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NOFS again books locally-shot films to open and close New Orleans Film Festival

Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer star in 'Black and White,' the Opening Night Film of the 2014 New Orleans Film Festival
Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer star in 'Black and White,' the Opening Night Film of the 2014 New Orleans Film Festival
Venture Forth/Sunlight Productions

On Friday, the New Orleans Film Society made a few big announcements regarding the upcoming New Orleans Film Festival (October 16-23). And though the festival continues to grow bigger and better every year, 2014 is sure to be extra special, as the event celebrates its 25th Anniversary.

While the festival’s screenings will take place in various venues across the city, the marquee Opening and Closing Night films will again take advantage of the city’s historic and newly renovated theaters. The fest opened and closed at the Joy Theater in 2012 and The Civic last year. (Read my coverage of last year’s terrific Opening Night here).

And while the Opening Night revelry will return to the Civic Theatre (510 O’Keefe Ave), this year’s Closing Night festivities will move to the just re-reopened Carver Theater (2101 Orleans Ave)

This year’s festival will open on the evening of Thursday, October 16 with the New Orleans-shot drama, Black and White. The film is the story of a widowed grandfather (Kevin Costner) who is left to raise his bi-racial granddaughter. When the little girl’s paternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer) seeks custody, a bitter legal battle ensues that forces the uneasy family members to have an honest conversation about life, death, anger, and America’s racial divide.

Costner, who not only stars in, but produces the film, says of the city and local film community, “New Orleans, as well as the state of Louisiana, has come to my rescue more than once as a filmmaker. It was the difference between me making my movie and not. The group of filmmakers that exists here made it possible, and nothing feels better than bringing it back for them to see the vision that united us all in work.”

In addition to Oscar winners Costner and Spencer, the film stars New Orleans-native Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Ehle, Gillian Jacobs, Bill Burr, Andre Holland, and introducing Jillian Estell. Black and White is written and directed by Mike Binder (Reign Over Me, The Upside of Anger). Providing the film’s original score is another New Orleans native, acclaimed composer Terence Blanchard.

A week later, on Thursday, October 23, the festival will come to close with the world premiere screening of The Big Beat, a documentary that profiles the early years of legendary New Orleans musicians, Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew.

The film follows their journey turning New Orleans Rhythm & Blues into Rock N' Roll and shows how their music contributed to racial integration. Combing archival material and recent interviews with Dave, Fats, and surviving band members, the film illustrates the story of these two men and the other musicians who made their band among the greatest in Rock N' Roll history.

The Big Beat is directed by veteran documentarian Joe Lauro, who says of the film, "I see The Big Beat as not only the story of Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, but a tale of New Orleans, the city where Dave and Fats have always lived and where their music was born. Having our film's world premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival is an honor. It somehow completes the circle."

New Orleans Film Society Executive Director, Jolene Pinder, commented on the films by saying, "Both opening and closing night selections have a special resonance for our city. Black and White is a testament to the thriving film industry in Louisiana and the meaningful stories being filmed here, while The Big Beat honors the singular contributions New Orleans artists have made to our country's musical history. We are honored to host such special homecoming screenings for both films.”

Looks like another great fest is coming our way in about two months! More information on the 2014 New Orleans Film Festival will be posted as soon as it becomes available. And I will again cover various events throughout the festival, including the Opening and Closing Night events. Follow @NOLA_FilmEvents for more information and coverage.

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