Louisiana Launches Film Festival on Heels of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Success

by Arlene Washington

Hollywood veterans Jeff "The Dude" Dowd and Dan Ireland are artistic directors of the event, which launches April 18, along with a year-round mentoring program.

Louisiana has emerged as a major center of movie and TV production in recent years creating a need for trained crews. Call it the Beasts of the Southern Wild effect. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a low-budget indie produced in Louisiana that has garnered outstanding reviews and now is a role model for what local filmmakers can do in a state mostly known for offering big tax breaks to Hollywood productions.

In response to the need to train more people, local officials and private industry have joined together to create the Louisiana International Film Festival and Mentorship Program, which will hold its inaugural event April 18-21 in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
The festival will include competitive screenings of both local movies and international fare as well as New Orleans music, industry panels and a photo exhibit from the civil rights movement.
“LIFF is more than a film festival; it is a bridge between the local people who dream of becoming filmmakers and those veteran artists who know that mentorship can help to promote social change through direct access to opportunity,” said festival executive director Chesley Heymsfield.
To bolster the festival and the year-round mentoring program, a number of Hollywood veterans have hired on to help. The co-artistic directors of the festival are now producer’s rep Jeff Dowd (aka The Dude) and filmmaker Dan Ireland. Both will be involved in planning the festival, picking the movies and in the mentoring program.
Dowd’s credits include producing Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Zebrahead. He also played a role in founding The Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival.
Ireland was a co-founder of the Seattle Film Festival and has been writer, director or executive producer on such films as Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont and The Whole Wide World.
“After seeing the feature Beasts of the Southern Wild,” said Ireland, “I knew that Louisiana was ripe with visionaries that have the talent to explore new filmmaking possibilities. To me that’s the most exciting thing about being a filmmaker/artist, being bold, taking risks and having the will, the determination and craft to expand the way we look at our world.”
“This year we’ve seen a film that came out of Louisiana that was as independent as you can get that had so much to do with spirit and who they were as people,” said Dowd. “I was just thrilled at the reception and they love film and the love being a part of it so the time seemed right to go with the film festival presentation.”
The festival is being presented by the Louisiana lieutenant governor, Louisiana Technology Park, the Credit Bureau of Baton Rouge and Noesis Data.
The music of New Orleans programs will be directed by Alan V. Abrahams. Photojournalist Bob Adelman will feature his photo and multimedia exhibition titled “1963” featuring photos from the civil rights movement including boycotts, sit-ins, marches and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech in Washington.

Information is available at www.lifilmfest.org.