The Louisiana International Film Festival won't hold a festival this year and will instead screen a selection of films during the Ebb and Flow Festival downtown April 6-7. But the future of LIFF, which would have held its seventh annual festival in April, is uncertain, said Cathy Coates, chair of the festival's board of directors.
The organization could not secure the funding needed to host this year's festival, Coates said. Sarah Mason, who was hired last fall as LIFF's executive director, has also left the organization.
LIFF has not been able to reach a sustainable point of revenues, Coates said, and the board of directors is unsure if the film festival will return in 2020.
"Our position is that the board does not know what the future of LIFF is, it's as simple as that," she said. "Someone else may try to resurrect the Louisiana International Film Festival and that would be great."
The film festival, which screens a juried selection of films along with titles sought out by LIFF itself, received more than 200 submissions for its 2019 lineup during its open call last winter, said Elliott Estelle, the festival's managing director. Estelle will pull from those submissions to program a selection of free screenings at downtown venues during the Ebb and Flow Festival.
The two-day Ebb and Flow, organized by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, will also include music, visual and performance art and cultural events in the area around Third Street, the Old State Capitol and Town Square.
"Because Ebb and Flow's art fest was planned to take place the same weekend as LIFF, it worked out well," Estelle said.
The screening program is still being finalized, but should be announced in the next few days. Estelle said she plans to leave LIFF after April.
LIFF's founding executive director, Chesley Heymsfield — who was also the festival's chief fundraiser — stepped down from her position in August, Estelle said.
"We hired Sarah (Mason), who is amazing, but it was very short notice to bring somebody from another state into Baton Rouge to try to fund raise," Estelle said. "Donor cultivation is a very sensitive, time consuming process. Without somebody based locally who is connected to all of our donors, it was really an impossible thing to ask."
LIFF started in 2012, and across several days each year screened dozens of films, many of which had national and regional premieres.
A number of the festival's feature films, documentaries and shorts were also shot in Louisiana, like the Ethan Hawke-directed Blaze Foley biopic "Blaze," which screened at the 2018 LIFF following successful showings at the Sundance Film Festival and South By Southwest.