NOLA Film Fest: What To Look For

With more than 220 screenings taking place around the city, and no expense spared during the nightly parties, it’s no wonder our fest was named one of the Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World. (In case you’re wondering -- Atlanta? Not on the list.)

by Matt Haines
October 19, 2018

Here in New Orleans, we’re used to a celebrity sighting. John Goodman making friends at a local coffee shop, Will Ferrell making magic during Bacchus, or Nicholas Cage making a scene at a French Quarter restaurant. It’s just another day in the city.

But look around the city this week, and you’ll notice we’ve taken our celeb game up a notch. It’s the 29th Annual New Orleans Film Festival, which kicked off this week with a screening of locally-filmed Oscar-contender, Green Book — starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali — and extends all the way until next Thursday!

With more than 220 screenings taking place around the city, and no expense spared during the nightly parties, it’s no wonder our fest was named one of the Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World. (In case you’re wondering — Atlanta? Not on the list.)

If you can afford one of the passes — treat yo’ self! The All Access Pass ($320) gets you into every movie, reception, lounge and party scheduled over the eight days!  There’s also the Weekend Pass ($195), and a host of other unlimited movie options (the Student Pass is only $50).

But, in a city with so much else going on, most of us are probably just looking to buy our tickets one at a time. Which leaves us with one substantial problem: at a festival with everything from the Oscar contenders to the independent and locally made, what in the world should we see?

Choosing the right movie depends on what you’re in the mood for.  You can pore over the program guide and schedule, or you can take a look at our picks!

  • The Centerpiece and Spotlight Films are for the festival’s films with the most award season chatter. Need a little Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman or Jake Gyllenhaal in your life? This is the category for you. Our pick is from the Academy Award-winning Director of 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen. He unveils his new film, Widows, stars Viola Davis, LIam Neeson, Colin Farrell and a lot of other big names. It’s the story of four women — left with the debt from their dead husbands’ criminal activities — who decide to finally take their future into their own hands. The film will screen on Saturday at 2:15pm at Prytania Theater. Tickets are $25 and if it “sells out,” have no fear.  Follow the instructions to the Rush Line and you’ll most definitely snag a couple of tickets last minute.
  • The NOLA Film Fest also stands out because it’s one of the few festivals with the honor of being an Oscar-qualifying venue for all three Shorts’ categories. The Fest bunches the dozens of shorts into like-groups of about six films (each from 10 – 20 minutes long) and screens them together. Our pick is the Louisiana Shorts – Neighborhood category, which focuses closely on the people we see day-to-day in our city. The story of an entire block of neighbors who eat together at a corner store every Thursday night, or of a youth football team in Central City, or of the 100-year tumultuous history of the Industrial Canal. You can watch these and more for $13 on Tuesday, October 23, at Prytania Theater.
  • The Fest also has several free screenings. If you’re in a Magic Mike kinda’ mood (with a twist), then come check out a free screening of Man Made, a documentary about four men competing in the only bodybuilding competition for transgender man.  The film screens at Broad Theater on Monday, October 22, at 8:45pm, and Wednesday, October 24, at 6:30pm.
  • Maybe in the mood for a story with…errmmm…a little more moral ambiguity? Check out Mississippi Madam: The Life of Nellie Jackson.  A young, poor, Black divorcee, Ms. Jackson founded a brothel in her hometown of Natchez, which stayed open for most of the 20th century — up until her tragic death.  Through interviews with family and the men she serves, we learn what an important and generous (oy, sorry) role a brothel owner can play for a community. Screenings take place on Tuesday, October 23, at 6:30pm (Broad Theater; $13), and Thursday, October 25 at 3:45pm (The Advocate building; $9)
  • And don’t forget to make it out to a party!  On Saturday night, from 10pm until 2am, The Film Festival converts the wharf in Crescent Park into a Studio 54-style extravaganza!  DJs, an open bar, cage dancers, trick skaters, an artificial intelligence story booth, and tons of cinephiles to party with. Tickets are only $25, and you can buy them here!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the full schedule. As you can see, no matter your mood, this film fest’s got something for everyone. We hope to see you there!

Matt Haines lives in New Orleans and writes about all the cool stuff. Visit his website MattHainesWrites.com. Follow him on Social Media: FB: matthaineswrites TW: matthaineswrite IG: matthaineswrites

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