Born to be Blue. Robert Budreau

The 2015 New Orleans Film Festival will open with Born to Be Blue (pictured above), the biopic on jazz legend Chet Baker starring Ethan Hawke, fresh from its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and closing the festival is the 1950s Irish immigration story, Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan.

The festival also announced its featured Centerpiece film, I Saw the Light, and its eight Spotlight films, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Carol, Legend, Miss you Already, New Orleans, Here & Now, The Reflektor Tapes, Room and Youth, screening in multiple theaters across New Orleans.

The New Orleans Film Society has also partnered with Deep South Studios and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to create the 2016 Create Louisiana Filmmakers Grant, which will be awarded to one local filmmaker at this year’s Festival before the closing night film on Thursday, October 22nd at the Prytania.

Opening Night:
Born to Be Blue
Dir. Robert Budreau
Ethan Hawke delivers a stunning performance as Chet Baker in this reimagining of the legendary jazz trumpeter’s struggle to overcome his drug addiction and stage a comeback. Born to be Blue finds Baker at the end of the 1960s, starring in a film about his own already-infamous life. He strikes up a passionate romance on-and-off the film set with actress Jane (the luminous Carmen Ejogo, from Selma). But his hopes for a bright future are darkened after a parking lot altercation leaves his mouth so damaged he can barely perform. Nevertheless he becomes determined to regain his place among his peers—chiefly his friend and collaborator Dizzy Gillespie, his rival Miles Davis and his reticent producer. Much more than a standard biopic, Born to Be Blue takes an imaginative approach, portraying the life of an artist whose contributions to the music world were as grand as his addictions were tragic.

Closing Night:

BROOKLYN starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen

Dir. John Crowley
Brooklyn tells the moving story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps her into the intoxicating charm of love. But her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. Based on Colm Toibin’s acclaimed novel, director John Crowley and writer Nick Hornby craft a deeply effective, sweeping romance. Surrounded by a stellar cast of supporting characters, Saoirse Ronan gives a captivating performance. The heart of this highly accomplished work evokes a timeless portrait of leaving home and the excruciating decisions one must make.

Centerpiece Film:
The festival’s Centerpiece Film is a music biopic, the Louisiana-shot I Saw the Light, about country crooner Hank Williams. The film, starring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, also had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.

I Saw the Light
Dir. Marc Abraham
I Saw the Light is the story of the legendary country western singer Hank Williams, who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. Both a celebration of musical genius and a poignant illustration of a restless soul, the film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life. Tom Hiddleston’s revelatory work is bolstered by a brilliant cast, in particular Elizabeth Olsen and Maddie Hasson, who embody the pain of women who, in their own ways, were as complicated and damaged as the man they loved. Written and directed by Marc Abraham, Louisiana-shot I Saw the Light is based on Colin Escott’s award-winning biography and also stars Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz and Cherry Jones.

Spotlight Films:

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Dir. Stanley Nelson
Change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored—cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging that sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party, and those who left it. A selection of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of the pivotal movement that birthed a revolutionary culture in America.

CAROL Starring Cate Blanchett

Dir. Todd Haynes
In this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel The Price of Salt, Carol follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara, in a role that won her the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change. Also starring Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler in strong supporting roles.

Dir. Brian Helgeland
Tom Hardy stars in Legend as identical twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray—Britain’s most infamous gangsters. Rising from humble roots to rule London’s nightclub scene for much of the swinging sixties, the duo rule until a fateful blend of hubris, mental illness, and a lust for violence bring their dream to a catastrophic end. Through dominion by means of assault, robbery and murder, the Krays forge alliances with American crime lords as they seek to make London into the Las Vegas of Europe. But success makes the volatile Ronnie increasingly careless, and their smoothly run and fantastically lucrative operation begins to spin violently out of control. Narrated by Reggie’s wife Frances (Emily Browning), Hardy gives a bravura double performance as both brothers in this exhilarating retelling of one of the most fascinating tales in modern crime.

Miss You Already
Dir. Catherine Hardwicke
Miss You Already is an honest and powerful story following two best friends, Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore), as they navigate life’s highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, they can’t remember a time they didn’t share everything—secrets, clothes, and even boyfriends—but nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news. A story for every modern woman, Miss You Already celebrates the bond of true friendship that ultimately can never be broken, even in life’s toughest moments.

New Orleans, Here & Now
Produced by Killer Films and Field Office Films
This docu-series—directed by John Maringouin, Darius Clark Monroe, Angela Tucker, Lily Keber, Zack Godshall and Katie Dellamaggiore—is a collection of short films that inspire reflection of the city’s resurgence through gripping personal stories spanning multiple generations. From Tiffany Junot’s path to becoming the World Boxing Council Welterweight Champion of the World to the musical talents of the TBC Brass Band to the family history of a beloved Vietnamese restaurant, New Orleans, Here & Now offers a unique perspective of life in the city. Sponsored by FotoKem.

The Reflektor Tapes
Dir. Kahlil Joseph
The Reflektor Tapes is a fascinating insight into the making of Arcade Fire’s international number-one album, Reflektor. The film recontextualizes the album experience, transporting the viewer into a kaleidoscopic sonic and visual landscape. The Reflektor Tapes charts the band’s creative journey as they lay foundations for the album in Jamaica, record in Montreal and play an impromptu gig at a Haitian hotel on the first night of Carnival, all before their breathtaking live show to packed arenas in Los Angeles and London. The film blends never-before-seen personal interviews and moments captured by the band to dazzling effect, and features 15 minutes of exclusive, unseen footage, filmed only for cinema audiences.

Dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Highly suspenseful and deeply emotional, Room is a unique exploration of the boundless love between a mother and child under the most harrowing of circumstances. Jack, a spirited five-year-old who is looked after by his devoted Ma (Brie Larson, Short Term 12) live a life confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space, which they call “Room.” Despite this treacherous environment, Ma will stop at nothing to ensure that Jack is able to live a complete and fulfilling life. However, a risky escape plan brings them face-to-face with what may turn out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world. Based on the global bestseller by Emma Donoghue, Room is at once a taut narrative of captivity and freedom, an imaginative trip into the wonders of childhood and a profound portrait of a family’s bonds. Also starring Oscar® nominees Joan Allen and William H. Macy.

Youth, Paolo Sorrentino

Dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Youth, directed by Academy Award®-winner Paolo Sorrentino, follows two longtime friends vacationing in the Swiss Alps. Oscar®-winning actor Michael Caine plays Fred, an acclaimed composer and conductor who brings along his daughter (Oscar® winner Rachel Weisz) and best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), a renowned filmmaker. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. The two men reflect on their past, each finding that some of the most important experiences can come later in life. Paul Dano and Jane Fonda round out this all-star cast.

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