Editor’s Note: This content originally appeared on the author’s website, and has been reposted here with permission.
It’s a film festival with a mission. It’s a collective of our local best & brightest in cinema. It’s an effort to instigate change and enlighten minds.
The Patois New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival enters its 15th year with their 2019 event, from March 21st to the 24th at The Broad Theater in Mid-City. For a city with so few movie venues, we certainly make up for it with productions as well as fostering a film culture – something many of us have worried about sustaining since the inception of Hollywood South. Now, what might a “film culture” in a city like New Orleans be? More than entertainment and blockbusters, we hope.
Bill Arceneaux: What makes New Orleans the best place to host Patois, both politically and culturally?
Zac Manuel: New Orleans is probably the most culturally rich city in America, and I think where we are in American society, the culture that we’ve built and maintained is becoming more and more visible. Our culture is Black, our culture is queer, our culture has been victimized and commoditized for years and years. And yet, we’ve been able to create so much beauty and individuality as a culture, and through our culture comes our collective identity and the truth of our history. For me, Patois is New Orleans, and New Orleans is Patois. I couldn’t see this festival taking place anywhere else in the country.
BA: Each year, the fest is able to find some surprising and previously unknown selections for programming (Mr. Gay Syria being one such pick). How do you sift through the noise and clutter to find the best movies that will represent the Patois mission? Is there criteria for films to meet? Are documentaries easier to discover in this field than narrative features?
Zac: True, there are a lot of films out there, and even a lot that fit into the social justice category. I think that we like to be a bit more discerning in how we choose our films, and thus we do have a criteria for curating our lineup. Of course, we’re looking for films that have social justice or civil rights angle, and we want to show films that engage with contemporary issues and can add to current political and social dialogues. But we take it a step further and prioritize films that are made and produced by people of color, women, and LGBTQ filmmakers. We want the work we show to mesh with our collective politic, which is hard left-leaning, progressive, and maybe what some people might call radical.