What To See At The 29th Annual Film Festival in the Big Easy
The city known for festivals, parties and celebrations that last all year long also has one of the fastest-growing film festivals in the country.
Now entering its 29th year of screening home-grown features and shorts alongside big name releases entering their awards season push, New Orleans Film Festival has over 25,000 attendees ready to watch. They’re also proving to be one of the more diverse festivals out there, with 50% or more films directed by women and gender non-conforming filmmakers. Also 45% or more of the films at each year’s festival are directed by filmmakers of color.
One of the most exciting features of the New Orleans Film Festival is its diverse slate of short form categories. Everything from narrative short films to experimental to web series to VR exhibitions are represented here.
We give you just a taste of what’s to come (and stay tuned from October 17–25, as we cover the New Orleans Film Festival live, offering reviews, coverage and other great insights into one of the country’s most exciting film festivals).
American Dreaming — dir. Matthew Hashiguchi
Director Matthew Hashiguchi has a very prolific documentary career focusing on a very specific and personal subject: diverse cultural, social and ethnic stories of American society, particularly in the U.S. South. As an Assistant Professor in Multimedia Film & Production at Georgia Southern, Hashiguchi knows the positive and negative influence a systemic force can wield on individual lives. American Dreaming tackles the national issue of undocumented immigrants receiving college education by following the stories of those affected in the state of Georgia in particular.
In the wave of Trump’s decision to phase out DACA, a documentary on the real effects of this are needed more than ever. By sticking to specific stories, the institutions and the lives at stake, Hashiguchi makes a very persuasive humanistic plea for acceptance and justice. Hashiguchi already has award-winning docs on his resume, including the feature-length Good Luck Soup, a film with two versions: one that went to PBS and the other that functions as an interactive web experience. He has VR documentaries in the pipeline that we can’t wait to see for ourselves.
Biidaaban: First Light — dir. Lisa Jackson
8 VR experience films will be playing at this year’s New Orleans Film Festival, and while we’re excited to see all of them, Biidaaban: First Light looks to be the most immersive. It takes place in an imaginary future, where the central hub of Toronto has been completely overtaken by nature. Indigenous pasts meet potential futures to create a film that’s both deeply historical and highly speculative fiction.
Director Lisa Jackson is clearly interested in some lofty themes here, including the idea of progress, identity and our role and relationship with nature. The graphics here look to be among some of the most cinematic yet committed to VR filmmaking. We’re all for new technologies pushing VR into a bright future…as long as they have stories as compelling as this one.
Don’t Be a Hero — dir. Peter Lee
This prolific music video director has chosen to go intensely cinematic with what feels like a female companion piece to the recent Old Man & The Gun. Starring Missi Pyle, Don’t Be A Hero follows a frustrated and bored middle-aged woman who injects suspense and excitement into her life by robbing banks. Both Lee and incredible DP Drew Daniels (They Come At Night, Krisha) create a sun-soaked palette that evokes a gritty New Hollywood take on the Southwest. Plus, Pyle looks to blow us away with a riveting and realistic portrayal of middle-aged malaise.
It’s already played at Sundance, but we can’t wait to see how this film plays for a Southern crowd.
Eve — dir. Susan Bay Nimoy
Much has already been said about the incredible story of Eve and its creator, Susan Bay Nimoy. Through a series of incredibly surprising but rewarding circumstances, Nimoy, the wife of the late Leonard Nimoy, was able to direct and star in a semi-autobiographical piece on age, grief and finding happiness. From all reports at Sundance, Eve looks to be a challenging watch (in a good way), forcing viewers to find the meaning between the silences and the poignant reflections.
This meditative (and beautiful) experience is near the top of our most anticipated list, and we just know that Nimoy & Co. will deliver.
The Language of Silence — Caterina Picone
It’s already been such a banner year for deaf awareness in cinema, so the Miniflix staff is eagerly anticipating this story of about a musician who loses his hearing, and must decide how he wants to go about treating it, while at the same time maintaining a relationship with his born-deaf girlfriend. This storyline has the potential to be one of the most complex and nuanced takes on deafness we’ve seen put on screen.
The behind-the-scenes story is just as groundbreaking. Louisiana director Caterina Picone was inspired by films like the Oscar-winning Stutterer to create a film about the deaf that would convey dialogue in completely visual terms. What resulted was many hours working with professional Deaf organizations to create the most accurate and deaf-inclusive short film ever.
We can’t wait to see the results.
Lotte that Silhouette Girl — dir. Elizabeth Beecherl, Carla Patullo
Short animated films in 2018 are definitely alive, well, and as advanced as technology currently allows; but everything has to start somewhere. That beginning is the basis for this playful retelling of the story of Lotte Reiniger, the female filmmakers who pioneered the idea of the “animated” film (yes, even before Disney). Her most well-known film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, along with others that still survive, show off a woman who was supremely talented and supremely imaginative. And what better way to tell this story of animated innovation than in an animated film?
My Home is a Dog that Lives Inside Me — dir. Adam Briggs
In a collaboration between Australian and Japanese creatives, My Home is a Dog that Lives Inside Me sees an aging folk singer return to a small village he once called his home. As he plays concerts and revisits familiar landscapes, reality and memory collide. It’s one of the most visually stunning films on the list, as it was shot in a gritty 16 mm that makes you truly feel that salty ocean air and fog-drenched vistas.
Just from the trailer, you get the strong sense of mood and vision Briggs brings to the piece. Watching this one on the big screen guarantees to be a real delight.
Negative Space — dir. Ru Kuwahata, Max Porter
This formally-daring stop motion effort has already made serious festival rounds (and netted an Oscar nomination) so we already know we’re dealing with short film greatness.
What’s it about exactly? The trailer doesn’t give away much of the premise. But, like all good stories, it seems to be about place, memory, family and identity. Just from the teaser alone, we can tell that the compositions and stop motion animation utilized is going to look incredible in theaters. Made by the prolific directing duo Max and Ru (from the U.S. and Japan respectively), they’ve already proven themselves to be nearly unmatched in the world of stop-motion design. The only limits to Negative Space will be in its imagination — which, we know from these two directors, that that won’t be quite so limiting at all.
Things With Feathers — dir. Jalea Jackson
Another regional spotlight, Things With Feathers is from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl, who experiences sexual abuse by her older cousin. We follow her attempt to reconcile this with the heightened spiritual influence of her family. Not unlike Beasts of the Southern Wild before it, Feathers looks to mix magical realism into a harsh scenario. Not only does director Jalea Jackson incorporate iconic Louisiana landscapes, but she also finds a way to create a real cinematic conversation around the cultural attitudes this state often represents.
Jackson is a young talent, so we can only hope New Orleans will embrace her, and her film, as well as the Shreveport and Atlanta Independent festivals have.
Spectrums — dir. Zohar Melinek Ezra
As part of New Orleans Film Festival’s selection of web series, Spectrums follows a transgender community in Israel, a place where being trans is not only a stigma but downright anathema to the family members, friends and neighboring society members.
Director Zohar Melinek Ezra wisely breaks these stories into individual episodes, allowing each person’s story to breathe and get the attention it deserves. By making this into an episodic story rather than a short or feature documentary also helps emphasize the sheer variety of experiences and histories of lives featured. Ezra bravely looks to shatter the group-think around transgender communities as a stable or fixed idea, and remind us of everyone’s unique complexity as a human being.
Thankfully we always have short cinema to remind us of that.
For more information on this year’s festival selections for the New Orleans Film Festival (October 17–25), visit their official film lineup.
And stay tuned on our Miniflix site for an entire week of reviews and coverage from the New Orleans Film Festivals.