New Orleans Film Festival: 'Exodus' Wins Doc Jury Award, 'Pier Kids' Earns Honorable Mention
Documentary Mossville: When Great Trees Fall earns Honorable Mention in Louisiana Features category
Director Bahman Kiarostami's film Exodus has won the Jury Award for Documentary Features at the 30th annual New Orleans Film Festival.
The film focuses on the experience of hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghan refugees, many who have lived in Iran since fleeing the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979. Their employment prospects dimmed after the U.S. pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal last year, reimposing sanctions on Iran's economy.
"In the hope of returning to Afghanistan, [the refugees] must first seek approval at an Immigration Center," the New Orleans Film Festival notes in its program guide. "Director Bahman Kiarostami (son of the late, great Abbas Kiarostami) puts us in the chair of the officers who decide hundreds of human fates daily. Far from a political exposé, this film presents the family histories, relationships, and choices that become the subject of negotiation in times of strife. Guards and migrants exchange laughs, lies, and compassion in a series of portraits that recall the closer struggles of immigrants at the U.S. border."
The Jury Award comes with a "Tax Incentives Consultation with Media Services Final Draft 10, a Vimeo Pro Account and Showbiz budgeting software," according to a festival press release. The honor, one of a dozen in competitive categories, was presented Sunday at a ceremony at the New Orleans Jazz Market.
Pier Kids, directed by Elegance Bratton, earned Honorable Mention from the documentary jury. The film explores the experience of homeless LGBTQ youth of color who live along the Chelsea pier section of lower Manhattan, building a community for themselves in spite of police harassment and the daily challenges of living on the streets.
"For me the goal of this film is to make the audience into a pier kid," Bratton explained at a Q&A following NOFF's second screening of the film, on Monday night. "[It's] to inflict, implicate, engage everybody who sees this film in the skin of what it is to be homeless, black and queer."
In the shorts category, the Jury Award went to A Love Song for Latasha, directed by Sophia Nahli Allison. The 19-minute film is described as "a spiritual and physical conversation of dreams, memories, and legacy, documenting Latasha Harlins through memories shared by her best friend Ty and cousin Shinese."
The New Orleans Film Festival is an Oscar-qualifying festival for Narrative Shorts, Documentary Shorts and Animated Shorts, so the win for Allison's film automatically qualifies it for Academy Awards consideration this year.
Honorable Mention in the Documentary Shorts category went to Dani, a nine-minute film directed by Lizzy Hogenson.
The documentary Mossville: When Great Trees Fall earned Honorable Mention in the Louisiana Features Category. Alexander Glustrom's film takes place in a historic Louisiana Bayou town where black residents were forced from their homes to make way for petrochemical plant operations. Stacey Ryan, the hero of the film, became the last home owner to remain on his property.
Mossville premiered in April at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.