New Orleans Film Festival

Monday, October 19, 2015

Y@ Speak: the #NeverPunt edition

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 at 1:40 PM

Footballcat, Segway tours at St. Roch Market, Steve Gleason roasts Falcons fans, and mermaids are real. All in a pretty normal week. Also: The New Orleans Film Festival and Aziz Ansari's pitch to be a certain presidential candidate.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Best of Enemies screens in the New Orleans Film Festival

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 5:59 PM

William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal in a heated confrontation during their 1968 debates. - MAGNOLIA PICTURES
  • William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal in a heated confrontation during their 1968 debates.

Recent GOP and Democratic primary debates have drawn record numbers of viewers, though perhaps as much for the prospect of watching Donald Trump insult his rivals or enjoying Bernie Sanders' fiery style as for more conventional discussion of candidate and party platforms. One could also debate whether these events have devolved into reality TV entertainment, useful mostly for producing gaffes and zingers. Anyone wondering if TV debates were ever better or different might enjoy Best of Enemies, screening in the New Orleans Film Festival and examining the legendary televised debates between conservative William F. Buckley and liberal writer Gore Vidal during the 1968 GOP and Democratic conventions.

The documentary offers a glimpse not of two candidates (though both men had run for public office) but of ideologically opposed heavyweights engaging each other over the Vietnam War, civil rights, then California governor Ronald Reagan and other topics. It's entertaining, especially because the battle became personal, but it's also a timely reflection on a pivotal election that did much to shape current identity politics.

In 1968, ABC was a dismal TV network, and in the film, critic Frank Rich recounts a joke from the era: critics said the best way to end the Vietnam War would be to broadcast it on ABC and wait until it was cancelled.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Director Justin Simien talks about Dear White People

Posted By on Sun, Oct 12, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Director Justin Simien first started thinking about his debut feature film Dear White People in 2006. He imagined a handful of archetypal black students at a prestigious and overwhelmingly white university. As he worked on the script, he eventually created the Twitter handle @dearwhitepeople to work on missives about racial caricatures of black people. He now uses the twitter handle to promote the film, but his stream of observations became the basis for character Sam White's (Tessa Thompson) Winchester University radio program announcements about the same type of campus attitudes.

But another plot point turned out to have a real-world existence and helped him move ahead with the film. In the story, the campus' feisty humor magazine decides to throw a party with a blackface theme. Simien wasn't sure how believable that was, until he realized such parties were actually common.

"It was the Compton Cookout that made me realize this wasn’t just overreach of a satirical screenplay," Simien said in an interview with Gambit. "It was something that actually happened. Spike (Lee) had already done the blackface thing in Bamboozle. I had a version of that in this college campus. As much as everyone in my film had their hands on that party, I thought it was too damning. It would be so outrageous that people would think I wasn’t being fair to the reality of the situation. And then low and behold, almost exactly the way it happened in the screenplay, it played out at the University of California at San Diego at this thing called the Compton Cookout. Then I started searching the Internet. People were writing essays about them. It was just kind of being made public on social media. All these invites are on Facebook, the photos are on facebook. They’ve always been happening and now we know about it."

Dear White People screens Saturday at the New Orleans Film Festival (10 p.m. at the Prytania Theatre) and is scheduled to be open at The Theaters at Canal Place Oct. 24. (Reviewed here.)

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Abnormal excellence

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Lots of films (and even a few TV series) attempt to “explain” New Orleans. It’s a pity so few of them “get” New Orleans. At the fourth annual FilmOrama that opens this Friday (April 5), viewers will have a chance to see a film that does both very well.

The film is called Getting Back to Abnormal. It’s a no-holds-barred look at race, politics, culture and all other things post-Katrina New Orleans, set against the backdrop of then-District B Council member Stacy Head’s bid for re-election in her black-majority district in 2010. While race and politics feature prominently in the film, it’s about so much more.

It’s not a spoiler to note that Head won that 2010 race (and went on to eke out a narrow victory in a subsequent election for an at-large council seat), because knowing that does not in any way detract from the story line. This is not so much a film about what happened as why stuff happens in New Orleans — and why, often times, better stuff does not happen.

Peeling back the many layers of our unique culture is not easy; filmmakers Louis Alvarez, Andy Kolker, Peter Odabashian and Paul Stekler have done a masterful job. They feature Head and her opponent, Pastor Corey Watson, of course, but also a diverse cast of politicos, activists, protesters, displaced public housing residents, returning residents, civic leaders, radio talk show hosts and more — all with great insights about the “old” and “new” New Orleans.

Even though I followed that election closely, I was still glued to my set as I watched Head and Watson barrel down the local political highway toward their election-day showdown in the film. More important, Getting Back to Abnormal still holds quite a few surprises even three years after that fateful election. Whether you consider yourself an expert on local politics or a casual observer of New Orleans culture, this is a film you shouldn’t miss.

Getting Back to Abnormal shows at the Prytania at 7:15 p.m. Saturday (April 6); 2:45 p.m. Sunday (April 7); and 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday (April 10).

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: good poster?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 9:04 PM

The first poster for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans has surfaced. From the tight focus on Nic Cage's enormous gun (which seems to impress/intrigue Eva Mendes) to his showing-off of the liner of his fly jacket, to the skyline of a city that doesn't seem to be New Orleans, it's really ... something. What do you think?

BL: POCNO screens Oct. 10 at the New Orleans Film Festival.


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