New Orleans Film FestivalDespite hurricanes and floods and a city with a substantially smaller population, the New Orleans Film Festival is underway. Last year's festival was cancelled and financial woes made it uncertain whether the festival would be able to return. However, the 17th annual festival kicked off Thursday with a gala fundraiser, and begins a week of films starting tonight. Opening-night films include The Queen, Shut Up and Sing, and Brothers of the Head.

The lineup of marquee films might not look impressive to those of us outside of Louisiana, but it's important to remember that this might be one of the few, if not only, chances for New Orleanians to see some of these non-multiplex arthouse and documentary films. Among the list of films, I was pleased to see The Puffy Chair -- it's the first time that the film from New Orleans area-natives Jay and Mark Duplass will screen in the city. Their parents helped finance the film, so you know the whole family's happy to get to show it off to their hometown. And NOLA, a film scripted by a class of film-writing students from several New Orleans colleges and universities, is premiering at the festival.

The real gem at NOFF this year is a series called "Shooting Katrina" that includes narrative and documentary shorts as well as a few feature-length documentaries. The films range from interviews of post-Katrina flood survivors to a look at the devastated Lower Ninth Ward to stories about rebuilding. This is the one section of the festival I truly am sorry I'm missing, although judging from my reaction to When the Levees Broke, I'd have to bring a case of tissues. There are also a number of conference panels this weekend, all of which are free to the public. Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, will speak on a panel about distribution and exhibition. I grew up in the New Orleans area, and I wish I could see the festival's triumphant return in person, but threelocalfilm festivals in a month is all I can handle. If you're in driving distance of New Orleans, this would be a great weekend to stop by and catch some good films.
categories Cinematical