The 14th annual Cinema on the Bayou, which runs Wednesday through Jan. 30, in Lafayette will present 181 films, nearly all of them Louisiana premieres. The state’s second largest film festival will also feature world and United States premieres.
“When we have a world premiere, it’s a big deal for our festival,” said the festival's director, Rebecca Hudsmith. “It means that we’re launching a film’s festival run.”
Cinema on the Bayou will take place at the Acadiana Center for the Arts and other venues around Lafayette. The nonprofit, volunteer-run festival also features filmmaker Q&As, music, parties, panel discussions and workshops.
The festival’s 2019 world premieres include “And Those Who Dance It Surrender Their Hearts To Each Other,” a documentary about Lone Piñon, a group of young New Mexico musicians who perform traditional works from the Southwest.
It's a story that resonates in Acadiana.
“It’s about saving traditional music and culture in New Mexico,” Hudsmith said. “That’s what our Cajun musicians are about, so there’s a real connection. It’s a beautiful film with music that I wasn’t even aware of.”
Another world premiere, “Finding Cajun,” examines the origin and evolution of Cajun identity over the past 70 years. Nathan Rabalais, a Eunice native who is assistant professor of French and Francophone studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, directed the documentary. It screens at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
“Finding Cajun,” said Pat Mire, Cinema on the Bayou founder and artistic director, presents a fresh take on the Cajun experience.
“It’s a young perspective on the culture,” Mire said. “Things have changed dramatically in the past 15 or 20 years. More young people want to speak French.”
Mire’s own award-winning documentaries include “Dirty Rice” and “Against the Tide: The Story of the Cajun People of Louisiana.”
“We’re excited,” Hudsmith said, “that a new generation of young scholars and filmmakers are continuing to do what others started, including Pat Mire.”
True to Cinema on the Bayou’s southwest Louisiana roots, more than 60 of the festival’s films are in French. The festival is furthering its French connection through partnerships with two major Canadian festivals, Les Percéides Festival International de Cinéma et d’ art de Percé and the Québec City Film Festival.
Opening night film “Black Indians,” screening at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, links New Orleans and France. Four years in the making, the documentary depicts the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans.
Already screened throughout France, “Black Indians” will receive its U.S. premiere at Cinema on the Bayou. Patrouilleau, the film’s Paris-based co-writer-director, will be among the more than 200 directors, producers, cinematographers, actors and other film professionals from France, Canada, the U.S., Australia, Japan and Lebanon in attendance.
“We have a warm festival here,” Mire said. “We try to welcome everyone."
Friends of Hudsmith and Mire in Paris recommended that the makers of “Black Indians” submit their film to Cinema on the Bayou.
“There have been other films about the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians," Hudsmith said, "but this one comes from the French perspective. And it’s a film with a Louisiana connection, which we love. We also feel like our festival starts the Mardi Gras season. So, we usually have a least one Mardi Gras film. And we always want to show culturally significant projects.”
Judges at the 2019 festival include prominent members of Quebec’s filmmaking community, among them Montréal writer-director Marc-André Forcier (“Coteau Rouge.” “The Countess of Baton Rouge,” “A Wind from Wyoming”).
“I’m excited about that,” Mire said. “It says that we are the go-to festival for Canadian filmmakers. They passed up Sundance and other festivals to come here. It’s the French-Louisiana connection again. And they fall in love with our food and music.”
Musicians performing at the festival include two local bands, Yvette Landry and the Jukes and Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars, and a singer-songwriter from New Brunswick, Canada, Daniel Léger.
“Music is a key element of this festival,” Mire said. “And it’s not just musicians playing at the festival, it’s the filmmakers drifting to venues beyond the festival.”
Films in competition at Cinema on the Bayou are eligible to win one of festival’s Goujon Caille awards. Local artists Pat and Andre Juneau create the colorful catfish-shaped statuettes.
This year also includes the festival’s first artist in residence, John Blouin. A filmmaker from Quebec, he’s brought an installation to the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
Tickets to individual screenings are $5, except for "Black Indians" ($20) and "Finding Cajun" ($10). Eight-day passes are $100; day passes are $10-$20. More information about the festival is available at cinemaonthebayou.com.