Living Ind


by Walter Pierce

Cinema on the Bayou brings the best in independent filmmaking to Lafayette. By Walter Pierce

If you haven't heard British funk instrumental band The New Mastersounds, get thee to iTunes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cinema on the Bayou brings the best in independent filmmaking to Lafayette. By Walter Pierce

If you haven't heard British funk instrumental band The New Mastersounds, get thee to iTunes. If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the band's pilgrimage to and performances in the cradle of funk during the 2007 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - less than two years after Katrina - check out Coals to Newcastle, the documentary that follows the band from Leeds, England, to the Crescent City. It's one of about 20 independent films, many making their Louisiana premieres, at Cinema on the Bayou, Louisiana filmmaker Pat Mire's five-day film festival opening today, Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the Acadiana Center for the Arts and running at several locations around town through Sunday. Save for tonight's opening-night reception at the AcA - $10 general public, $8 for AcA members - all screenings are free and open to the public.

"We went in the direction we wanted to go in by trying to keep it as a boutique film festival," Mire says of the process by which films are selected for the festival. "There were a whole lot of films that didn't make the selection process - and a lot of good films that really should play Lafayette. But we squeezed the juice out of what we had."

Working a considerable network of independent film distributors, filmmakers and film festival organizers, Mire and festival director Rebecca Hudsmith, through a selection committee that this year included photographer Philip Gould and muralist Robert Dafford, selected a tight collection of films that jibe with COTB's cinematic nomenclature: Louisiana specifically, roots culture in general.

Technical quality of the films is important, and subject matter is paramount, but Cinema on the Bayou is also about networking, establishing lasting relationships that further the craft.
"It's fun to watch how these filmmakers, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, come here, get together, talk, meet, network, find out about us, and those communications continue and we build on those to build our film festival and to help them with their filmmaking and film distribution. It's a really wonderful thing," says Hudsmith, by day a federal defense attorney in Lafayette who blows off creative steam organizing COTB.

"The networking is so critical, not only for the film festival and the films, but for the filmmakers to keep doing what they're doing," Hudsmith adds. "And we provide like a safe haven for them and hopefully, as Pat said, through our own efforts will help them to distribute their films to make the money to make the next film. It's an incredible thing to watch."

Coals to Newcastle takes its name from a British expression equivalent to "bringing sand to the beach," or, more specific to the film, bringing funk to the city that invented funk. As it turns out, New Orleans - aching and scarred from the 2005 hurricane - embraced the four young, white, British lads playing its trademark grooves with such enthusiastic devotion.

Other films on tap for COTB include Shreveport author/illustrator William Joyce's beguiling animated feature The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, The Music's Gonna Get You Through, about blind New Orleans piano player Henry Butler, and Disfarmer: A Portrait of America, which documents the brilliant, poignant early 20th-century work of obscure Arkansas photographer Mike Disfarmer. The latter film will be featured at Wednesday's AcA opener.

"For a small film festival we're at the top of the heap," Mire says, clearly proud of how COTB has become a device for nurturing talent and supporting the art form. "We have new films that are going to be playing at film festivals all over the country after they play Cinema on the Bayou."


6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 26, Acadiana Center for the Arts

6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 27, Pack & Paddle

6 p.m., Friday Jan. 28, LITE

10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 29, Cité des Arts/South Regional Library

Noon, Sunday, Jan. 30, AcA/South Regional Library

For a complete list of films and show times, visit COTB's website: