The 26th annual New Orleans Film Festival began last week and continues through Thursday night. The festival opened with the premiere of Louisiana-shot Born to Be Blue at the newly restored and beautifully ornate Orpheum Theatre. A mural for the festival, painted on a stretch of St. Charles near Lee Circle, features the faces of people watching different genres of movies. I was beyond honored to be included as one of the faces reimagined by the super-talented and prolific street artist Brandan “B-mike” Odums best known for his sophisticated and grand “graffiti” work at an abandoned apartment complex set for redevelopment. So imagine how fun it was to find that every screen in the festival has the mural on it as people take their seats and every movie at the festival opens with a time-lapse short film of the artist at work on the faces.
The documentaries have been terrific. I enjoyed The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and She’s the Best Thing in It about Tony Award winner and NOLA native Mary Louise Wilson. Political drama Our Brand is Crisis stars NOLA sometimes-resident, Sandra Bullock but it was included in the festival because it was shot here (though it’s as hard to tell as it was in Jurassic World and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – we’re so versatile!). Room, based on a best-selling book, was chilling, unsettling and yet subtle and chock-full of layers thanks in very large part to the deft, artless performance of Brie Larson as a woman abducted as a teen. Jacob Tremblay is wonderful as the 5 year-old who’s only ever seen one room in the whole world until his mother engineers his escape.
There are plenty of films of all sorts of genres through Thursday at theaters like The Prytania, The Orpheum and Canal Place. Once again, Jolene Pinder and the folks at the New Orleans Film Society have pulled together a festival that celebrates local filming and filmmakers while showcasing films causing a stir at festivals throughout the world. I may not have a film in this year’s fest, but I’m so very proud to help represent local filmmaking and the New Orleans Film Festival.