Coming soon to a New Orleans movie venue near you will be a new screening series from Court 13 Arts, the people behind Beasts of the Southern Wild. As part of their mission to “grow and sustain the cinema culture of New Orleans” (an organization after my heart), Court 13 Arts will be launching The People Present, featuring movies curated and hosted by an eclectic and diverse array of local figures from various disciplines and industries. First up will be the great D.J. Soul Sister with the concert documentary Wattstax at The Broad on June 13th at 6PM.
I chatted with Executive Director Casey Coleman about this project, what it represents, and what it means for moviegoing in the Big Easy:
Bill Arceneaux: Wattstax is quite the eclectic film to kick off The People Present series. Who all is helping secure proper copies of the selected films and how has that process been thus far?
Casey Coleman: We use an organization called Swank Motion Pictures, based in St. Louis. They license and distribute to non-theatrical markets, including non-profit organizations, and they have Wattstax (as well as all the other films we will be screening) in their library.
BA: What are the criteria for curator consideration?
CC: Our criteria is simply that we reach out to people we think are doing interesting things around the city and ask if they want to get involved. Our prompt to each person was “What film best represents Joy and Pleasure to you?” and we were excited to invite lots of different folks to answer this question.
BA: You’re quoted in the press release as saying “By shifting the concept of curator or film selector to an egalitarian, democratic focus we aim to create a film-going experience that is accessible and celebratory.” The public has had roller-coaster-like experience film screenings sold to them for years now, from 3D and IMAX to dine-in service and chairs that rattle. By making moviegoing a truly engaging experience for a given community, will we save and grow cinema?
CC: I hope that these screenings aren’t seen as gimmicky, but more as opportunities to connect strangers and neighbors over the common love of a movie. As far as we are concerned, there is no such thing as too many movie screenings happening in New Orleans, and we hope to add something new and unexpected to the mix.
As for saving and growing cinema, one eternal lesson we’ve learned over and over again is that the only thing that can truly save cinema is Bruce Willis.
BA: Your series isn’t exclusive to one venue, with plans to screen across the area. Can we expect outdoor showtimes and/or retrofitted spaces made for movies and discussion? Any specific locations you’re looking at?
CC: As an organization, we are deeply committed to both supporting the traditional cinema experience as well as bringing the movie-goer to new and unusual venues. For this round, we are partnering with the Tulane Small Center for a screening, we are hoping to have a pool party screening in July, and we’ve got a couple more interesting ideas up our sleeve that are still in the works.
BA: Will Q&A sessions be part of the series? If so, what should audiences keep in mind when thinking of questions?
CC: We are asking our partners/film selectors to help us come up with a concept to present along with each film. It is possible that there will be Q&A elements, but our goal is to engage the audience in different ways for each screening.