LAFAYETTE — Independent film lovers from across the country are in Lafayette this week sampling dozens of films chosen for review at the Cinema on the Bayou film festival, which started Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
The festival, in its eighth year, was created by Pat Mire of Lafayette. Mire’s own film, “Sushi and Sauce Piquante,” was screened at the opening Wednesday at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette.
“We couldn’t have put another (behind) in the place last night,” Mire said Thursday. “I don’t know how you’re going to get better than that.”
Mire said there were 346 film submissions from across the globe, from which fewer than 10 percent were selected.
“We picked nothing but the juice,” he said.
The film screenings kick off in earnest Friday, with eight scheduled to play. It ramps up Saturday with 19 screenings, and winds down Sunday with four. There are five venues, for the film festival including the Acadiana Center for the Arts and Vermilionville, near the Lafayette Airport.
(For a list of films and the time and place of screenings, go to cinemaonthebayou.com)
All screenings are free.
“It’s happening nowhere in the United States like it’s happening here,” Mire said.
The films do not necessarily focus on French culture, although several are in French, and they’re not all documentaries, Mire said.
Mire said one film, an 18-minute piece of fiction titled “Le Futur Proche” (The Near Future) from Quebec, was also selected to show at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, which is also running now.
A film directed and produced by Ronnie Clifton, who is from Sulphur but now lives in Lafayette, will be screened Sunday evening at Vermilionville.
“Song of Souls” is a documentary based on a legend, blues man Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, Clifton said.
Ledbetter, according to folklore, twice sang his way out of prison — once in Texas and again at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
“With that in mind, the question is put to local songsmiths: What would you play to get out of the gates of hell … or get into the gates of heaven,” Clifton said in a written synopsis.
“What would you perform if you were in similar circumstances?” Clifton said Thursday. “I put this challenge to the musicians, and they dug it.”
Clifton said in November 2010 he pulled together Louisiana musicians Michael Juan Nunez, Eric Adcock, Roddie Romero and David Egan, and played music for prisoners at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center — a performance that was filmed.
Clifton said he interviewed Louisiana prison officials including Angola Warden Burl Cain to get a feel of the state’s prison system.
The film took 10 days to shoot in November 2010, and many more days to edit, Clifton said.
Clifton said independent artists like him spend much of their time looking for financing. He said financing for “Song of Souls” came from a government arts grant, but noted that such funds for the arts are drying up.
The U.S. premiere of “Song of Souls” will be shown at Vermilionville at 6:45 p.m. Sunday, the last screening of “Cinema on the Bayou.”
The four musicians featured in the film will play after the film is shown in the festival’s closing ceremony, according to the festival’s schedule.