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This year's New Orleans Film Festival to be its biggest yet

This years New Orleans Film Festival is slated to be even bigger and more prominent than that of last year (an event from which is pictured above).

The 2015 New Orleans Film Festival is slated to be even bigger and more prominent than that of last year (an event from which is pictured above).

The New Orleans Film Festival continues its rise in prominence with its 26th edition.

For the first time ever, the NOFF – to be held October 14 through 22 at several venues around the city – will be an Oscar®-qualifying festival, in the category of documentary shorts. In other words, the winner of the short documentary jury award will qualify to be nominated for an Academy Award®.

A record 3,400 submissions from 100 countries poured in for this year’s festival, a 58 percent increase over the previous year. The lineup features 173 selections from NOFF’s open call for submissions from independent filmmakers, in addition to more than a dozen additional films that have acquired distribution.

The slate also showcases 24 feature films selected for competition: eight films in the Narrative Films in Competition category, seven films in the Documentary Films in Competition category and nine films in the Louisiana Features category (by Louisiana filmmakers). Of the 24 films, seven will have their World Premieres at this year’s fest.

"The sustained growth of the festival demonstrates that Louisiana is an established hub of the entertainment industry,” says New Orleans Film Society Executive Director Jolene Pinder. “And the New Orleans Film Festival serves as a barometer for what’s happening in the state.”

“I’m really proud of our selections and the quality of storytelling we’re bringing to our audiences,” says New Orleans Film Society Program Director Clint Bowie. “Each year new themes emerge that are clearly resonating in the independent film community. From stories of life in Cuba to fictional worlds far from our own, these films challenge our viewers to look at life from a different perspective.”

For information on tickets and passes, visit http://www.neworleansfilmfestival.org.

Below are some of the highlights of this year’s NOFF:

NARRATIVE FILMS IN COMPETITION

“Cover Me”
Director Garrett Bradley | USA | 2015 | 60 min. | Louisiana Premiere

Returning to New Orleans, a young musician grapples with isolation in a changing landscape as it permeates her romantic relationships and artistic career. This film is the result of a remarkable artistic collaboration between director Bradley and avant-garde artist Tameka Norris, who plays the leading role in the picture. (Also in competition as a Louisiana Feature.)

“Cowards Do It Slow”
Director Sean Loftus & Michael Padraic Scahill | USA | 2015 | 99 min. | World Premiere

A love letter to American films of the 1970s and late-night bar culture, “Cowards Do It Slow” looks into the funny, dark heart of an aspiring country singer, a Kentucky boy trying to take his career to the next level as he drunkenly stumbles through the Chicago nightlife and holds on to the spoils that come with it.

“Driving While Black”
Director Paul Sapiano | USA | 2015 | 94 min. | Louisiana Premiere

A dark comedy about racial profiling, “Driving While Black” follows Dimitri (played by Dominique Purdy, who also co-wrote the script), who delivers pizzas for a living in Los Angeles. But as a young black man, he is faced with more than his fair share of unnecessary attention from the cops.

“Embers”
Director Claire Carré | USA, Poland | 2015 | 86 min. | Southern Premiere

After a global neurological epidemic, those who remain search for meaning and connection in a world without memory. Five interwoven stories explore how we might learn, love and communicate in a future that has no past.

“fRENCH DIRTy”
Director Wade Allain-Marcus & Jesse Allain-Marcus | USA | 2015 | 72 min. | Southern Premiere

Against the skyline of Los Angeles, Vincent ruminates on his parents’ failed marriage, his own arrested development and the choice he must make to become a better man.

“It Had To Be You”
Director Sasha Gordon | USA, Italy | 2015 | 83 min. | Louisiana premiere

Surprised by a sudden proposal and subsequent ultimatum from her boyfriend, Sonia has three days to decide which path her life will take. A whimsical romantic comedy that's raunchy and yet gentle, "It Had To Be You" explores the choices women face today, while satirizing cultural expectations of gender and romance.

“Jackie Boy”
Director Cody Campanale | Canada | 2015 | 87 min. | World Premiere

This gritty character drama centers on Jack, a self-destructive womanizer who substitutes his emotional insecurities with drinks, drugs and one-night stands. It’s only when he meets fiery, spirited Jasmine that he decides to change his ways. Little does he know she has something different in mind.

“Jason and Shirley”
Director Stephen Winter | USA | 2015 | 79 min. | Louisiana Premiere

“Jason and Shirley” imagines what went on behind the scenes during the filming of the landmark 1967 documentary “Portrait of Jason,” as Jason Holliday regales filmmaker Shirley Clarke with stories of racism, homophobia, abuse and prostitution in pre-Stonewall New York City.

DOCUMENTARY FILMS IN COMPETITION

“Deal With It”
Director Shamira Raphaëla | The Netherlands | 2014 | 58 min. | Southern Premiere

In this intimate family portrait, we enter the chaotic and colorful world of director Shamira Raphaëla's loved ones: her drug-addicted father, Pempy, and her brother, Andy, who is following in his father’s footsteps. “Deal With It” is a raw and personal film about destructive family patterns and unconditional love.

“Hotel Nueva Isla”
Director Irene Gutierrez | Spain, Cuba | 2014 | 71 min. | Louisiana Premiere

Despite the building's imminent collapse, the last inhabitant of a once luxurious hotel in Old Havana refuses to leave: He remains convinced that treasures—hidden by the hotel's original owners—lie waiting within its walls. The film is a meditation on a country that exists in a state of permanent resistance.

“Missing People”
Director David Shapiro | USA | 2015 | 81 min. | Louisiana Premiere

This tense, nonfiction mystery unfurls around Martina Batan, the director of a prominent New York City gallery who investigates her brother's long unsolved murder, while obsessively collecting and researching the violent work and life of Roy Ferdinand, a self-taught artist from New Orleans.

“Portrait of a Lone Farmer”
Director Jide Tom Akinleminu | Germany, Nigeria, Denmark | 2013 | 76 min. | Louisiana Premiere

When filmmaker Jide Tom Akinleminu returns to his father’s chicken farm in Nigeria, his initial intention is to create a film about his parents’ marriage. But life, as is often the case, has other plans.

“Scrum”
Director Poppy Stockell | Australia | 2015 | 54 min. | Southern Premiere

In the lead up to the 2014 Bingham Cup, the lives of a self-assured Canadian jock, a chubby Irish backpacker and a stoic Japanese outsider change when they vie for a position on the Sydney Convicts, the world’s premiere, gay rugby team.

“The Seventh Fire”
Director Jack Pettibone Riccobono | USA | 2015 | 78 min. | Louisiana Premiere

Terrence Malick presents this haunting and visually arresting nonfiction film about the gang crisis on Indian reservations, through the stories of a Native American gang leader recently sentenced to prison for a fifth time and his 17-year-old protege.

“Touch the Light (Tocando La Luz)”
Director Jennifer Redfearn | Cuba, USA | 2015 | 72 min. | Southern Premiere

In this intimate, character-driven film from Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Jennifer Redfearn, three blind women from Havana, confront their heartbreaks and hopes and navigate their profound desire for independence.

LOUISIANA FEATURES

“Consequence”
Director Jonathan Nguyen & Ashley George | USA | 2015 | 81 min. | World Premiere

The lives of three college coeds are shaken after a weekend camping trip results in the accidental death of a fellow student. Instead of reporting the accident, they decide to conceal the student’s death, a decision that seems logical at first, but slowly begins to eat away at their friendship—and their sanity.

“Delta Justice: The Islenos Trappers War”
Director David DuBos | USA | 2015 | 48 min. | World Premiere

“Delta Justice” gives a true account of St. Bernard Parish’s violent fight over land rights in the mid-1920s. The film sheds new light on an important, yet little-known part of Louisiana’s history.

“Dog Man”
Director Richie Adams | USA | 2015 | 57 min. | World Premiere

“Dog Man” recounts the life story of world-renowned trainer Dick Russell, who worked with an estimated 30,000 dogs through his basic obedience class in South Louisiana and introduced the pivotal training technique of Large Field Socialization to North America.

“Forgive and Forget”
Director Aaron Abdin | USA | 2015 | 101 min. | World Premiere

Brian believes that he has a loving wife, brothers and grandmother but, after a tragic accident claims the life of one of his brothers, the entire family collapses into a mass of secrets, lies and emotional turmoil. Brian is led down a road of discovery, which forces him to choose between holding onto the past or striding towards the future.

“The King of New Orleans”
Director Allen Frederic | USA | 2015 | 83 min. | Louisiana Premiere

In pre-Katrina New Orleans, Larry Shirt is an aging taxi driver whose fares include the city's hustlers, tourists, socialites, musicians, housekeepers, weirdos and reporters, as well as an aimless student, with whom he shares a special bond.

“Love Me True”
Director Kirby Voss | USA | 2015 | 85 min. | World Premiere

A debilitating fetish for blond-haired women constantly thwarts any chance that Eric has for happiness, until a hairless man named Stanley enters his apartment and claims to be the reincarnation of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“The Mourning Hills”
Director R. Todd Campbell | USA | 2014 | 81 min. | New Orleans Premiere

Mattie and Kate are sisters. They're also orphans. Their mother died in a tragic accident, while their father took his own life in the beautiful and terrifying wilderness known as “The Mourning Hills.” When Mattie convinces Kate to run away with her, they decide to head for the very place where their father made them orphans.

“The Phantasmagorical Clarence John Laughlin”
Director Gene Fredericks | USA | 2015 | 88 min. | North American Premiere

This documentary explores the enigmatic life of New Orleans native Clarence John Laughlin, considered the father of American Surrealist photography and often described as “Edgar Allan Poe with a camera.” The film includes the only known video footage of this unique individual, taken in 1977.

“Yazoo Revisited: Integration and Segregation in a Deep Southern Town”
Director David Rae Morris | USA | 2015 | 84 min. | Louisiana Premiere

This film examines the history of race relations and the 1970 integration of the public schools in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Featuring interviews with local citizens of many ages and backgrounds, “Yazoo Revisited” paints a fascinating picture of the triumphs and failures of the Civil Rights Era.

Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.