• Made in St. James Parish, the film 'Mudbound' earns rave reviews at Sundance Film Festival

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    January 31, 2017

    A small street in the small south Louisiana town of Lutcher showed up on the big screen at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, transformed into a post-World War II setting for the film "Mudbound," which premiered to high praise on Jan. 21.

    Land behind two neighboring St. James Parish plantations — Felicite and St. Joseph — provided the rural setting for the film directed by Dee Rees and based on the novel by Hillary Jordan about two families, one black and one white, both tied to the land in different ways in the years after the war.

    Wise Wolfe, the location manager for the film, said he began scouting for locations a year ago in St. James Parish — he has worked on other films there, including "Skeleton Key" and "Django" — and in another nearby parish.

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    "What drew us to St. James was that the sugarcane farmer behind Felicite and St. Joseph plantations had some fields that were fallow," ideal for the recreation of the film's Mississippi cotton farm, where the main characters struggle to make a living, said Wolfe, of New Orleans.

    Maureen Gilly, general manager of the St. Joseph Planting and Manufacturing Company, which raises sugarcane on the land where the movie was filmed, said, "Sugarcane is a four-year crop, and after the fourth year, it has to be fallow for a year. It was a perfect setting for 'Mudbound.'"

    "My great-great-great-grandfather bought St. Joseph in 1877 and my great-grandfather bought Felicite in the 1890s," Gilly said.

    "My mother grew up at Felicite and we visited my grandparents there for all the holidays and summers. It is a very special place and is dear to me," she said.

    During the making of "Mudbound," a little road in Lutcher named Texas Street also took on another role.

    A commercial building on the street was transformed into the Tricklebank General Store for the movie. Scenes were shot in New Orleans and others were filmed up and down River Road, Wolfe said. Filming wrapped up in August, he said.

    "We were very excited to have them here. We're always open for the film industry," said Pat Dupuy, a tourism information officer for St. James Parish.

    The cast of "Mudbound" includes Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige and Jason Clarke. 

    Chris Stelly, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment, a division of Louisiana Economic Development, points out that "Louisiana has a long history with the Sundance Film Festival, going back to 'Sex, Lies and Videotape'."

    The film that premiered in 1989 at Sundance, one of the most well-known of the festivals for independent films, was the debut feature of director Steven Soderbergh, who grew up in Baton Rouge.

    "A lot of the pictures that are shot here do really well at the festival" the way "Mudbound" has, Stelly said.

    "Hopefully, it will get picked up for distribution," he said.