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Marquee Films highlight New Orleans filmmakers at fest

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George and Carol Terrebonne, from 'Oil and Water' (Photo: Rob Davis)

You’d think that the Cajuns of coastal Louisiana would have pretty clear-cut feelings toward the oil industry in the wake of 2010’s BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

That’s what journalists and filmmakers Rob Davis and David Winkler-Schmidt thought when they first went down to the coast to interview the people most affected by what would become the largest man-made environmental disaster in history.

“Their waters, their fishing grounds are getting poisoned,” said Winkler-Schmidt, describing the scene in the weeks just after the spill. “They can’t shrimp. They’re literally selling Texas pond shrimp.”

But when they asked George and Carol Terrebonne – a Cajun couple who own a seafood retail and wholesale shop – what they thought of the oil companies, “they said, ‘We love the oil companies,’” said Winkler-Schmidt. “And it blew our mind.”

That complex relationship between the coastal Cajuns and the oil and gas industry became the subject matter for their documentary ‘Oil & Water’, one of nine Marquee Films in this year’s New Orleans Film Fest that highlight films made in or about New Orleans.

“The title itself really speaks to it,” said Winkler-Schmidt. “Oil and water don’t usually mix, but it’s been mixing in coastal Louisiana for more than eighty years.”

Fourchon shrimp and oil boats (Photo: Rob Davis)

Fourchon shrimp and oil boats (Photo: Rob Davis)

Before the arrival of the oil and gas industry, Cajuns are largely subsistence fishermen and trappers. “You have families with 14, 15 kids that would spend nine months out of the year fishing,” said Winkler-Schmidt, “and the other three months, they’d pack up the whole family, go into a one room cabin, and become trappers.”

The arrival of the oil companies revolutionized the culture, said Winkler-Schmidt. “Suddenly, they’re able to build roads with actual stones, they’re getting jobs that provide steady paychecks, and suddenly, kids can go to high school, college, post-graduate, so it gave them a new standard of living.”

With that new standard of living, of course, came environmental consequence, both gradual, like coastal erosion, and sudden, like the Horizon disaster.

“Like George Terrebonne says, ‘Yeah, we’re losing things. We noticed that the water’s getting wider and coastal erosion, but we’re making money.’ That’s what he says,” said Winkler-Schmidt. “And the thing of it is, when you spend time with the Cajuns, you wonder to yourself, would anybody else have done differently?

“You could definitely do a screed against the oil company, right? And paint the Cajuns as the great victims. I don’t think the Cajun people as a whole would appreciate that description. They’re pretty damn smart people. You have a lot involved here. It’s very complex.”

Oil & Water, featuring music from the Lost Bayou Ramblers, will screen Sunday, October 19, 8:45 p.m. at Joy Theater. Live music will follow the screening.

“We’re thrilled to place a large focus on New Orleans films and filmmakers this year with our Marquee screenings,” says Jolene Pinder, Executive Director of the New Orleans Film Society. “From visionary directors like Garrett Bradley to production designers like Jim Gelarden, from supporting actors like Lance Nichols and Laura Cayouette to casting directors like Ryan Glorioso ... It’s no wonder that MovieMaker Magazine named New Orleans the ‘top small city to live and work as a moviemaker.’”

The other Marquee Films include:

American Heist (Director: Sarik Andreasyan)- Wednesday, October 22, 8:45 p.m. at Joy Theater

Shot in New Orleans with a cast including the likes of Adrien Brody, Hayden Christensen, Jordana Brewster, and Akon, American Heist tells the story of two brothers with checkered pasts, one struggling on the road to normalcy, the other just released from prison. Their lives intertwine when one drags the other into an ill-fated bank robbery spearheaded by a gang of dangerous criminals.

Below Dreams (Director: Garrett Bradley) Saturday, October 18, 2014, 8:30 p.m.  Joy Theater (additional screening Thursday, October 23, 2014, 3:30 p.m. Prytania Theatre)

A reverie of images and sound, Below Dreams (which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year) loosely follows the narratives of three very different people—Elliott, newly arrived from New York, single mother Leann, and unemployed father Jamaine—as they negotiate New Orleans’ streets, neighborhoods, and residents in search of an upward path to fulfill their dreams. Throughout the film, a brief smattering of familiar local artists emerge including the illustrious Meschiya Lake, jazz sensation Mario Abney, and perhaps the most unique artist currently within the sissy bounce scene, Vockah Redu. Following the premiere screening, Vockah Redu and the Cru will be presenting a one night only performance, immediately following the Q+A at the Joy.

Big Charity (Director: Alex Glustrum) – Tuesday, October 21, 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m. at Joy Theater

Including never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews, Big Charity tells the story of Charity Hospital in New Orleans, from its roots to its controversial closing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. From the firsthand accounts of healthcare providers and hospital employees who withstood the storm inside the hospital, to interviews with key players who helped shut it down, Big Charity shares the untold, true story around its closure and sheds new light on the sacrifices made for the sake of progress.

Big Star: Live in Memphis (Producers: Danny Graflund, Robert Gordon, David Julian Leonard) – Monday, October 20th, 9:00 p.m. at Joy Theater (Additional screening Wednesday, October 22nd, 10:00 p.m. at Prytania Theatre)

Two decades after the demise of the 1970s power-pop band Big Star, original members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens enlisted a couple of the Posies to rejuvenate the group. This concert film, featuring some of the only full-length concert footage of the band, captures both the fun and the intensity of Big Star’s homecoming. This film is making its festival premiere in New Orleans, the late Alex Chilton’s adopted hometown.

Last Spring Break (Director: Sean Gerowin) - Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 8:45 p.m.
 Joy Theater.

Twenty years after college, fraternity brothers in the throes of a collective midlife crisis reunite during Spring Break to film material for their hastily conceived smartphone game, Bikini Girls Behaving Badly. The smartphone game is the brainchild of Luis, the former fraternity president. After college, he’s leading a boring, pedestrian life. To reinvigorate himself, he has gathered his old minions to join him at South Padre Island. From the filmmaking team behind the Audience Award-winning comedy from NOFF 2012, Trailer Park Jesus.

Una Vida (Director: Richie Adams) – Sunday, October 19, 6 p.m. at Joy Theater (Additional screening Tuesday, October 21st, 11 a.m. at Prytania Theatre)

Dr. Alvaro Cruz, a neuroscientist disillusioned by the death of his mother and his inability to help her, finds redemption and reward by helping Una Vida, a jazz singer he discovers performing on the streets of New Orleans. Her health declining and her singing partner and her adopted daughter unable to help, Cruz seeks out her long lost son in an effort to bring resolution to the grief, loss and longing that has overshadowed her hard but beautiful life.

We Won’t Bow Down (Director: Christopher LeVoy Bower) – Tuesday, October 21, 6:45 p.m. at Joy Theater (Additional screening Thursday, October 23, 1:30 p.m. at Prytania Theatre)

In interviews with over 40 practicing Mardi Gras Indians, we learn the legends and the history of a culture whose practices date back to the times of slavery. We watch these men ply their craft to painstakingly construct beaded patches, sewing one bead at a time to create elaborate pictorial stories. As Mardi Gras day approaches, Indians around the city sew day and night to complete their suits in time for the big day. Tensions run high as the final hours dwindle, the night before a combination of desperate toil and jubilant anticipation.

White Rabbit (Director: Tim McCann) – Saturday, October 18, 6:00 p.m. at Joy Theater

Shot in New Orleans, White Rabbit is the story of Harlon (Nick Krause, The Descendants), who has been tormented since childhood by visions of the white rabbit that his father (Sam Trammell, True Blood) forced him to kill while hunting as a young boy. Now that Harlon is a bullied teenager, his undiagnosed mental illness has started to manifest itself in increasing troublesome ways--he begins hearing voices and imagines the characters in his dark comic books are speaking to him.

All-Access Passes are on sale now at www.neworleansfilmfestival.org ($200 for NOFS members / $250 for non-members) and grant pass holders the opportunity to reserve seats for all screenings and VIP access to all parties and special events during NOFF. All-Access Passes do not guarantee admission to the Opening Night film. A limited quantity of Opening Night tickets are available only to All-Access Pass holders on a first-come first-served basis, beginning at noon CST on Thursday, September 25th.

All Marquee screenings will take place at The Joy Theater.

General admission for all other NOFF screenings (including Closing Night) will go on sale Monday, October 13 for non-members at www.neworleansfilmfestival.org.

Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.