NOFF Opens Amidst ‘Pelican Brief’ Memories
I “starred” in the 1993 Warner Bros. motion picture “The Pelican Brief,” but you would never know it. As a background extra, I was directed to bump into Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts as she staggered down Bourbon Street after her Tulane University law professor boyfriend (played by Sam Shepard) was just murdered by a car bomb.
I bumped into JR on cue several times. Take after take I showed motivation and mastered my blocking. I thought I was convincing, but my 15 seconds of fame ended up on the cutting room floor.
Were the producers afraid I’d upstage the “Pretty Woman?" Not likely, but I will always be proud to say I participated in the filming of a movie shot locally in Louisiana.
Another movie shot in Louisiana, “Green Book,” was presented at the Orpheum Theater yesterday, at the opening of the 29th New Orleans Film Festival (NOFF) that takes place through Thursday, Oct. 25, in venues across New Orleans including the Contemporary Arts Center’s 1,800-seat and 300-seat screening rooms. It’s a film that recently won the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book” is based on a real-life music tour by pianist Don Shirley and driver-bodyguard Tony Lip and is already being considered a 2019 Academy Awards contender.
Reps for the 29th NOFF say they are showcasing their most diverse lineup in the festival’s history with 80 percent of the selected films having been directed by women and directors of color and 27 percent made in Louisiana.
“The New Orleans Film Festival continues to showcase quality films produced in Louisiana, and to provide educational opportunities for our local filmmakers,” said Chris Stelly, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment (a division of Louisiana Economic Development). “As the festival embarks on its 29thyear, the films scheduled this year are simply incredible. It is especially meaningful that the festival kicks off with ‘Green Book,’ which was filmed here in Louisiana. ‘Green Book’ is certainly generating a lot of awards buzz and will perhaps further Louisiana’s tradition of Oscar -caliber movies, such as ‘Ray’ and ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’ Additionally, ‘Green Book’ provided an estimated $20.5 million in local spending and an estimated $14.8 million in Louisiana resident payroll. As the state’s entertainment industry continues to grow and advance, it also supports our creative culture, which includes the many writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers that reside here.”
“Audiences are hungry for trailblazing films, dynamic perspectives and broader representation on-screen and behind the camera,” said New Orleans Film Society’s executive director Fallon Young. “We hope that #NOFF2018 will be site of discovery – for stories less often celebrated, for creative voices that aren’t prioritized for mainstream Hollywood and for audiences who are drawn to films that reflect and shape our culture today.”
Additional screenings at the 29th NOFF will include:
• Thursday, Oct. 18, The Prytania Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Spotlight Film – “Wildlife” is Paul Dano’s directorial debut and is about 14-year-old Joe, the only child of Jeanette and Jerry, a housewife and a golf pro (played by actors Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal), in a small town in 1960s Montana. Nearby, an uncontrolled forest fire rages close to the Canadian border, and when Jerry loses his job, and his sense of purpose, he decides to join the cause of fighting the fire, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves.
• Saturday, Oct. 20, The Prytania Theatre, 2:15 p.m.
Centerpiece Film – “Widows” is the new film from director Steve McQueen whose last feature “12 Years A Slave” was a multiple Oscar® winner. A blistering, modern-day thriller set against the backdrop of crime, passion and corruption, “Windows” stars Oscar-winner Viola Davis and is a story about four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities.
• Monday, Oct. 22, CAC, 7:45 p.m.
Special Presentation – “Cane River” will be shown as a new 35mm archival print by the Academy Film Archive, mastered in 4K by IndieCollect with support from the Roger & Chaz Ebert Foundation. The film was written and directed by Horace Jenkins in 1982 but unseen for more than 36 years due in part to Jenkins’s untimely death after the film’s premiere in New Orleans. Set in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the film features an almost entirely African-American cast and confronts issues of racism.
• Thursday, Oct. 25, CAC, 8:00 p.m.
Closing Night – “A Tuba to Cuba” follows the Preservation Hall Jazz Band as they retrace their musical roots to the shores of Cuba. The documentary underscores the festival’s programmatic focus on films from and about the Caribbean and will be followed by a special performance by the band.
Festivalgoers can jump the velvet ropes with multiple pass packages including an All Access Pass, a Weekender Pass, an Unlimited Film Pass, a Six Film Pass and this year’s new Student Pass.
All-Access Pass holders enjoy free tickets to all screenings with priority entrance to theaters, access to the Festival VIP Lounge and to parties every night of the festival.