Expanding New Orleans Film Festival Showcases Films, Food, and Fun

Iain Blair
Variety

It’s movie time in the Big Easy once again.

Celebrating its 27th year, the annual New Orleans Film Festival will take place Oct. 12-20 at venues across the city.

This time around, the fest will have a far bigger presence in the downtown area, according to New Orleans Film Society executive director Jolene Pinder.

“We’ve grown so much in recent years, we decided to really concentrate everything in one area,” she says. “We’re introducing several new venues and areas that will create a walkable downtown campus for the festival, giving our audiences the chance to see even more films and just hang out.”

To this end, NOFF has partnered with Ace Hotel New Orleans, which opened earlier this year. “It will serve as our headquarters during the festival,” adds Pinder, “and it will also host a pop-up theater and include a VIP Lounge on the roof, by the pool, for our filmmakers.”

Roundtable discussions and panels there will also take place in the aerie.

The fest is using another new venue, the Entergy Giant Screen Theater, which features an old Imax screen. “It’s huge — 70-feet wide and 50-feet tall, and recently got converted to DCP,” Pinder says.

Films scheduled to screen there include director Bill Purple’s “The Book of Love,” starring and co-produced by Jessica Biel.

“It was shot here, which we love, and Jessica will attend the screening,” reports Pinder. “We’ll screen the new David Byrne documentary, ‘Contemporary Color,’ which was directed by Bill and Turner Ross, who live in New Orleans. It’s all about synchronized dance routines involving flags and rifles, and we think it’ll be phenomenal on the giant screen.”

NOFF will also spotlight Cuban and Caribbean cinema and shorts.

In between opening and closing night (see highlights, this page), NOFF will screen close to 240 films, chosen from almost 4,000 submissions from an open call to independent filmmakers.

“So we saw an increase of almost 15% in submissions from just last year,” says Pinder, “which indicates how much we’re growing.”

Entries came from 115 countries. Local, Louisiana-made, film submissions increased 43%.

And tellingly, given the current debate about the lack of diversity in the industry, of the final selections, 45% of films are from female directors and 36% from directors of color. “It says a lot about the festival,” Pinder sums up.

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