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A 2023 New Orleans Film Festival Lineup Preview

Sep 8, 2023 | Film Festivals, Louisiana Filmmakers, Louisiana Productions

2023 New Orleans Film Festival

There’s that scene – right up there as an iconic cinematic moment with scenes from The Godfather and Citizen Kane – in Space Jam, 1996, where it’s the night of the big game between the Looney Tunes and the Monstars. Cars of creatures wait in line. The city is aglow with anticipation, and Pump Up The Jam introduces the locker room of the Tune Squad.

This is how I imagine the city of New Orleans will look right around the evening of November 2nd. Street vendors saunter through the stalled headlights of animated crowds of Louisiana filmmakers lined up outside Second Line Stages and the Prytania Uptown Theatre as they anticipate opening night of the 2023 New Orleans Film Fest. All of this commotion, of course, occurs against the backdrop of Pump Up The Jam

It might not roll out quite so ostentatious, but the baseline is this: filmmakers and movie lovers alike can start to plan for the 34th annual New Orleans Film Festival. 

The New Orleans Film Society has released its list of selected films and all-access passes are available for NOFF Members and the general public. The in-person festival is scheduled for November 2nd through the 7th this year, with virtual screenings running through November 12th.

New Orleans Film Festival

The NOFF received more than 3,900 submissions from a diversity of backgrounds, with just over one-fifth of them representing films that were made in Louisiana:

After receiving 3,900 submissions from 117 countries for the 34th anniversary of the festival, our seasoned team of programmers selected a slate of 127 films in competition that represent a wealth of perspectives. These include 29 feature films (19 documentaries, 10 narrative features) and 98 short films, with 22 world premieres, 6 US premieres, and 38 Southern premieres.

Overall, films from filmmakers based in the American South represent 60% of the lineup, and Louisiana-made films represent 22% of the lineup. The directors of selected films represent 35 different nationalities. Films directed by women and non-binary directors account for 60% of the lineup, films helmed by directors of color make up 60%, and films from directors identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community account for 41% of selected films.

The 2023 Film Fest live schedule goes live on Friday, October 6th at noon, with information about the parties and panels anticipated around the same time. For now, we’ve got 127 films to browse and “ooh-ahh” at like little colorful fireworks in blurb form. Here’s a sample of a few of the upcoming New Orleans Film Fest selections from each of the six represented categories.

Animated Short – Aikane by Directors Daniel Sousa, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson


The New Orleans Film Festival: 

“A valiant island warrior, wounded in battle against foreign invaders, falls deep into a mysterious underwater world.”

Here’s a potential film theory student study for the year 2023: Why, this year, has there been an overwhelming selection of short films dealing with the thematic elements of water? Of the ten animated short films selected for the Film Festival, five of them directly channel stories with prominent imagery or titles about water.  

Aikane has been sweeping through international film festivals in 2023 and screens this weekend at the 34th Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival.

Documentary Feature – King Coal by Director Elaine Mcmillan Sheldon

King Coal

A lyrical tapestry of a place and people, KING COAL meditates on the complex history and future of the coal industry, the communities it has shaped, and the myths it has created. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon reshapes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking in a spectacularly beautiful and deeply moving immersion into Central Appalachia where coal is not just a resource, but a way of life.

Elaine Mcmillan Sheldon has won a Peabody and two Emmys for her work as a documentary filmmaker. Her previous explorations of Appalachian life have included 2018’s Heroin(e) (for which she was Academy Award-nominated) and 2019’s Coal’s Deadly Dust about the plight of black lung in coal miners.

Documentary Short – The Crawfish Trap by Director Nathan Willis

The Crawfish Trap

The New Orleans Film Festival: 

“An aging crawfish farmer considers retirement.”

The Doc Short block of films carries a vibrant tapestry of films that represent Southern filmmakers. Director Nathan Willis is a Southern-based, Emmy-winning filmmaker (for the feature-length documentary Rap Squad). Louisiana-based films in the Documentary Short category include After Angola by Director Milan Daemgen and Big Arms by Director Zac Manuel.

Experimental Short – Beneath the Concrete, The Forest by Director Lev Omelchenko

Beneath the Concrete, The Forest

“Beneath the Concrete, The Forest” is a short experimental documentary that takes us inside an ongoing struggle inside the city of Atlanta, GA between two sides to determine the future of Weelaunee, the biggest contiguous urban forest in the country.

The Experimental Shorts block is not thematically bound by one concept. If anything, the shared relationship is that each film shares an intimate sense of place. Director Lev Omelchenko explores the conflicting status of Weelaunee Forest, once home to the Muscogee Creek People and now an old-growth segment of Atlanta encroached by development.

Narrative Feature – Mountains by Director Monica Sorelle


The New Orleans Film Festival: 

“A Haitian demolition worker is faced with the realities of redevelopment as he is tasked with dismantling his rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.”

Ten films are spotlighted in the “Narrative Feature” segment of the Film Fest, and it’s exciting to see a Haitian Creole-language film by a Haitian-American filmmaker receive acclaim. Representing a region often undervalued for its contribution to the Arts, Director Monica Sorelle explores, “alienation and displacement, and preserves cultural traditions within Miami & the Caribbean with a focus on the African & Latin diasporas that live there.”

Narrative Short – Mango City by Director Emma Cuba

Mango City

The New Orleans Film Festival:

“Lou, a curious 7-year-old girl, has three days left to say goodbye to the love of her life, Miami.” 

It’s not easy to spotlight one film out of the 43 diverse narrative shorts screening at this year’s Film Festival, but we’ll go with the lush 12-minute magic of Emma Cuba’s directorial debut, Mango City. From Emma Cuba’s Instagram, a sentiment to which any creator can relate:

There’s nothing quite as special as getting to be a beginner. To be allowed to embrace the mistakes, the discoveries, and the community that comes together when you take a leap of faith to do something you love. Beginner magic is real and it is excellent.

No Looney Tunes – You’ll have to settle for 127 pieces of meticulously crafted filmmaking.

That’s what’s coming up from November 2nd to 7th at the 34th New Orleans Film Festival. Each year for a week, the city starbursts with cinema from around the world, with a gathering of filmmakers who all share the same need and the same dream: 

To tell stories. 


All-access passes to the 2023 New Orleans Film Fest are available now on the New Orleans Film Festival website.

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