The 10th annual Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival, which starts Wednesday and runs through Jan. 25, is shaping up to be bigger than ever, showcasing some of the best independent films from around the world.
From a film documenting a French Quarter murder-suicide to a story of four friends spending a night out on the streets of Cairo in the months before the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Cinema on the Bayou will feature more than 100 films this year, almost all of which have never been seen in the state or in the U.S.
“There’s not too many countries you could name off the top of your head. We didn’t get a submission from,” said Pat Mire, Cinema on the Bayou founder and artistic director. “All through the Middle East, all through Europe, Russia, all over.”
After sifting through hundreds of submitted films from around the world, Mire said about 15 percent made the cut.
The festival will kick off at The Acadiana Center for the Arts on Wednesday with a gala party and the Louisiana premiere of actor Tim Guinee’s 2014 adaptation of Horton Foote’s “One Armed Man,” a drama about a wealthy cotton gin executive confronted by a disgruntled former employee demanding the return of an arm lost in the gin’s machinery.
The headline event showing of the multi-award-winning short film is set to start at 7 p.m.
“That film is a special film,” Mire said. “It will play well to our audience.”
The AcA also will host a tribute to Cajun fiddler Al Berard at the gala party at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
On Thursday, Vermilionville will present films starting with the U.S. premiere of Italian film “Inseguire il Vento,” and follow up with short films and projects from Canada.
Although there were hundreds of submissions from around the world, the Canadian response was overwhelming, Mire said.
“We went viral in Canada,” Mere said. “If we were to airlift Cinema on the Bayou and drop it off in Quebec, there wouldn’t be a showing that wouldn’t be a full house.”
The festival kicks into high gear at 6:45 p.m. Friday with the French documentary “Nomad’s Land” at Vermilionville. Mire said the film on contemporary circus company Max & Maurice is his director’s pick out of this year’s selection of documentaries.
“It’s such a high-class production value film that tells a story like I’ve never quite seen before,” Mire said.
Representing Louisiana in the lineup is “Zack and Addie,” the documentary-style retelling of the notorious 2006 murder-suicide of a New Orleans couple that involved dismemberment, beheading and cooking of human remains. The movie will be shown at 10:45 a.m. Saturday at AcA.
Mire recommended Canadian feature-length film “Nocturne,” a story about a blossoming relationship between an insomniac and a sleepwalker. The film makes its Louisiana debut at 8 p.m. Saturday at the AcA. “Samba & Jazz,” a Brazilian film on the history and connection between the two musical style of the movie’s namesake, will debut in Louisiana for the first time at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday at the AcA.
There will be a chance to chat with the films’ creators after the screening. A handful of panels for filmmakers and actors will be held to discuss their crafts. More than 100 actors and filmmakers are slated to appear at the festival.
“We’re going to have one of the strongest panels for actors and directors in the South,” Mire said. “I’m putting emerging filmmakers in with veteran filmmakers, and I think that is going to be a very powerful panel.”
In December, film industry magazine AudNews named the local festival one of the top 15 winter film festivals in the U.S., putting it in the company of the Sundance Film Festival and the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood.
“It’s so exciting,” Mire said. “It’s exciting to be listed among your peers. Being listed with Sundance is really great for us. We’ll only get bigger from there.”
Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival is Louisiana’s second-oldest film festival and was founded in 2006 by Mire following the cancellation of the New Orleans Film Festival in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
With films like “Dirty Rice,” the story of a big city architect returning to his rice farming roots, and “Against the Tide,” a historical documentary about the establishment of the Acadians in South Louisiana in the 17th Century, Eunice native Mire is an accomplished documentary filmmaker in his own right. His work has appeared in theaters around the country and on PBS.
Mire’s partner Rebecca Hudsmith is the festival’s director. Although a federal public defender by trade, Hudsmith has helped Mire organize the yearly event almost since the beginning.
“Film is not my expertise,” she said. “But I love being able to give back to the community.”
Cinema on the Bayou will continue through Sunday, with showings taking place at the AcA, Vermilionville, Celebrity Theaters in Broussard, Pack and Paddle and the Lafayette South Regional Public Library. The showings at Pack and Paddle and the library are free, and tickets can be purchased for the AcA and Vermilionville screenings through the festival’s Eventbrite page. Admission to the Celebrity Theaters screenings can be found at the theater’s website or box office.
More information and a full listing of the films can be found at cinemaonthebayou.com.