NOFF 2017 Saturday Recap | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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NOFF 2017 Saturday Recap

Gabourey Sidibe, Jason Mitchell, and “Saturday Morning Cartoons”

Oct 15, 2017 NOFF 2017 By Zach Hollwedel Bookmark and Share

“Welcome everyone, to Saturday morning cartoons,” the venue coordinator at the Ace Hotel greeted the audience before the Animated Shorts Block Saturday morning. Fifteen shorts, ranging from barely a minute to almost 14-minutes long, were selected from the hundreds that were submitted to play during the Academy Award qualifying block. Frog’s Song, a stop motion picture set in the bayou, was an endearing, music-driven take on life, death, and jazz in New Orleans. Unsatisfying Compilation was a hilarious depiction of some of the most common minor frustrations in life. Julia Pott’s (writer, Adventure Time) Summer Camp Islandwhich was a hit at previous festivals, including Sundance and Toronto, was a totally bizarre yet entirely giddying look at homesickness, summer camp, and first crushes. (Earlier this year, Cartoon Network greenlit a series based on the short.) Making its U.S. premiere, Nevada came out of nowhere as a laugh out loud yet deeply introspective consideration of starting a family. And Lovestreams returned to the early days of online courtship, using Aol’s AIM as the bridge between two remote lovers. The winning filmmaker, as chosen by the jury and announced toward the end of the festival, will receive a Toon Boom Storyboard Pro licenses for a year, along with a yearlong license for Toon Boom Harmony Premium.

That afternoon, as part of the festival’s free and open to the public programming (supported by The Helis Foundation), Joyce Wong’s Wexford Plaza made its New Orleans debut. Shot on a micro-budget in Toronto, the film employs a dual protagonist structure while telling of the misinterpreted signals between Betty, an overnight security guard at a moribund strip mall and Danny, a down on his luck bartender. Newcomer Reid Asselstine was completely relatable as Betty and hopefully has a long career ahead of her. Director Anu Valia’s comedy short Troll preceded the feature and found its leading lady in the role of an unrepentant internet troll whose vitriol causes a YouTube musician to attempt suicide. All filmmakers stood for a conversation with the audience after the lights came back up and shared their experiences bringing a film to fruition, from inception to screen. Whereas Wong wrote the script herself, inspired by a friend’s experiences as a security guard, Valia received a script from the film’s two stars, who had developed the idea (and the screenplay) through an improvisational process of comedic one-upmanship.

Gabourey Sidibe

As Wexford Plaza and Troll screened, Gabourey Sidibe presented her directorial debut, the short film, The Tale of Four. Inspired by Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” Sidibe’s film follows a day in the life of a quartet of interconnected women. Naturally gregarious and hilarious, Sidibe discussed casting the film, working with her friends, and the representation of women of color in the film industry. She touched briefly upon the Harvey Weinstein scandal and, more personally, talked about dismissing crewmembers for their condescension to women on her set. She was candid when jokingly recounting her days as a phone sex operator (“Becky”) and treated the audience to her titillating, giggly 900-number persona.

The evening’s sold-out Centerpiece Screening, Mudbound, was the hottest ticket of the festival. A Netflix release slated to stream in mid-November, the film stars Jason Clarke and Carey Mulligan as Henry and Laura McAllan, southern city dwellers who transplant their growing family to the Mississippi Delta in a bid to build their fortunes as farmers during World War Two. Hap and Florence Jackson (Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige) have been sharecropping the same land for generations, and soon find themselves beholden to the McAllans. Their simmering differences are juxtaposed against the experiences of Henry’s brother, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), and the eldest Jackson child, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), both serving in the armed forces overseas. When Jamie and Ronsel return from war, they find their hardest battles might yet lie ahead.

NOFF Mudbound

With his family and friends in the audience and an eager rush line wrapped around the corner, New Orleans native Jason Mitchell (previously most recognizable as Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton) received the festival’s Trailblazer Award prior to the screening. He spoke eloquently about the film’s timeliness and potential impact in opening people’s eyes to the unfortunate resurgence of racial tensions in America. Modest and affable, he was thrilled to be back home with his nearest and dearest and to share his incredible performance with the crowd. Producer Cassian Elwes and a handful of supporting cast members then joined Mitchell on stage for a brief Q&A. They championed the importance of diversification in Hollywood and sang the praises of the film’s myriad female artists (Mudbound was directed, co-written, edited, shot, scored, and more by women, and is based on a female author’s book).

NOFF Party 1

Torrential rain that began during the film didn’t stop scores of festival attendees from making their way across town, out of the CBD and through the French Quarter to the after party in the Marigny. DJs, food trucks, and plenty of bars awaited revelers in Crescent Park right beside the Mississippi. As walls of rain obscured the city skyline, which bends in a sharp half-moon along the mighty muddy river, filmmakers and film lovers danced to bounce music that could be heard from three blocks away. Giant barges passed silently through the swift current, while Tropical Punch, a “visual album” from New Orleans’ legendary Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia, made its world premiere. An eventual break in the deluge not long before 1am offered the perfect opportunity to bid the fest good night for the time being, in anticipation of yet another packed, exciting day to come.

NOFF Party 2


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