Final Thoughts on inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival

Although the lack of updates would indicate lounging to some, I’ve been extremely busy over the last month and a half. This doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten about the wonderful time I had at the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival! The event was quite enjoyable, with my biggest regret being I had to miss screenings and events due to school activities. Instead of discussing my general malaise and regret over failing to make it to all of the events I’d planned to, I’ll tell you about the fun stuff I experienced!

The festival kicked off in New Orleans on Thursday, April 18th with the screening of Twenty Feet From Stardom. Unfortunately my schedule prevented my festival from beginning until Friday morning. On Friday morning I traveled to the Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge. The studio just so happens to be part of Raleigh Studios; as such, the facility has seen its share of big name productions, including Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Battleship and Oblivion. Although I didn’t run into Kristen Stewart (thankfully) or Liam Neeson (bummer), I did run in to a nice screenwriter named Steve Esteb. As I mentioned in my preview, the festival not only featured movies, but several seminars related to the film industry. Mr. Esteb was kind enough to give a lecture on screenwriting.

I found Mr. Esteb’s seminar informative and helpful. In speaking with Mr. Esteb before the seminar I found out that he too has a background in Political Science. Seeing that Mr. Esteb has been able to succeed in the film industry even though he didn’t start out planning to write for a living is encouraging. I really enjoy writing. I’d love to make money doing it, but that’s not why I started this blog...I wanted to share my take on movies with others in the hopes that someone, somewhere will enjoy it.

The seminar was also helpful because Mr. Esteb provided several useful tips on getting started. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll write a screenplay, but the advice offered in the seminar really got my creative wheels spinning.  While it would have been easy for Mr. Esteb to come in, hand us his card and tell us to come see him at one of his workshops, he took the time to offer everyone sound advice for taking the first steps toward realizing our writing dreams. Although I was only able to attend one seminar, the Louisiana International Film Festival offered plenty of others and I’m sure that anyone interested in the film industry would have found one or two of interest to attend.

The next event I attended was the world premiere of the director’s cut of the Jessica Chastain movie Jolene at the Manship Theatre on Saturday night. Not only did the Louisiana International Film Festival afford me the opportunity to attend my first world premiere, it afforded me the opportunity to sit in on a Q&A with the film’s director, Dan Ireland. Instead of giving an in depth review of the film, I’ll give you a score. I rate the director’s cut of Jolene a 3 out of 5. The film deals with some fairly heavy material, but does so in a way that does not leave one emotionally spent after the film has concluded. Having never seen Jolene I cannot speak to the quality of the director’s cut compared to the original, but the film I saw was enjoyable, with Jessica Chastain giving a wonderful performance. 

Of course, Ms. Chastain is no stranger to this blog, having captured my heart with her performance in The Help. Interestingly, Jolene was Ms. Chastain’s first feature film. While her performance isn’t as strong as her turns in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, you can’t help but love her as the title character. Hearing director Dan Ireland discuss working with Jessica Chastain before she became a huge star was a fun experience. I also enjoyed hearing Mr. Ireland discuss conflict that can occur pitting creative control against the financial means to make a film. 

The world premiere of Jolene: The Director's Cut ended fairly late Saturday night, but I was still able to attend one of the festival parties in downtown Baton Rouge. One of the neat things about film festivals is meeting individuals with a common interest (movies) and discussing films with them at social gatherings throughout the festival. My late night excursion to downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday April 20th forever changed my life. It was that night that I met Jeff “The Dude” Dowd. That’s right, I met, “The Dude”. Mr. Dowd is the inspiration for Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. Mr. Dowd was one of the organizers of the Louisiana International Film Festival and he couldn’t have been more friendly. I won’t go on and on about it, but 4/20/2013 was one of the most exciting nights of my life...until my car was towed from Louie’s Cafe in the middle of the night! 

The excitement of Saturday behind me, I did my serious movie watching Sunday afternoon. It was on Sunday afternoon that I was finally able to see the only true “must see” film for me, Hannah Arendt. I was interested to see the movie because I was in the process of taking a course on tyranny. As mentioned in my preview, the film focuses on Hannah Arendt’s work for The New Yorker covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi considered one of the main people responsible for The Holocaust. It was in this series of essays that Arendt would utter the controversial phrase “banality of evil”. While I’m disappointed in the fact that the movie doesn’t really delve into the question of the nature of evil and tyranny, I still enjoyed the film. Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5. 

While I enjoyed Jolene and Hannah Arendt, the third film I saw at the festival is the one that has stayed with me the longest. That film is The East. I must admit I was a bit underwhelmed after seeing the trailer, but I’d heard it had generated quite the buzz at Sundance so I decided “to hell with school” since I’d already given it so much time during the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival. Looking back, I’m glad I decided to take a break from school and join The East’s movement.

Going in to the film I was worried it would be an over the top hippie love fest that glorified eco terrorism & contrived events in such a way that critically thinking audience members would have little to discuss on the ride home. I’m happy to say that The East proved my initial reservations to be wrong...for the most part. Although there are a few “preachy” bits, overall I think the film does a good job of raising awareness of important issues that Americans should be discussing. Some of the issues include: corporate responsibility and domestic terrorism. I don’t want to go in to depth about these issues and give you my opinion on them either way, but I think The East is worth a look because it is sort of like an inverse Zero Dark Thirty...

Minus my car being towed and having to fork out $200 to retrieve it*, I really enjoyed my weekend at the Louisiana International Film Festival. I was able to get valuable insight into writing for the screen while viewing movies that many across the country (and world) had not yet seen. Although there were a few minor logistical hiccups throughout the festival, I think the group organizing it and all of the volunteers did a wonderful job putting on the inaugural festival. After a fun time this year I am looking forward to attending next year. I hope to see you there!

*My car was towed from a cafe near campus at a gathering with friends after the festival it wasn’t an issue of the festival towing me!