Harriet directed by Kasi Lemmons
Harriet directed by Kasi Lemmons

For its 30th anniversary, the Oscar-qualifying New Orleans Film Festival will showcase a slate of 232 visionary, thought-provoking films from  October 16 through October 23, 2019. The festival will close with Harriet biopic about renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and the Tribeca Film Festival award-winning film Burning Cane, directed by 19-year-old Phillip Youmans, will serve as the Centerpiece Film.

“The festival’s strong accent on Southern voices is a vote of confidence in the rich storytelling in this region,” said New Orleans Film Society’s Artistic Director Clint Bowie. “Our role is to help cultivate the storytellers here and shine a bright light on their work – and to continue to ensure that the New Orleans Film Festival serves as an important site of discovery for audiences and filmmakers alike.”

Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons will serve as the festival’s Closing Night Selection at the Orpheum Theater. Coming to New Orleans following its World Premiere in Toronto, Harriet is a biopic about renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and risked her life to lead others to freedom through the network of safehouses known as the Underground Railroad. The film stars Cynthia Erivo in the titular role, with Janelle Monáe and Joe Alwyn in supporting roles. New Orleans-based Terence Blanchard provided the music for the film. Lemmons is known for having directed the acclaimed Louisiana-shot film Eve’s Bayou, which screened at the 1997 New Orleans Film Festival. The festival plans a special screening of Eve’s Bayou to celebrate the breadth of Lemmons’ work. 

HARRIET – Trailer

Burning Cane, directed by 19-year-old New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) alum Phillip Youmans, will serve as the Centerpiece Film for the festival, with a screening scheduled for Saturday, October 18, at the Orpheum Theater. The film, starring Wendell Pierce, is set amongst the cane fields of rural Louisiana, where a deeply religious woman struggles to reconcile her convictions of faith with the love she has for her alcoholic son and troubled preacher. The film received the “Youth Film Grant” through #CreateLouisiana last year, funded in part by the New Orleans Film Society. Burning Cane is executive produced by New Orleans based director Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

With Burning Cane, Youmans became the youngest and the first African-American director to win the Founder’s Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival. “Would be a noteworthy debut from a director twice Youmans’ age.” noted John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter.

Additionally, Youmans’ new short film Nairobi will also screen at the festival. The 15-minute short film follows the story Eloise Sekongo immigrating to New York from Ivory Coast after divorcing her husband of 18 years.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Harriet and Burning Cane occupy two of the festival’s most prestigious slots,” said Bowie. “Both films have strong Louisiana ties and reflect the bold work of two truly visionary artists.”

The 30th New Orleans Film Festival feature film competition brings together 10 narrative feature films and 10 documentary feature films from 12 countries. The Louisiana Features Competition will host 6 feature films made in Louisiana.

CLOSING FILM

Harriet | dir. Kasi Lemmons | USA

Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

CENTERPIECE FILM

Burning Cane | dir. Phillip Youmans | USA

Amongst the cane fields of rural Louisiana, a deeply religious woman struggles to reconcile her convictions of faith with the love she has for her alcoholic son and troubled preacher.

FEATURE FILMS IN COMPETITION

NARRATIVE FEATURES COMPETITION

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open | dir. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn | Canada, Norway

Two Indigenous women from vastly different backgrounds find their worlds colliding when one of them is fleeing a violent domestic attack.

Catching Up | dir. Bill Crossland | USA

A man with muscular dystrophy embarks on a series of romantic misadventures after falling for an able-bodied woman.

De Lo Mio | dir. Diana Peralta | USA, Dominican Republic

Two “ride or die” sisters raised in NYC reunite with their estranged brother in the Dominican Republic to clean out their late father’s childhood home.

A Great Lamp | dir. Saad Qureshi | USA

Two sad vandals and an unemployed loner wait for a fabled rocket launch in this heartfelt kaleidoscope of pain and friendship.

Love Cuts (Reži) | dir. Kosta Djordjevic | Serbia, Croatia

A feisty young woman walks the streets of Belgrade, trying to resuscitate her relationship with her fed-up boyfriend while suffering a grievous abdominal wound.

Romance Analyst | dir. Rachel Wortell | USA

A comedy about a platonic love triangle between a woman, her best friend, and her therapist.

Song Lang | dir. Leon Le | Vietnam

A tough debt collector for a ruthless loan shark and a charismatic young opera singer meet in a gritty 1980s Saigon.

Straight Up | dir. James Sweeney | USA

An OCD gay twentysomething finds his intellectual soulmate in a struggling actress.

Test Pattern | dir. Shatara Michelle Ford | USA

An interracial couple’s relationship is put to the test when the girlfriend is sexually assaulted and the boyfriend drives her from hospital to hospital in search of a rape kit.

The World is Full of Secrets | dir. Graham Swon | USA

On a summer night in 1996, five teenage girls tell morbid stories in a suburban house. However, as the night becomes darker, their world of fiction is consumed by a feverish reality.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES COMPETITION

Border South | dir. Raúl O. Paz Pastrana | USA, Mexico

To stem the immigration tide, Mexico and the USA collaborate to crack down on migrants, forcing them into ever more dangerous territory.

Crafting an Echo | dir. Marco Williams | USA

This film takes the audience behind the scenes to experience firsthand the challenges of the creative process and the beauty of dance.

Exodus | dir. Bahman Kiarostami | Iran | US PREMIERE

In a center where Afghan immigrants who have illegally entered Iran are registered for deportation, the exit-interview process results in surprisingly delicate, witty exchanges.

Flannery | dir. Elizabeth Coffman, Mark Bosco | USA

A documentary covering the unusual life and ground-breaking fiction of acclaimed Georgia writer Flannery O’Connor.

Gracefully | dir. Arash Es’haghi | Iran

Gracefully tells the story of a drag queen who had been performing on stage for decades before the revolution and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution he has been banned from any kind of performance. He lives on a farm and spend most of his time farming and he sometimes dances for elderly people at nurseries.

Havana, from on high | dir. Pedro Ruiz | Canada, Venezuela

Forced upwards by the chronic shortage of housing in Central Havana, makeshift houses form a secret village above a decaying district.

Homemade | dir. Jason Maris | USA

Groundbreaking, intimate & artful, Homemade is the six-year journey following highly decorated Force Reconnaissance Marine, Adam Sorensen, as he navigates life after war.

Pier Kids | dir. Elegance Bratton | USA

Three homeless, queer black youths navigate the streets, welfare, and their biological families in order to find stable housing.

Ringside | dir. André Hörmann | USA, Germany

A look at the dangerous, volatile world of Chicago’s South Side from the perspective of two remarkably gifted young boxers and the fathers who train them.

Singular | dir. Dennis Scholl and Marlon Johnson | USA

Chronicles the extraordinary rise of Haitian-American jazz singer Cecile Mclorin Salvant, anchored by a pristine recording of a live concert.

LOUISIANA FEATURES COMPETITION

Burning Cane | dir. Phillip Youmans | USA

Amongst the cane fields of rural Louisiana, a deeply religious woman struggles to reconcile her convictions of faith with the love she has for her alcoholic son and troubled preacher.

Easy Does It | dir. Will Addison | USA | WORLD PREMIERE

Two small-town buddies and their accidental hostage careen across the 1970s Southwest on a treasure hunt turned crime spree. A freewheeling road adventure about unlikely friendships and the giddy futility of chasing the American dream.

The Long Shadow | dir. Daniel Lafrentz | USA | WORLD PREMIERE

A young, female Sheriff’s Deputy in rural Louisiana takes on her town’s old money establishment when the woman she loves––an attorney fighting a land grab that threatens to displace the town’s poor––is murdered.

Lost Bayou | dir. Brian C Miller Richard | USA

In this Southern Gothic mystery, a struggling addict ventures into the Louisiana swamp to reconnect with her faith healer father, only to discover he is hiding a troubling secret aboard his houseboat.

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall | dir. Alexander Glustrom | USA, South Africa

One man standing in the way of a petrochemical plant expansion refuses to give up.

Up from The Streets | dir. Michael Murphy | USA | WORLD PREMIERE

A celebration of the culture of New Orleans through the lens of music.

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