NOFF Returns

Clint Bowie, artistic director of the New Orleans Film Festival, shares the two films you cannot miss this October.
illustration by Tony Healey

Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.

“We see film as a tool with power, which means we want to see people in it that are representative of the community at large.”

Those are the words of Clint Bowie, artistic director of the New Orleans Film Festival (NOFF), which celebrates its 29th year Oct. 17-25. Bowie says the diversity in the festival continues to grow every year. Of the over 220 films that will be showcased in locations around the city, 59 percent were directed by women or gender non-conforming individuals and 54 percent were directed by people of color.

“Those are both stats that the festival is proud to embrace,” he says, noting that including more diversity behind the camera tends to lead to “richer, more representative and more diverse films.”

Bowie has served as artistic director of NOFF since 2010 and says the New Orleans Film Society — producers of NOFF — has also worked hard to serve as a valuable resource for local filmmakers year-round.

“Five years ago, we started our Emerging Voices program, which is designed for filmmakers of color based in Louisiana,” he says. “The program takes six to eight filmmakers at a time and provides them with one-on-one meetings with industry heavy-hitters.”

In April of this year, the society debuted its Southern Producers Lab — a three-day intensive experience that offered 13 emerging producers from around the South with workshops, panels, one-on-one mentoring sessions and community-building opportunities that addressed issues including funding, sales and distribution, licensing and festival strategy. It’s free to apply for the lab, and applications will be accepted in November for the 2019 Southern Producers Lab.

So, what are the must-sees at this year’s festival?

From director Steve McQueen (not THAT Steve McQueen, the one that directed the 2013 Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave”) has a new film called “Widows.”

“It’s about these widows of noted heist men that end up pulling off their own big heist,” says Bowie. “It’s obviously an action movie but with McQueen’s artistic eye. It’s on a lot of awards prognosticators’ radars.”

Another of the festival’s highlights this year will be a documentary film called “Buckjumping.”

“It’s from director Lily Keber, whose film “Bayou Maharaja” closed out our 2013 festival [and went on to win the Oxford American Award for Best Southern Film and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ Documentary of the Year]. “The film focuses on second lines, so it’s New Orleans from start to finish,” he says.

“Buckjumping” will be the first film NOFF has ever run at the Smoothie King Center.

“It’s going to be huge,” Bowie says. “We’re expecting a really good turnout, and of course there’s going to be second lining.”

Bowie says there’s a clear theme to this year’s festival.

“We’re playing up the ties between New Orleans and the Caribbean a lot this year,” he says, “in part because of the city’s 300th anniversary. Our closing night film will actually be “A Tuba to Cuba,” which was directed by a local filmmaker named T.G. Herrington. The film follows the Preservation Hall Band as they retrace their roots.”

Attendance for NOFF pulls from cities throughout the South, including Houston, Shreveport and Atlanta, drawing around 20,000 people last year. This year, Bowie says that number may climb a bit to 25,000.

“Our hub is the Contemporary Arts Center, where we’ll have a VR showcase, music video lounge and interactive exhibits,” Bowie says. “We also have two venues there that seat 200 and 180 people.”

NOFF will also be showcasing films at locations including the Prytania Theatre, The Broad Theater, The Orpheum Theater and for the second year at a 180-seat theater inside the new headquarters of The New Orleans Advocate on St. Charles Avenue.

NOFF was recognized as one of the coolest festivals in the world in 2017 by MovieMaker Magazine, in part due to the festival’s nightly parties.

“The only way to get into the parties is to buy a festival pass, so of course I recommend that,” Bowie says, “but we also sell individual tickets to films which will go on sale about two weeks out from the show.”

For NOFF’s lineup and to purchase tickets, visit