6 movies to see at the 2021 New Orleans Film Festival, starting Friday | Movies/TV


“C’mon, C’mon” is coming home.

The locally shot Joaquin Phoenix drama has been announced as one of the high-profile anchors of this year’s 32nd annual New Orleans Film Festival, giving locals an early chance to see what has been described in some quarters as an early Oscar contender.

But it’s just one of a head-spinning 170 films screening over the course of the festival, which begins Nov. 5 and continues through Nov. 12 in person and Nov. 21 for the festival’s COVID-prompted online component.

Rather than leave you to hunt for those haystack needles, we’ve decided to highlight a six-pack of locally linked films worth catching as the festival plays out.

For fun and good measure, we’ve also included a handful of non-Louisiana honorable mentions worth keeping an eye out for, too.

So, c’mon (c’mon). Let’s go to the movies!

Roll ’em …

“C’mon, C’mon” (directed by Mike Mills | 108 mins.)

The Joaquin Phoenix film chosen to anchor the festival’s opening weekend is also among the highest-profile entries in this year’s lineup. Shot partly in New Orleans in early 2020, it’s a road picture about a radio journalist (Phoenix) who forms an unlikely but ultimately profound relationship with his young nephew when the two are thrown together unexpectedly. Writer-director Mike Mills (“Beginners,” “20th Century Women”) will be in attendance at the film’s local premiere on Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Orpheum Theatre.

When and where: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6, Orpheum Theatre (129 Roosevelt Way); and 7 p.m. Nov. 7, Broadside (600 N. Broad St).


‘The Neutral Ground’

Screens at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 6, Orpheum Theatre.

“The Neutral Ground” (directed by C.J. Hunt | 82 mins.)

After making its broadcast debut this past summer as part of the PBS series “POV,” director C.J. Hunt’s humor-laced film uses New Orleans’ extended debate over the removal of Confederate monuments as a launchpad for a deeper look at race in modern-day America. At once affable, persuasive and thoughtful, “The Neutral Ground” is the sort of deftly constructed film that has a singular way of making you laugh and squirm a little in your seat at the same time — and then walk away eager to talk about what you just saw.

When and where: 2:30 p.m. Nov. 6, Orpheum Theatre; also streaming as part of the festivals’ Virtual Cinema component.

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‘Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away’

Screens at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 6, AMC Elmwood Palace. 

“Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away” (directed by Devin Amar, Matt Mitchener and Charles Todd | 83 mins.)

Legendary Louisiana blues guitarist Buddy Guy — who has influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Carlos Santana – gets a long-overdue, feature-length profile in this performance-rich documentary. Built around new and archival interviews as well as previously unreleased concert footage, it makes its local big-screen debut at the festival after airing over the summer as part of PBS’s “American Masters” series.

When and where: 8:30 p.m. Nov. 6, AMC Elmwood Palace (1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., Harahan); also streaming as part of the festivals’ Virtual Cinema component.


‘Mary Queen of Vietnam’

Screens at 6 p.m. Nov. 9 and 11, Elmwood Palace.

“Mary, Queen of Vietnam” (directed by Bao Ngo; 57 mins.)

After premiering on PBS in February, director Bao Ngo’s locally shot documentary — produced by local filmmaking fixture Glen Pitre — uses Mary Queen of Vietnam church’s annual Tet Fest as an entry point to examine the myriad influences New Orleans’ Vietnamese community has had on the city. Dripping with authenticity, it ultimately delivers a colorful and lively celebration of one of the newest flavors in New Orleans’ cultural gumbo.

When and where: 6 p.m. Nov. 9 and 11, AMC Elmwood Palace 20.


‘The Laughing Man’

Screens at 5:45 p.m. Nov. 13 and 14, Broad Theater.

“The Laughing Man” (dir. Zack Godshall | 73 mins.)

Louisiana native Zack Godshall is no stranger to the New Orleans Film Festival, with several of his previous films having graced lineups past, including “Low and Behold,” “Water Like Stone,” “Hogwash,” “Lord Byron,” “The Boatman” and “God’s Architect” — the last of which earned him the festival’s Louisiana Filmmaker of the Year Award in 2009. So his return this year with his latest, the documentary “The Laughing Man,” is like visiting with an old friend — who also makes reliably compelling films. In this case, it’s a profile of a part-time actor who boasts a sense of unbridled optimism, despite the numerous obstacles he faces daily.

When and where: 5:45 p.m. Nov. 13 and 14, Broad Theater. Also streaming as part of the festivals’s Virtual Cinema component.

“Doc Shorts: There’s No Place Like New Orleans” (various directors | 87 minutes)

Longtime readers will know that I’m a longtime fan of the festival’s shorts programs, which, in addition to giving up-and-coming filmmakers a chance to stretch their creative legs, also offer an intriguing variety of styles, stories and stances. Case in point: this collection of Louisiana documentary short films, which cover everything from 2021’s pandemic-cancelled Carnival (“Different Mardi Gras”) to the intellectual vibe at a Mid-City hair salon (“BABYBANGZ”) to the city’s black-owned funeral homes (“Death is Our Business”).

When and where: 3 p.m. Nov. 7, Broad Theater; and noon Nov. 13, Elmwood Palace; also streaming as part of the festival’s Virtual Cinema component.

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‘The Capote Tapes’

Screens at 7 p.m. Nov. 5, Elmwood Palace.

Honorable mention

“The Capote Tapes,” a documentary about author Truman Capote built around never-before-seen archival footage.

When and where: 7 p.m. Nov. 5, Elmwood Palace.

“Belfast,” writer-director-actor Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age Oscar hopeful about a boy growing up amid the Troubles in late-’60s Ireland.

When and where: 8:30 p.m. Nov. 9, Elmwood Palace.

“Red Rocket,” a dramatic comedy from filmmaker Sean Baker (“Tangerine,” “The Florida Project”) about an over-the-hill porn star who returns to his Texas hometown and which played to a standing ovation earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival.

When and where: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, AMC Elmwood Palace.

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‘King Richard’

Screens at 8 p.m. Nov. 14, Elmwood Palace. 

“King Richard,” a drama inspired by true events and starring Will Smith as the father of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams.

When and where: 8 p.m. Nov. 14, Elmwood Palace

“Flee,” an animated documentary that took home this year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize in the world cinema documentary competition, telling the story of a soon-to-be-married man who decides to finally share the story of his hidden past.

When and where: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13, Broad Theatre.

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