The Louisiana International Film Festival and Mentorship Program announced its lineup for its inaugural four-day event, which kicks off April 18 in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
With a slate of over 50 screenings—including three U.S. premieres—the festival will open with Morgan Neville’s music documentary, “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” which focuses on the careers of backup singers, at the Joy Theatre in New Orleans.
LIFF is featuring a variety of feature films, documentaries, and shorts (and some cult classics) that aim to celebrate the emerging importance of Louisiana to the film industry as well as highlight the distinctive culture of the Pelican State.
Festival Programming Director Ian Birnie said in a press release, “The LIFF line-up spotlights three themes that reflect the cultural and social history of Louisiana: Francophone films—namely films from France, Quebec, and the Middle East; films that deal with environmental issues—both to honor Louisiana Earth Day and to reflect Louisiana’s activist interest in its own habitat; and music films that encompass musical styles ranging from doo wop and jazz to Italian Opera.”
Though the festival is pulling from international roots, there will also be a strong homegrown, Louisiana presence within the films.
“We are extremely proud to be showcasing several Louisiana-based films, including the world premiere of ‘By and By: New Orleans at the Crossroads.’ This section of our program, Spotlight: Louisiana, is designed to showcase the talent from our great state. The success of last year’s ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild” has opened eyes throughout the cinematic world that Louisiana is indeed a place to watch,” said LIFF Executive Director Chesley Heymsfield in a press release.
Even with the international and local flavor as part of the event, the festival will have familiar faces up on the screen.
The festival’s Evening Centerpiece Galas, on April 21 in the Baton Rouge area, will feature Ramin Bahrani’s family drama, “At Any Price,” starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, Henry-Alex Rubin’s thriller, “Disconnect,” starring Jason Bateman and Alexander Skarsgard, the U.S. premiere of “Dean Spanley,” starring Peter O’Toole, and many other films.
Aside from showing a vast amount of films throughout the event, one of the reasons LIFF was created was “as a nexus for local talent” via mentorship programs, workshops, guest lectures, and competitive screenings.”
On April 18 in Baton Rouge, there will be a free Producers’ Conference and Industry Expo in addition to the various workshops on acting, development, music, production incentives, and film financing, which are all hosted by industry professionals.
According to Birnie, “this new festival is an opportunity, among other things, to offer a wide range of films which has allowed me, as a programmer, to explore, test and hopefully expand the interests of the local audience. I promise that the program at the initial LIFF will open eyes, stimulate minds and do what all good film festivals do: entertain.”