The 26th New Orleans Film Festival opens Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the Orpheum Theater with an unconventional biopic about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, “Born to Be Blue.” The festival, screening 200 films this year at six venues throughout the city, runs through Oct. 22.
“Born to Be Blue” is a reimaging of Baker’s life the late 1960s. Ethan Hawke plays the severely damaged artist who’s nonetheless determined to reclaim his place among peers such as Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.
“I Saw the Light,” the festival’s centerpiece film, is another biopic. Showing Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Orpheum Theater, “I Saw the Light” is about the artist many consider country music’s greatest singer-songwriter, Hank Williams. The Shreveport-shot drama stars British actor Tom Hiddleston as the composer of “Cold Cold Heart,” “Jambalaya” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Elizabeth Olsen and Maddie Hasson co-star as the singer’s wives.
The festival will close Oct. 22 at the Prytania Theatre with likely awards contender “Brooklyn.” Set in early 1950s New York City, “Brooklyn” is a drama about a young Irish woman, played by Saoirse Ronan, who immigrates to New York City, finds a new life but then is torn between America and her homeland.
“This year is a monumental year for the New Orleans Film Festival,” said Jolene Pinder, executive director of the New Orleans Film Society. “Not only are we now an Oscar-qualifying festival in our documentary category, but we’re also continuing to spotlight local talent and grow our support for Louisiana filmmakers. Even as the festival becomes more of a destination event, we want to stay true to our roots and showcase the amazing growth both our event and the film industry continue to experience here at home.”
The 2015 festival lineup was chosen from more than 3,400 submissions from 100 countries. A record number of submissions were received, up 58 percent over the previous year’s submissions.
In addition to the festival’s marquee showings of “Brooklyn,” “I Saw the Light” and “Born to Be Blue,” its many dozens of screenings include several “Spotlight” films:
“Youth”: A comedy about two longtime friends who vacation in the Swiss Alps, starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz. Showing at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15, Prytania Theatre.
“Carol”: An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt,” starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in a lesbian love story set in the 1950s. Sarah Paulson co-stars. Showing at 9 p.m. Oct. 16, Prytania Theatre.
“MISS YOU ALREADY”: Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore play Milly and Jess, best friends since childhood who are shaken by the life-altering news Milly receives. Showing at noon Oct. 17, The Theaters of Canal Place.
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”: A documentary about the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party. Showing at 3 p.m. Oct. 17, Orpheum Theater.
“OUR BRAND IS CRISIS”: Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton star as American political consultants working for rival candidates in a South American election. Filmed in New Orleans and Bolivia. New Orleans native Anthony Mackie co-stars. Showing at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Orpheum Theater.
“The Reflektor Tapes”: A documentary about the making of Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” album. Showing at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 17, Orpheum Theater.
“Legend”: Tom Hardy plays dual roles as 1960s twin British gangsters Reggie and Ron Kray. Showing at 9:15 p.m. Oct. 18, Prytania Theatre.
“ROOM”: Based on the bestselling suspense novel by Emma Donoghue, “Room” is about a mother and son who are confined in a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space. Brie Larson, Joan Allen and William H. Macy star. Showing at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 20, Prytania Theatre.
“NEW ORLEANS, HERE & NOW”: Short films — directed by John Maringouin, Darius Clark Monroe, Angela Tucker, Lily Keber, Zack Godshall and Katie Dellamaggiore — that reflect the city’s resurgence through personal stories and multiple generations. Showing at 6:15 p.m. Oct. 22, the Prytania Theatre.
“ANOMALISA”: Despite being a husband, father and respected author, the central character in “Anomalisa” feels crippled by the mundanity of his life. He discovers a possible escape during a business trip to Cincinnati. This stop-motion animated feature by Charlie Kaufman features the voices of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan and David Thewlis. Showing at 9 p.m. Oct 21 at The Theaters at Canal Place.