Wendell Pierce talks COVID-19, “Jack Ryan,” “Burning Cane,” and WBOK in interview with Kristine Froeba
New Orleans native, “Treme” and “The Wire” actor, Wendell Pierce is coming off of one of the most exciting periods of his career. And although COVID-19 has created a lull in almost everyone’s life and career, Pierce seems to be as visible as ever, both on the ground in New Orleans and on our collective streaming services. It is also Pierce’s instantly recognizable, dulcet tone that narrates the new Popeye’s NOLA Strong campaign released last week. It’s a video that caused more than a few locals’ eyes to well up. When the restaurant chain created its NOLA Strong family meal box, directing all profits to benefit the non-profit Second Harvest Food Bank, they called on Pierce.
With the recent retirement of WYES president Allan Pizzato, two native New Orleanians who are driven to broadcast excellence, Robin Cooper and Dominic Massa, have taken the helm to bring new ideas to the Crescent City’s iconic public television station.
Leading the station since 2013, Pizzato oversaw the station’s tricentennial coverage, the creation of new shows and documentaries, and the construction of the $17 million headquarters that opened in 2017. The chief operating officer under Pizzato, Cooper assumed the position of president and CEO last month, leaving her previous spot available for long-time WWL-TV Executive Producer of Special Projects Dominic Massa. “WYES was built by some of the city’s best and brightest leaders, who believed in the power of television to educate, inform and inspire. That mission couldn’t be more important or needed today,” Massa said. By all accounts, Massa is one of the hardest working and most respected broadcasting professionals in New Orleans television.
Audubon Charter School’s very first film festival was scheduled for March 14, 2020. That was five days after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Louisiana, and it would be over a year before the middle school students — who wrote, acted in and helped to shoot the movies — would be able to show off the products of their hard work. Out of the glare of the May morning sun, in the cool Prytania Theatre, Stephanie Knapp, an Audubon parent and teacher who led Audubon Charter students through the process of making movies together, took the stage. The students and their supporters — parents, family and friends — were masked and spread out in the theater, with alternating rows taped off to allow for sufficient social distancing. “It’s interesting to see how everything is changed, how everything is different … and everything is still kinda the same,” Knapp said.
Sibil Fox and Rob Richardson (also known as Fox and Rob Rich) are among a handful of New Orleanians who have a personal stake in Sunday night’s 2021 Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Awards. The poignant film about their two-decade-long effort to find justice in what is often considered a racially charged and overly harsh prison-industrial complex, “Time,” is a favorite for Best Documentary Feature.
Also up for Oscar consideration is “One Night in Miami,” which was shot in New Orleans and LaPlace, as well as musical works by New Orleans natives and NOCCA graduates Terence Blanchard and Jon Batiste, who have been nominated in the Best Score category. LSU grad Steven Soderbergh is one of the event’s producers. “Time” is only the second documentary post-Katrina New Orleans to be nominated for an Oscar. New Orleans-based award-winning filmmaker and Loyola University instructor Garrett Bradley directed “Time.”
A locally shot short film, “Garden District,” won Best Short Film at the 2021 London International Film Festival, held virtually last month from London, Garden District Productions announced. During the ceremony, Bryan Batt and Barret O’Brien were awarded Best Lead Actors in a Short Film for their roles in “Garden District.” “We are so proud of the amazing cast and crew of ‘Garden District’ for this prestigious national honor,” said “Garden District” creator Rosary O’Neill. “This film was written to celebrate New Orleans and all of its eccentricities, and the stellar local cast really deserve this recognition.”
“Garden District” is a short film created as a sizzle reel for a future potential television series. It was produced in its eponymous neighborhood by a local cast and crew and focuses on the life of a New Orleans family.
The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) is reuniting Eve’s Bayou (1997) director Kasi Lemmons and actor Lynn Whitfield for a special livestreamed conversation this Friday (Aug. 21) at 5:30 p.m. Ahead of the 31st Annual New Orleans Film Festival (Nov. 6-22), this reunion kicks off the “Why Film Matters” series in which NOFS highlights a landmark film as the basis for a series of conversations and varied programming around its impact. Fans of “Eve’s Bayou” are encouraged to stream the film synchronously on a platform of their choosing and live tweet with NOFS using the hashtag #EvesBayouReunion starting at 3:30 p.m. The NOFS Twitter account will be leading the conversation with lesser-known facts about the film and scenes with the help of fans, writers, and critics. The reunion conversation is free to stream and will be moderated by NOFS Programming Manager Zandashé Brown (Blood Runs Down).
With movie theaters out of commission, the New Orleans Film Society has created a way for enthusiasts to access select independent cinema from home while supporting the organization. The NOFS Home Theater is presenting a new title every week for a month, starting with “The Times of Bill Cunningham” on April 16 and ending with “Botero” on May 15. Each film will be available to stream for two weeks, and a portion of the proceeds from virtual tickets will help support NOFS. See all the featured titles and dates below:
The Times of Bill Cunningham
dir. Mark Bozek
Told in Bill Cunningham’s own words from a recently unearthed six-hour 1994 interview, the iconic street photographer and fashion historian chronicles his moonlighting as a milliner in France during the Korean War, his unique relationship with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, his four decades at The New York Times and his democratic view of fashion and society.
Do you believe in second chances? We do. This weekend, we are bringing back what we consider the best film to not get nominated for Best Picture so that you can judge for yourself. Did it deserve the slight or should it have gotten the 10th spot on the Oscar shortlist? UNCUT GEMS returns on a limited schedule this weekend.
The NOLA Project will host a four-day workshop for students between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The Winter Intensive, for ages 12 to 17, will focus on acting, writing, and stage combat. Through courses led by NOLA Project ensemble members, students will have the opportunity to brush up on technique, as well as learn new skills, in preparation for their next semester. The NOLA Project describes the workshop as “a perfect way to keep the creative juices flowing, and work with fellow theatre students, during that odd time between Christmas and New Year’s.” The Winter Intensive runs from Thursday to Sunday, Dec. 26-29, noon to 4 p.m. each day, at Lusher Charter School, 5624 Freret St. Registration for The NOLA Project Winter Intensive is available here.
The New Orleans Film Festival turned 30 this year, and their diversity in films and filmmakers is a point that they stress. This year, they screened “232 visionary, thought-provoking films that represent a wealth of perspectives,” 26% of which were Louisiana-made and 56% directed by people of color. One series based in Uptown New Orleans made its debut on the NOFF big screen and online simultaneously. “King Ester”—directed by Dui Jarrod and presented by Issa Rae’s ColorCreative production company—takes the viewer into the world of a black trans woman right before natural disaster. Filmed all over New Orleans and based in Pigeon Town (P-Town), the series is described as such:
“Ester is a trans woman struggling to find her path in New Orleans during the week before Hurricane Katrina. In the face of an evacuation order, she is forced to make a choice that will impact her future forever.”
The New Orleans Film Society kicks off the 30th New Orleans Film Festival at tonight (Oct. 16) with the Opening Night Film Marriage Story. Uptown’s Prytania Theater will screen over a dozen films, including Motherless Brooklyn, directed by and starring Edward Norton, and The Long Shadow, by Louisiana director Daniel Lafrentz. Shorts from the state and big-budget films are some festival highlights coming to the neighborhood this year. Of the 6,500 submissions from 104 countries, 232 “visionary, thought-provoking films that represent a wealth of perspectives” made it into the festival.