New Orleans Film Festival premieres Nov. 5, offers hybrid format

Michal Rahabi, Contributing Reporter

New Orleans Film Society Logo, courtesy of New Orleans Film Society

As November rolls in, New Orleans plans for its highly anticipated 32nd film festival, premiering Nov. 5. For those who are unfamiliar with this event, the New Orleans Film Society produces an annual film festival which strives to “amplify diverse voices of filmmakers who tell the stories of our time.” The NOFS works year-round to construct film culture in the South while supporting filmmakers using career-advancing resources. The festival is one of the largest in the Southeast, with an audience nearing 30,000.

In 2020, the festival was challenged by high COVID-19 cases in New Orleans. Determined to let the show go on, they established a completely outdoor festival. Though New Orleans’ case numbers have depleted, the NOFS is remaining conscious of the pandemic by organizing a hybrid festival, featuring virtual and in-person programming. The festival is also offering indoor and outdoor in-person options, ensuring everyone is accommodated. 

This year, the festival offers an exciting lineup of 170 films, all offering a variety of perspectives. The NOFS website highlights that “films directed by women and gender non-conforming directors account for 64% of the lineup, and films helmed by directors of color make up 73% of the lineup, with 36% of films coming from Black directors. Films made in the American South represent 60%, and Louisiana-made films represent 22% of the lineup and the directors of selected films represent 24 different nationalities.” For Tulane students — most of which are non-NOLA natives — this festival can be an enriching and enjoyable opportunity to learn more about Louisiana’s culture and marginalized voices.

Whether you are into dark films or light-hearted comedy, this film festival is for you. Personally, I am looking forward to the documentaries being featured at the film festival. The docu-film “Fruits of Labor” tells the story of Ashley Solis, a Mexican-American teenager from Central California whose life is deeply impacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids under the Trump Administration. Ashley works to provide for her family while balancing school and her personal life. Another docu-film which stood out to me was “Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust.” Manazar, formally deemed “the land of the flowing water,” now lies as a destitute and dusty valley. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power took control of the area in the 1900s to divert water to the city, and forcefully removed indigenous people from their land. These documentaries both highlight the dark side of the American government, specifically in its treatment of immigrants and indigenous people. It is crucial that these narratives are illuminated, and that we are made aware of these modern transgressions. 

The film “King Richard” will be featured at the festival as well, which has been anticipated in popular culture for quite some time. This film is based on a true story, detailing the upbringing of Venus and Serena Williams, two of the most gifted athletes of all time.

For those on a budget, the festival offers a variety of free films which can be found on their website. There will also be filmmaker conferences, which will be a free opportunity to learn more about the inspiration behind the featured films. The New Orleans Film Festival will be available in person until Nov. 14 and will be available virtually until Nov. 21.