converge on the city to engage with 30,000+ attendees. Part-competition, the festival also shines a light on up-and-coming filmmakers. This year, 50 percent of the films were made in the American South, and Louisiana-made films represent 26 percent of the lineup. Films directed by women and gender non-conforming directors account for 54 percent of the lineup, and films helmed by directors of color make up 56 percent of the lineup.
The New Orleans Film Festival celebrates 30 years this fall. Films will be screened in multiple venues throughout the city, which you can find out more about here. Here’s what to look out for at the festival.
Opening and Closing Night Films
The opening and closing night films are two of the biggest nights of Film Fest. Opening night features Marriage Story, a compassionate portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together. The film stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver with Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta as co-stars. Film Fest will close with Harriet, a biopic based on the extraordinary life of Harriet Tubman. Marriage Story will be screened at the Orpheum Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Harriet will be screened at the Orpheum Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7:45 p.m.
Burning Cane, directed by 19-year-old New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) alum Phillip Youmans, will serve as a Centerpiece Film for the festival. The film, starring Wendell Pierce, is set amongst the cane fields of rural Louisiana, where a deeply religious woman struggles to reconcile her convictions of faith with the love she has for her alcoholic son and troubled preacher. The other Centerpiece Film this year is Waves, traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. Burning Cane will be screened at the Orpheum Theater on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. Waves will be screened at the Ranch Theater at the CAC on Friday, Oct. 18 at 6:45 p.m.
Narrative Feature Films
The Narrative Features category includes 10 films in competition and two films out of competition. Collectively, these films come from the USA, Dominican Republic, Croatia, Vietnam, Canada, and Norway. The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open tells the story of two Indigenous women from vastly different backgrounds in Canada as they find their worlds colliding when one of them flees a violent domestic attack. Catching Up tells the story of a man living with muscular dystrophy who embarks on a series of romantic misadventures after falling for an able-bodied woman. Whether your taste in films is drama, comedy, or thriller, there’s something for everyone in these features.
This year’s Spotlight Films include the highly-anticipated Vatican story, The Two Popes, as well as Jojo Rabbit, a World War II satire by Academy Award®–nominated, New Zealand native director Taika Waititi. Other Spotlight Films include Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a story of a young painter commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of a woman without her knowing, A Hidden Life, a film inspired by the story of a man who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II, and 12 other films.
The Louisiana Features competition includes seven films, one of which is Centerpiece Film Burning Cane. Explore the tale of a young mother struggling with addiction who ventures into the Louisiana swamp to reconnect with her estranged father in Lost Bayou. Join two small-town friends on their journey across the American Southwest in Easy Does It, and discover a celebration of the culture of New Orleans through the lens of music in Up From The Streets. *Note that the Up From The Streets which was originally scheduled to debut on Saturday, October 19 at 1p.m. has been rescheduled to Tuesday, October 22 at 7:45p.m. at the Orpheum Theater due to the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel building collapse.
The Documentary Features include 23 films, 10 of which are in competition for “Best Documentary Feature.” Of those, see a film documenting the dangers of crossing the US-Mexico border with Border South, a film chronicling the rise of Haitian-American jazz singer Cecile Mclorin Salvant with Singular, and much more. Though not in competition, documentaries such as A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleading Problem, The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion, and Gay Chorus Deep South are highlights of the festival.
Shorts, Music Videos, and More
Short films are another highlight of the festival, spanning multiple genres including documentary, animated, experimental, and Louisiana shorts. These films will be screened together in blocks. Doc Shorts: Conversations with History, for example, is a block of short films centered around different cultures and the challenges its members face. Louisiana Shorts: Storm Warning is a block of short films focused on the Gulf Coast region as it faces climate change and natural disasters. Music videos round out the festival and will be screened separately, prior to feature films and short film blocks.
Various passes are available for New Orleans Film Fest, including both all access passes and single-film tickets. All access and weekender passes are available now, and individual tickets will go on sale to the public on September 30. Individual tickets for pass holders and New Orleans Film Society members will go on sale on September 23 at noon. Find more information on tickets here.