It's a time of transition for the New Orleans Film Society and its annual film festival. The society has a new executive director, artistic director, board president, mission statement and office.
In January, Fallon Young joined the organization as executive director. Clint Bowie became artistic director in February following his seven years as director of programming.
Fallon Young is thrilled about her opportunity to fill the big shoes left by Jolene Pinder.
Despite those behind-the-scenes changes, the film society is moving full speed ahead with the 28th New Orleans Film Festival. Taking place Oct. 11 through Oct. 19 throughout the city, the festival is screening more than 230 films.
“I’m very impressed with the staff and board,” Young said in the busy days before opening night. “This organization fights above its weight, with a small number of people, to do something on a grand scale. It’s impressive to see it coming together.”
“The changes have made for some complications,” Bowie said. “But it’s been surprisingly smooth and without major disruptions.”
The New Orleans Film Festival, which runs Oct. 11 through Oct. 19, announced additional prog…
Films in the 2017 festival’s competitive categories were picked from nearly 5,000 entries submitted from 109 countries. That’s a 20 percent increase over last year. Young credits the growth in submissions to the film festival’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences designation as an Oscar-qualifying event. She also cited a growing reputation as a filmmaker-friendly festival that coordinates hundreds of meetings between filmmakers and film business professionals.
The new film society administration’s goals include increased diversity in programming. In 2017, 53 percent of the festival’s films are by female directors, 45 percent by directors of color.
“This is the most diverse festival in the organization’s 28-year history,” Young said. “It’s up to festivals like ours to be a leading voice in that and to tailor our programming around it.”
“The focus now is more explicitly about supporting diverse filmmakers and nurturing talent and providing opportunities for filmmakers,” Bowie said. “That is folded into our formal mission now, instead of being implied through what was a very broad mission before.”
This year’s Centerpiece film, “Mudbound,” screening at 9 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Ace Hotel New Orleans, has been directed and co-written by Dee Rees, a black woman.
“Mudbound,” a Louisiana-filmed drama set in Mississippi during the 1940s, is the centerpiece…
Filmed largely in St. James Parish, “Mudbound” is set in the Mississippi Delta shortly after World War II. The Hollywood Reporter describes the drama as a “densely textured, populous narrative” with “novelistic room to breathe and a slow-burn intensity that builds to a shattering conclusion.” The cast includes Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund and New Orleans native Jason Mitchell.
“Clint had his eye on ‘Mudbound’ for quite some time,” Young said. “We’re proud to have it as our Centerpiece film.”
“We see the Centerpiece film as setting the tone for the festival,” Bowie said. “ ‘Mudbound’ epitomizes the kind of film we want to support. It has strong local connections and a story that is bold and resonant with the issues of today. It has a diverse cast and crew that reflects some of the most exciting talent working today.”
“With the heartening news of the stabilization of the state tax credit program,” Young said, “this year is going to be a celebration of that stability and keeping our talent and our production going in Louisiana.”
Films made in Louisiana, “Mudbound” included, represent 29 percent of the 2017 lineup. That’s the highest percentage in the festival’s history. Presenting Louisiana productions is always a major part of the festival’s mission.
“A film of the caliber of ‘Mudbound’ represents what can be done in Louisiana," Bowie said. "We see the festival as a platform to showcase local talent. It’s important for us to support people who work in the local industry.”
Following last’s year precedent of screening award-worthy non-Louisiana films “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea,” 2017’s opening-night film is “The Florida Project.” It will screen at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Orpheum Theater. In this drama set at the budget Magic Castle motel near Disney World, Brooklynn Prince plays Moonee, a precocious 6-year-old who lives with her struggling mother, played by Bria Vinaite. Willem Dafoe co-stars as the motel’s outwardly stern but inwardly compassionate manager.
“The Florida Project” fits the festival’s goal of presenting bold and affecting films, Bowie said. “It's also a story about people who aren’t often represented on screen, which is a through-line for much of the programming in this year’s festival. We’re excited about bringing the story of its pint-size protagonist (Prince) to a New Orleans audience. We won’t be surprised if locals compare her to Quvenzhané Wallis’ in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’ ”
The festival’s schedule and all-access passes, weekend passes, unlimited film packages and six-film packages are available at neworleansfilmfestival.org. Film synopses are available at neworleansfilmsociety.org/line-up.
New Orleans Film Festival
WHEN: Oct. 11-Oct. 19
WHERE: Orpheum Theater, Ace Hotel New Orleans, The Broad Theater, Prytania Theatre, Cinebarre Canal Place 9, The New Orleans Advocate