The 30th New Orleans Film Festival ended with Kasi Lemmon’s new film Harriet, about Harriet Tubman, the African American Joan of Arc who lead over 700 slaves to safety on the Underground Railroad in the late 1850s and early 1860s, and whose face would be on the 20 dollar bill, if the current President had not nixed this plan as soon as he took office.
Tubman is played by British singer/actress Cynthia Erivo and moviegoers will recognize cast members like Vondie Curtis-Hall, Joe Alwyn, Vanessa Bell-Calloway and others.
The closing night film, shown at the beautiful Orpheum Theater was befitting of this inclusive festival that featured a section called Southern Voices and Louisiana Features next to studio fare such as The Report, Just Mercy, Motherless Brooklyn, and many others.
Before the last screening, Nola native and composer Terence Blanchard received his lifetime achievement award from the New Orleans Film Society. The six-time Grammy winner and Golden Globe-nominee (for Spike Lee’s 25th Hour) scored Harriet as well as an Oscar nomination for last year’s Golden Globe-nominated BlacKkKlansman.
The festival also featured a sold-out In Conversation with Kim Cattrall where the actress talked at length about Filthy Rich, the TV-series she is currently shooting in New Orleans, in which she stars as the billionaire widow of a Southern preacher who has to deal with a bunch of illegitimate children coming out of the woodwork and demanding money, among other things. Cattrall also spoke about how much the role of women has changed since she shocked America (and delighted European audiences) with her portrayal as Samantha Jones in Sex and the City and at what point she drew the line: “Remember this was written by a gay man. And when they showed me a script where I was to have sex with a minor, I objected. And so that never happened.” She said that as great as the series was for her career, it ran its course: “How many different ways could I possibly fall onto a bed?”
The 63-year-old beauty recalled her beginnings in the industry – “I was probably the last actor who was signed to a very old studio system. My first film was with Otto Preminger, who wasn’t very nice and bullied actresses, and they signed me to do four more movies with him.” Preminger, luckily for her, made only one more film after her debut in Rosebud, so she was spared further verbal abuse. Cattrall ended the interview hour with a fun ‘true or false’: yes, she turned down the SATC-part three times for accepting it, thinking that “a sexual woman in her 40s is hardly believable. Now, that has certainly changed!” True, her favorite actresses are Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Helen Mirren, and Judi Dench “although I can think of a few more”. And yes, her aunt Jean in Liverpool (Cattrall’s birthplace) was once Ringo Starr’s babysitter – “according to her!”
The eight festival soirées had all the factors that make New Orleans famous: food, fun and live music. And last night’s party at The Gallery on Magazine was no exception.