The New Orleans Film Festival

I’ve been attending the 20th Annual New Orleans Film Festival, which started on Friday and goes until Thursday of this week.  So far I’ve seen a series of dark and funny animation shorts, the new Werner Herzog film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (though you’d be right to find the trailer somewhat uninspiring), and three documentaries today: Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (awesome website); A Village Called Versaille (did you know there is a large population of Vietnamese people in New Orleans East, Catholic transplants who fled South Vietnam?); and New Orleans Music Renaissance.

I’ll post more about these later, but right now I just want to write down a few quick notes about the festival itself.  Having come most recently from New York City, where I first started attending film festivals, it is nice to participate in one that is much more financially accessible.  In New York, the prices of films at the major annual festival are extremely prohibitive.  Here, it’s best to join the New Orleans Film Society as a member.  Membership prices are scaled, so you pay what you can afford.  Once you are a member, prices of tickets are reduced, so I ended up paying only $5 per film, and the savings are quickly adding up to make up for the price of membership.

One interesting thing is that you can’t buy tickets in advance.  Everyone has to line up at the door to buy tickets half an hour before the screening.  There’s a members line and a non-members line.  So far, screenings have been chronically late, because letting in all the members before non-members can even buy tickets is a very time-consuming process.  Also, people who have been waiting in line the longest can get shut out of the most popular films.  This, I think, is a major drawback.  The plus side is that, as a member, you’re pretty much guaranteed entry.

The scheduling is sometimes a bit wonky.  Films are shown at venues all over the city, at least one of them constantly devoid of free parking, so it can be difficult to get from one film to another on time to do all the standing in line and buying of tickets business.  Also, films are scheduled concurrently and most of them aren’t repeated.  Some of this is unavoidable at any festival, but there could probably be more careful scheduling and repetition of popular films that clash with one another.  That being said, I have a lot of respect for the difficulty of the task.

I have to say, I do love the fact that screenings are shown at several venues.  It has given me a chance to become more acquainted with the various theaters and community/art centers in the city; plus, since walking is often the best means of getting around, I always run into other interesting things I didn’t know about, like the can sculptures at Canal Place.  More on that later.


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