The Louisiana International Film Festival & Mentorship Program (LIFF) has announced its slate of films for the long-anticipated inaugural weekend: a four-day event from April 18th through 21st that celebrates Louisiana’s emerging importance in the film industry alongside its unique culture. LIFF Programming Director Ian Birnie along with Co-Artistic Directors Dan Ireland and Jeff “The Dude” Dowd have selected over fifty narrative feature films, documentaries and shorts to screen in multiple theater venues throughout Baton Rouge during the Festival.
These films represent a carefully curated cross-section of brand-new films, festival favorites, recent releases and a few cult classics. Birnie explains, “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 (April 21st) 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.”
Co-Artistic Director Ireland states, “For the first year of our festival, we feel we’ve assembled a very strong program consisting of films from every corner of the world, with powerful and provocative themes. Working with our amazing team, we have managed to give a focus to several relevant issues, themes and causes while at the same time find a group of films that never fail to entertain, challenge and provoke.”
LIFF Executive Director Chesley Heymsfield points out, “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.”
LIFF opens Thursday, April 18th at the Joy Theatre in New Orleans with the regional premiere of Morgan Neville’s acclaimed new documentary looking into the lives of backup singers who literally work in the shadows of music’s greatest artists, Twenty Feet from Stardom. Neville and Merry Clayton (Dirty Dancing; Maid to Order; Nine and a Half Weeks) will attend the New Orleans screening of the film, which features interviews with artists such as Patti Austin, Sheryl Crow, Mick Jagger, Darlene Love, Bette Midler and Stevie Wonder.
LIFF continues in Baton Rouge on Friday, April 19th with screenings of narrative features including the U.S. Premiere of Bernard Rose’s powerful new modern day take on Leo Tolstoy’s “Master And Man,” Boxing Day, starring Danny Huston and Matthew Jacobs with a special appearance after the screening by director Bernard Rose. Also screening are From Up On Poppy Hill, featuring the acclaimed father Hayao Mayazaki (Spirited Away) as writer and son Goro Mayazaki as director of this animated film about 1960’s Yokohama and local teens who work to save their local clubhouse from being demolished before the approaching Tokyo Olympics; two French Canadian gems: Starbuck, directed by Ken Scott, about a slacker who finds he’s fathered more than 500 children as a sperm donor, and Xavier Dolan’s remarkable transgender drama Lawrence Anyways, starring Melville Popaud, Suzanne Clement, and Nathalie Baye; Adam Leon’s critically acclaimed Gimme the Loot; Norway’s A Hijacking, directed by Tobias Lindholm and starring Johan Philip Asbaek; Black Rock, directed by Katie Aselton and starring Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth in a tale of a weekend getaway turned fight for survival; and the true-life thriller The Iceman, directed by Ariel Vromen and starring Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, James Franco, Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer and Ray Liotta.
Opening day in Baton Rouge also features an all-day, FREE Producers’ Conference & Industry Expo at the Celtic Media Centre (10000 Celtic Drive O’Connor Building Baton Rouge, LA 70809) with a sound stage converted to an industry expo open to the public. Festival guests may register to attend a wide variety of workshops on acting, music, development, production incentives and film financing hosted by industry professionals. For information and a full schedule visit http://liff2013.com/expo.
LIFF’s Evening Centerpiece Galas on Saturday, April 20th feature an impressive lineup, including Ramin Bahrani’s powerful family drama At Any Price starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron as father and son at odds with each other; Disconnect, a wonderful new thriller directed by Henry-Alex Rubin and starring Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgard, Max Thierot, Hope Davis and Paula Patton; France’s Three Worlds directed by Catherine Corsini and written by the consummate Louisiana-native filmmaker Mark Duplass, and starring Raphael Personnaz, Clotilde Hesme, and Arta Dobroshi; Cannes and BAFTA award-winner The Hunt directed by Sweden’s Thomas Vinterberg and starring Mads Mikkelson, whose performance won Best Actor at Cannes; France’s In the House, directed by François Ozon and starring Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emmanuelle Seignier; French director Gilles Bourdos’ tale of two Renoirs—father Auguste and war-wounded son Jean—and their encounter with his caretaker Andrée, Renoir with Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, and Vincent Rottiers; two Australian films, the acclaimed thriller Wish You Were Here, directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith with Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty), Felicity Price, and Teresa Palmer; and the latest comedy from Muriel’s Wedding director P.J. Hogan and star Toni Colette, Mental, co-starring Liev Schreiber and Anthony LaPaglia; The Attack from Lebanese writer/director Ziad Douier; Michel Gondry’s latest, The We and the I, a look at the lives of a group of teenagers who ride the same bus route, and how their relationships change and evolve on the last day of school, starring newcomers Michael Brodie, Teresa Lynn and Raymond Delgado; the U.S. Premiere of Dean Spanley, a comedic gem and a true discovery from New Zealand directed by Toa Fraser, starring Peter O’Toole in one of his finest performances, Sam Neill as a priest who may or may not have been O’Toole’s dog in another life, Jeremy Northam and Bryan Brown; Paul Andrew Williams’ moving love story Unfinished Song starring the amazing Vanessa Redgrave, another of Britain’s most cherished actors, Terence Stamp, and Gemma Arterton; German director Margarethe von Trotta’s story of the Nuremburg war crimes trials reporter Hannah Arendt, starring Barbara Sukowa and Janet McTeer; France’s Thérèse, directed by Claude Miller with Audrey Tatou (Amelie) and Gilles Lellouche; and Sundance and SXSW favorite A Teacher written and directed by Hannah Fidell and starring Lindsay Burdge and Will Brittain. The Closing Night Feature is Zai Batmanglij’s The East, the provocative and powerful hit of this year’s Sundance Film Festival starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, and Louisiana’s own Patricia Clarkson.
Programming is especially strong among documentaries screening at the inaugural Festival. They include: Uprising, the story of the Egyptian revolution, produced and directed by Fredrik Stanton; two films by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix—the progeria story Life According to Sam and the Academy Award-winning short Inocente, a profile of a homeless teenage artist Inocente Izucar (the latter screens following Doug Block’s domestic violence short The Children Next Door). Inocente’s subject Izucar and film editor Jeff Consiglio will appear at the screening.
LIFF features two additional music docs: a biography of the jazz drummer and bandleader, The Savoy King: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America, directed by Jeffrey Kaufman with narration by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Van Alexander, Billy Crystal, Bill Cosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Garcia, Dizzy Gillespie, Janet Jackson, Danny Glover and Tyne Daly; and Becoming Traviata, Philippe Beziat’s “exhilarating account of the creative process and a rousing, uniquely accessible rendition of Verdi’s glorious opera (Gene Siskel)” with Nathalie Dessay and Louis Langree. Savoy director Kaufman and musician Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes will be in person at their screening.
The documentary roster also includes Love, Marilyn, Liz Garbus’ film in which contemporary celebrities including Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Adrian Brody, Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Ellen Burstyn and Viola Davis talk about the impact that Marilyn Monroe continues to have on their lives; Andy Berg’s acclaimed West of Memphis with Jesse Miskelley, Jason Baldwin, Damien Wayne Echols, Patti Smith and Henry Rollins; Venus and Serena, about two sisters who are driven by their father into competitive sports, directed by Maiken Baird and Michelle Major and featuring Bill Clinton, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Arnon Milchan, Gay Telese and Anna Wintour; Bound By Flesh about conjoined (and exploited) twins Daisy and Violet Hilton featuring Lea Thompson, Nancy Allen, Timothy Stack and Blake Boyd with a special in person appearance by Director Leslie Zemeckis; Ben Lewis’ Sundance hit Google and the World Brain; Lord Montagu, directed by Luke Korem and narrated by Oliver Tobias, about the British aristocrat who owns one of the most beloved estates in all of England and who at one point served prison time as punishment for his suspected homosexuality; John Waters muse biography I Am Divine, directed by Jeffrey Schwarz with John Waters, Ricki Lake, Tab Hunter, Mink Stole, Edith Massey and Holly Woodlawn including an in person appearance by Director Jeffrey Schwarz; and the US premiere of Good People Go To Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven Louisiana filmmaker Holly Hardman’s penetrating investigation of the complex world of evangelical Christianity along America’s Gulf Coast, with a personal appearance by the director at the screening.
Environmental documentaries include auteur Werner Herzog’s Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, about the 300 indigenous people living in Bakhtia, the heart of the Siberian Taiga, as they have for centuries; The Fruit Hunters—a look at food and fruit from the dawn of humanity through modern agriculture, directed by Yung Chang and featuring Bill Pullman; A Fierce Green Fire writer/director Mark Kitchell’s look at the evolution of the environmental movement narrated by Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Ashley Judd and Isabel Allende; and More Than Honey, Austrian director Markus Imhoof’s global examination of endangered honeybees.
Co-artistic director Ireland’s own film, Jolene: Director’s Cut which launched the career of its incredible star, the amazing Jessica Chastain makes its world debut in version he originally intended it to be in this years Festival. Chastain, who made her feature film debut in Ireland’s adaptation of the powerful E.L. Doctorow short story of a young girl’s life from ages 15 to 25, went on to win the Seattle International Film Festival’s Best Actress Award for her performance in the film.
Festivalgoers can find a full schedule of films, theaters and screening times on the Festival website schedule page at liff2013.com/screenings. The Home of the Louisiana International Film Festival, Cinemark Perkins Rowe (10000 Perkins Rowe, Baton Rouge, LA 70810), serves as the main theatrical venue with additional screenings at the Joy Theatre (1200 Canal St New Orleans, LA 70112), Manship Theater at the Shaw Center for the Arts (100 Lafayette St, Baton Rouge, LA 70801), the historic Louisiana Old State Capitol (100 North Blvd. Baton Rouge, LA 70801) and the midnight madness screening at LSU Union Theater (101 LSU Student Union Building Baton Rouge, La. 70803).
On Tuesday, April 9th, LIFF is hosting a free screening of 42, directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford, and a pre-release screening of The Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance’s film starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, and Ray Liotta. 42 will screen at 6:30 and The Place Beyond the Pines will screen at 7:15. Visit www.lifilmfest.org for details.
Canadian-born Ian Birnie, who has had a hand in a number of prestigious international film festivals, including Toronto, Bangkok, Palm Springs and Perugia Film Festivals and has served on juries at the Berlin, Hamptons, Abu Dhabi and Geneva Film Festivals, is currently the US Representative for the Mumbai International Film Festival in India. He concludes, “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.”