UPDATE: GARDEN DISTRICT WON IN THREE CATEGORIES:
BEST FILM/ OLEY SASSONE
BEST ACTOR/ BRYAN BATT
BEST ACTOR/ BARRET O’BRIEN
The charm and loveliness of old world New Orleans upended by new world vitality and determination characterizes the the short film Garden District, screening in competition at the 2021 London International Filmmaker Festival. Money isn’t funny and the Dubonnet family who has recently buried filthy rich patriarch, Peter Dubonnet is thrown into a crises of relative inheritance. Which heir becomes the executor of the estate? Will he or she be generous or grasping with the siblings in dispensing it?
Oh, and there is a catch. Peter changed the will, scribbling it in long hand with a recognizable signature. However, since nothing is irrevocable except death, this DIY will, written on a yellow sheaf of paper from a legal pad, is history. The long suffering matriarch Irene Dubonnet (Janet Shea) and her lover Clovis (Carl Palmer) will challenge the will and alter its main stipulation after one year.
It is then Peter conditioned that Irene must choose one heir from the list of family members. And it is clear Irene favors her failed artistic son Rooster Dubonnet (Bryan Batt). Perhaps after a year, Rooster will be sober enough to stand without swaying, while he expresses his talents, finishing his seascapes of poisonous and predatory sea creatures. Ah, yes. What does one do with the family members when dividing the estate, especially when the in-laws like Quint Legere (Barret O’Brien) have gambling debts with creditors who crush knuckles and smash kneecaps?
The Garden District is a deliciously wicked, tongue-in-cheek, good vs. evil romp in one of the most beautiful settings in the United States. It is conceived and written as a TV series by Rosary O’Neill based on her experiences as a 7th generation New Orleanian. Directed by Oley Sassone with a keen eye toward pacing, substance and rich production values, Sassone shepherds the actors to elicit nuance and irony with spot-on authenticity. Particularly strong is the scene between Shea and Batt as the mother attempts to force her son to understand the power she holds to dispense what is most precious to her upon him. Money! Because it’s easily gotten and his goals lie elsewhere, Rooster is not interested.
On another geographical parallel is her son-in-law Quint, whose desperation for funds to pay off his debts to gangsters and keep his body whole, riles and disgusts her. As Quint, O’Brien’s destructiveness and panic emanates from his soul. Addiction, whether it be alcohol or gambling snuffs out purpose, love and direction in these two foundering males. Interestingly, daughters, Kitten Dubonnet (Kelly Lind) and Jasmine may be overshadowed by their mother who dominates, now that Peter is dead. Most probably, it is the men, with the assistance of one of the daughters, who will attempt to exert their will, either through failure or connivance, upon an equally manipulative Irene Dubonnet, who must save herself or become their prey.
The Garden District’s mansion setting is spectacular; the production values are gorgeous; the music is sonorously effective and derivative. There is the relaxed charm and atmosphere of New Orleans that pervades the film. It’s a delicious feeling to become involved in the foibles of others who readily admit they are backed into a corner, or on the brink of the abyss, curious to take a leap, never to return. As a TV series, this looks to be a light and juicy winner that we ache for after the tribulations of COVID.
To get a taste of this up and coming TV series Garden District, go to the 2021 London International Filmmaker Festival online digital platform by CLICKING HERE. Become reacquainted with an insider’s look at the New Orleans’ upper crust to understand that money guarantees little and the love of money roots well in a garden of evil.
Garden District has been deservedly nominated for the following awards in the Shorts Category at the 2021 London International Filmmaker Festival.
- Best Short Film
- Best Director: Oley Sassone
- Best Lead Actor in a Short Film: Bryan Batt & Barrett O’Brien
- Best Lead Actress in a Short Film: Janet Shea
- Best Editing: Arvid Cristina