Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the New Orleans Film Festival begins this Thursday, October 16 and runs through next Thursday, October 23. The event continues to grow, establishing itself as a key regional Fall festival, and attracting significant visiting filmmaker and industry presence. Sadly, while I’m not among those visitors this year, I offer the following highlights of the fest’s robust documentary programming, which makes up about half of the nearly 100 feature lineup:
Documentaries appear in high-profile positions within NOFF, including its Closing Night Film, Joe Lauro’s profile of Fats Domino and the early years of his band, THE BIG BEAT (pictured); and Centerpiece selection, THE GREAT INVISIBLE, Margaret Brown’s exploration of the Deepwater Horizon accident and its aftermath. Other spotlighted docs include several Marquee Screenings, such as Alexander Glustrom’s BIG CHARITY: THE DEATH OF AMERICA’S OLDEST HOSPITAL, a requiem to local institution and investigation into its controversial closing; and Christopher Levoy Bower’s WE WON’T BOW DOWN, about New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indians, fusing Native American and African American traditions for generations.
Seven nonfiction features face off in the festival’s official documentary competition, among them David Modigliani and Louisiana Kreutz’s investigation into murder of Huey Long by Dr Carl Weiss, 61 BULLETS; Matt Ogens’ exploration of the impact of a name, MEET THE HITLERS; Matthew Salton’s look at a Chinese amusement park meant to provide employment to little people, DWARVES KINGDOM (pictured); and Brad Bores’ portrait of a middle-aged man’s attempt to return to the boxing ring and into his son’s life, WHEN THE BELL RINGS.
Other new documentaries screening at the fest this year include local feature ZACK AND ADDIE, Rob Florence’s true crime investigation; Marcos C Barbery and Sam Russell’s BY BLOOD, about the struggles for recognition by the Freedmen, descendants of the freed black slaves once owned by the Cherokee Nation; Jonathan Stack and Nicolás Cuellar’s CAST THE FIRST STONE, which follows the efforts of Angola inmates to stage the Passion of the Christ behind bars; Jonathan Narducci’s LOVE ME, a look at the modern mail-order bride industry; Biliana Grozdanova and Marina Grozdanova’s THE LAST KAMIKAZES OF HEAVY METAL (pictured), a profile of a driven hard rock band on tour; and two docs by Jon Brewer on pioneering musicians, NAT KING COLE: AFRAID OF THE DARK and BB KING: LIFE OF RILEY.