Numbers tell the Cinema on the Bayou story. Just look at what the film festival has in store this year.
More than 180 films; eight days of screenings; and 200 filmmakers from throughout the world are scheduled to attend.
Featuring dozens of world, U.S. and Louisiana premieres, the state’s second largest film festival runs Wednesday, Jan. 24, through Wednesday, Jan. 31, across Lafayette. Venues include the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Hilliard Museum at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Vermilionville, Cité des Arts and the Lafayette Public Library's south regional branch.
Cinema on the Bayou opens at 7 p.m. at the Acadiana Center for the Arts with the world premiere of “Rifles & Rosary Beads.” The documentary short chronicles singer and former Baton Rouge resident Mary Gauthier’s songwriting collaborations with military veterans and their spouses.
Following the film, Gauthier will perform and discuss the documentary with its Nashville, Tennessee, filmmakers, Joshua Britt and Neilson Hubbard. Tickets to the opening night screening, performance and gala reception are $15.
“It’s a little pack of dynamite,” Cinema on the Bayou artistic director Pat Mire said of “Rifles & Rosary Beads.” “You’re going to have a hard time watching it and not laughing and crying. That’s what films should make you do.”
In its 13th year, Cinema on the Bayou is exploding with great films in all genres, Mire said. He’s especially enthusiastic about “Moss,” a Southern Gothic narrative feature starring Mitchell Slaggert as a young man who vanishes into the woods on his 18th birthday. Another film that has Mire excited is “Path of Dreams,” a narrative short written by American playwright Velina Hasu Houston and based on the legend of the Japanese poet Ono no Komachi.
For those who have never been to the festival, expect to see feature-length films, short films of all kinds including those of the animated and experimental variety, documentaries, and foreign language documentaries, features and shorts. Participating filmmakers' works are from Spain, Canada, Belgium, France, Japan and India, as well as the United States and Louisiana.
Mire — an award-winning Louisiana filmmaker whose films include “Dirty Rice” and “Against the Tide: The Story of the Cajun People of Louisiana” — founded Cinema on the Bayou in 2006.
“As bad as Hurricane Katrina was, Cinema on the Bayou is something good that came out of it,” he said.
Following the post-Hurricane Katrina cancellation of the 2005 New Orleans Film Festival, the National Film Board of Canada contacted Mire. The board offered him the U.S. premiere of French-Canadian filmmaker André Gladu’s documentary, “Maroon: On the Trail of Creoles in North America," which had been slated to premiere in the Crescent City.
Gladu, a member of the National Film Board of Canada who’d filmed in French Louisiana, encouraged the board to send “Maroon” to Lafayette.
“André told them, ‘Call Pat Mire. He’s one of us,’ ” Mire said. “Katrina forced this festival upon me. But that little push from the National Film Board of Canada was an easy push.”
Cinema on the Bayou debuted with “Maroon” as its opening night film. Gladu attended the screening. Other festival attendees that year included Jean-Pierre Bruneau (“Dedans le sud de la Louisiane,” “Louisiana Blues”) and Louisiana filmmaker Glen Pitre (“American Creole: New Orleans Reunion,” “Belizaire the Cajun”).
“Jean-Pierre Bruneau and André Gladu influenced me,” Mire said. “They came to Cajun country in the late ’60s and early ’70s.”
A moving panel discussion at the 2006 festival featuring Bruneau, Gladu, Mire, Pitre and moderator Barry Ancelet helped Mire decide that Cinema on the Bayou would return in 2007.
“Realizing this is a special stage, I said, ‘We’ll keep telling our story, but we’re going to bring everybody else’s story here, too,' ” he said.
Cinema on the Bayou’s expansion in 2016 from five to eight days was another turning point for the Lafayette event.
“The festival arrived in its 11th year,” Mire said. “Last year, it exploded. It’s exploding again this year. I predict it will explode every year from now on, because it’s so international now.”
For tickets, information and a schedule of screenings, visit cinemaonthebayou.com.
CINEMA ON THE BAYOU
WHEN: Jan. 24-31
WHERE: Screenings to be held at Acadiana Center for the Arts (101 W. Vermilion St.), Cité des Arts (109 Vine St.), Vermilionville (300 Fisher Road), the Hilliard Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (710 E. St. Mary Blvd.) and the Lafayette Public Library's south regional branch (6101 Johnston St.) in Lafayette.
COST: Opening night screening is $15. Closing night screening is $10. General admission tickets are $5 per screening. Day passes are $20. All access passes are $10. Friend of the Festival sponsorships are also available for $250.