Cinema on the Bayou connects French Louisiana to French Canada.
“We’re the No. 1 film festival in the United States for French-language film,” said Cinema on the Bayou founder and artistic director Pat Mire. “It’s exciting for us to get to this level.”
More than 60 filmmakers from Québec, Montreal and Moncton are among the hundreds of filmmakers, actors, distributors and festival organizers who will attend the 2020 festival. The event runs Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Wednesday, Jan. 29, at venues in Lafayette and Opelousas.
The 15th Cinema on the Bayou screening schedule features 40 feature-length narrative and documentary films and 148 short narrative, documentary, animated and experimental films. Festival passes and tickets, a screening schedule and film descriptions are available at cinemaonthebayou.com.
Beyond North America, Louisiana’s second-oldest film festival (after the New Orleans Film Festival), is drawing visitors from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia.
“We’re seeing a lot of young filmmakers who may end up being genius filmmakers,” Mire predicted. “We pair them with veteran filmmakers like André Forcier and André Gladu.”
Forcier and Gladu, two major Canadian filmmakers, will attend the U.S. premieres of their new films at Cinema on the Bayou. Gladu’s short documentary “L’Esprit du Violon Trad (The Fiddle Spirit)” screens at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, at Cité des Arts. Forcier’s “Les Fleurs Oubliées (Forgotten Flowers)” screens at 7:45 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
“Stylistically,” Mire said, “Forcier is the Fellini of Canadian film.”
“Les Fleurs Oubliées” stars Roy Dupuis as a disillusioned agronomist (an expert in soil management and crop production) whose life is upended when Dupuis’ late brother returns to Earth to punish his toxic pesticides-producing former employer.
Other world premieres include opening-night film “When We Kill the Creators,” a musical drama starring Grammy-winning singer Shelby Lynne. Lynne and the film’s director, Cynthia Mort, will attend the 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 screening at the Vermilionville Performance Center. Lynne’s co-stars include Tony Joe White, the late singer-songwriter from West Carroll Parish.
Other Canadian films this year include “Things I Do for Money,” an English-language feature by Toronto-based writer-director Warren P. Sonoda.
“That is exciting, too,” Mire said, “that we’re connecting with both English- and French-language cinema in Canada.”
“Things I Do for Money,” showing at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at Acadiana Cinemas’ St. Landry Cinema and 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, features a pair of cello-playing, Japanese-Canadian brothers who accidentally steal a bag full of money. Theodor and Maximilian Aoki, the siblings who portray the brothers, wrote and performed the film’s musical score. The Aoki brothers and Sonoda will attend.
The festival closes at the Vermilionville Performance Center at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, with “Pour Mieux T’aimer (To Better Love You)," a film by the Moncton-based Acadian filmmakers Denise Bouchard and Gilles Doiron. A drama about a family whose matriarch disappears, the film won the prize for best Acadian film at the Festival International du Cinema Francophone en Acadie.
Also showing this year is “Sushi & Sauce Piquante: The Life and Music of Gerry McGee,” Mire’s documentary about the late guitarist from Eunice who performed with the Ventures, Delaney and Bonnie, Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Presley. It screens at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Acadiana Cinemas’ St. Landry.
Cinema on the Bayou’s collaborations with the Québec City Film Festival, Le Festival Les Percéides and Festival International du Cinema Francophone en Acadie to Lafayette are bringing representatives from those festivals to Louisiana. The Canadian festivals are also providing volunteers for the nonprofit, volunteer-run Cinema on the Bayou.
“They know we don’t have deep pockets,” Mire said, “and that there’s not a lot of support for the arts here.”
Through the years, Mire said, Cinema on the Bayou has earned a reputation for being a warmer event than many film festivals.
“What we hear,” festival director Rebecca Hudsmith said, “and what we like to hear, is that our festival is filmmaker-friendly.”
“Our after-parties are in our kitchen,” Mire said. “It’s not uncommon to see 120 filmmakers from throughout the world in our house. It’s so sparkly because of all of the different languages going on. It’s a beautiful thing.”