Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vampire Film Fest finally rests in N.O.

Special to
Published: Oct 22, 2009

Vampire folklore has captured the imagination of fans of the supernatural for centuries. From the classic literature of Bram Stoker to HBO’s television series, “True Blood,” to the “Twilight” phenomenon, these tales of myth and mystery have intrigued the fantasy lover in all of us.
But for all the cultural significance and international fervor, there hasn’t been a tribute to the creatures of the dark in the very city that has become the backdrop for all things gothic, historic and unexplainable – until now.
For the first time, the Vampire Film Festival is making its home in New Orleans during which four days of film, art and entertainment will take over the city.
Festival director Asif Ahmed has been a part of the festival since its beginning six years ago and hasn’t let the dream of a Vampire Fest in New Orleans die.
“The goal was to launch a new film festival with the international appreciation of the vampire genre,” Ahmed said. “It started back in 2003 in Los Angeles, and it was in L.A. with the goal to always travel with it and bring it to New Orleans. Obviously we know what happened with the hurricane in 2005, so it actually fell apart in between those years and we’ve finally brought it back from the dead.”
Oct. 23–26 has been designated to bring to life all things vampire.
Ahmed describes his love for the Big Easy and why it is the perfect stage for the Vampire Film Festival this year.
“I love the city and spent many Halloweens there over the years. There is no other place to be during that time of year. New Orleans, partially due to Anne Rice, has a vampire quality and culture, as well as the whole gothic culture with the above ground cemeteries and gothic architecture. It just seems like it’s the perfect match.”
With more than 50 films from 11 countries, Vampire Fest will include screenings of several feature films and multiple shorts each day that were selected by panels of filmmakers, film critics and even a couple of vampire aficionados who made sure that each film gave an original spin to the well-known myths.
“What’s great about vampire films is there really is some classy, high-quality work that has A-list stars, and it’s not just what I call sloppy horror movies,” Ahmed said.
Not only are the films coming from around the world, but many of the filmmakers themselves will appear with their films at the festival.
“We have filmmakers coming from Spain and Austria and all around Canada to the festival. All the filmmakers are invited to speak and do a Q & A after their films and sort of discuss the filmmaking process,” Ahmed said.
Sunday, Oct. 25, will feature a panel of vampire novelists with authors such as Erin McCarthy, Sue Dent, Van Jenson and local debut novelist Nicole Peeler. A “Shoot Louisiana” panel will be held afterward in partnership with the film commission to discuss filming in Louisiana.

“We want to bring upcoming and established writers together to discuss their inspiration, the genre, where it’s headed and what they’ve added to it. We’re also inviting new filmmakers, as well as filmmakers in Louisiana, to come out to our filmmaking panel to talk about shooting in Louisiana,” Ahmed said.
“Our goal is to bring that group of filmmakers and that group of writers together with a reception after the panels to facilitate further storytelling so hopefully they’ll make the next vampire film for next year’s festival,” he said. Not only will panels and discussions take place on Sunday, but a full vampire ballet is scheduled with three different show times.
“Even though we are first and foremost a film festival, we are moving toward becoming a whole vampire arts festival,” Ahmed said. “We’re bringing a 14-person ballet troop from Phoenix, Lisa Starry’s ‘A Vampire’s Tale,’ and it’s what they call the nutcracker of Halloween. It’s the story of a girl who is getting seduced into the whole vampire culture through ballet, modern dance and a couple of Cirque de Soleil style aerial feats that they do.”
If you want to tease your pallet with a clip of the ballet, you can check out Vampire Fest’s Web site at and find the video under the living artist section.
Along with the ballet, another part of the living artist section is the New Orleans jazz funeral with the Tornado Brass Band that will be held in the French Quarter as well as a scavenger hunt and midnight showing parties.
“We are trying to create a party like atmosphere for the midnight film series. We’re going to have live musicians and a costume contest for each show,” Ahmed said.
While it has taken a long time and hard work for the festival to make its way to the Big Easy, the future of the festival could establish New Orleans and Vampire Fest as an international phenomenon.
“Getting anything off the ground in L.A. is a challenge and it’s hard to get media splash and excitement unless the top celebrities are there. The fact that we have all this excitement in New Orleans from the film commission and the tourism bureau and the city council people reinforces that this is home for the festival,” Ahmed said. “Our goal is to become the Sundance of New Orleans; to create a four- to seven-day film arts festival that promotes and highlights this genre that leads into Halloween.”
Before Halloween hits be sure to check out all the feature films and shorts on Friday, Oct. 23, and head to the opening night party at 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, kicks off with the Vampire Jazz Funeral at 11 a.m., the scavenger hunt at 12 p.m., and a slew of feature films and shorts as well as the costume ball party.
Sunday, Oct. 25, kicks off with the literary panel at 2 p.m. and then the “Shoot Louisiana” panel at 3:30 p.m. with a party mixer of writer and filmmakers afterwards.
More shorts on Sunday leads to the vampire ballet with the first show starting at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, is the last day to hit the festival and get your fill of vampire and gothic shorts and your last chance to catch the vampire ballet before the closing party at 10:30 p.m. For more details on the schedule of events or to pre-order tickets be sure to check out their Web site at

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