Louisiana International Film Festival

When I decided to attend graduate school at LSU the blogger in me got excited about moving to Baton Rouge. One reason was the food. Louisiana is known the world over for its unique culinary tradition. A second reason was the opportunity to see films that were not released in smaller markets like Auburn. I can’t tell you how exciting it’s been to not have to wait for a home video release to see critically acclaimed films. Knowing all of this, you can imagine my excitement at learning Baton Rouge is home to the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival (LIFF).

The festival will open on Thursday April 18th in New Orleans with a screening of the Morgan Neville Documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom and run through Sunday April 21st. LIFF will feature over 50 narrative feature films, documentaries and shorts to be screened in multiple venues throughout Baton Rouge. The films have been carefully selected to include new films, festival favorites, recent releases and a few cult classics. LIFF Programming Director Ian 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.”

Opening day in Baton Rouge will feature a free Producers’ Conference & Industry Expo at the Celtic Media Centre. The festival will also give guests a chance to attend a variety of workshops on acting, music, development, production incentives and film financing hosted by industry professionals. For a full schedule of workshops and more information please visit http://liff2013.com/workshops.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about the festival. I can think of no better break from the monotony of my end of the semester grind than checking out some new movies and attending workshops that will help me finally figure out whether or not I have what it takes to write a screenplay! Looking at the lineup, I’ve already determined a few “must see” films for myself. The first is Twenty Feet from Stardom. As mentioned above, Twenty Feet From Stardom opens the festival in New Orleans on Thursday April 18th.

The film is a documentary that focuses on the life of a back up singer. While documentaries might not be everyone’s thing, I feel fairly confident that everyone loves music. Twenty Feet From Stardom seems to be a nice showcase of musical talent and the unseen, less glamourous side of music stardom. In the film’s trailer on LIFF’s website the film’s director, Morgan Neville, hints at the struggle between “We and I” that is found in our society. This struggle particularly manifests itself amongst back up singers as they have to put any individual aspirations they might have aside to ensure that the entire group functions cohesively (i.e. put your aspirations aside to ensure the star looks good).

A second film I’m excited to see is A Hijacking. This Danish film is about a commercial ship that is hijacked by Somali pirates and held for ransom. The trailer is only a minute long but it does a wonderful job of building up tension. I can’t wait to be stuck to the edge of my seat as the deadly chess game between the pirates and the corporation that owns the ship plays out.

As mentioned previously, I’m working on my PhD in Political Theory, so my third pick, Hannah Arendt, shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone who is familiar with the field. The film focuses on Ms. Arendt’s controversial work for The New Yorker during the war crimes trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann. The film will be even more interesting for me since I’m due to write a paper on totalitarianism in just a few weeks and will be confronting the “banality of evil” along with the role of individual citizens in resisting tyranny.

The final film on my “must see” list is Starbuck. The movie is about a man who through his donating sperm years early has fathered over 500 children, with 142 of them filing a lawsuit to find out who their father is. Of course the comedy of this comes not only from the fact one man has fathered so many children, but that “Starbuck” aka David Wozniak is the last person you’d want to father your child. If the trailer is any indication, many of Wozniak’s children are doing better than he is. From the looks of it, the film seems to have an “Apatow-esque” element to it; the laughs are a vehicle to deliver life truths.

Don’t let my parents know, but it seems next weekend I’ll be busy shirking my school duties in favor of watching movies (what else is new?). I invite you to join me in showing your support for the fine men and women who have worked so hard to bring us the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival by attending a workshop or checking out a movie or two. With workshops to attend and over 50 movies to choose from there’s something for everyone.

Check out the list of films and schedule online at www.liff2013.com.