'The Conference of the Birds' by Kevin Contento '18 Wins Feature Narrative Jury Award at 2021 New Orleans Film Festival

Felix Van Kann
November 29, 2021

The Conference of the Birds, a feature film directed and edited by alumnus Kevin Contento '18, won the Feature Narrative Jury Award at the 2021 New Orleans Film Festival. As the winner of the award, Contento received a $15,000 Panavision camera rental package and $13,500 in post production services by Light Iron. The 32nd edition of the festival took place in-person from November 5 to November 14, 2021.

The Conference of the Birds tells a handful of esoteric tales that awaken three Florida boys to seek the Simorgh. Jean, Boleg, and Carter encounter a poet searching for the sun. His recitation of Sufi poetry tells of the allegorical journey the world’s birds undertake to reach their king, the Simorgh. This catapults their lives into different directions, presented in seven vignettes. The Conference of the Birds weaves together a handful of Farid Ud-Din Attar’s twelfth-century tales with everyday life in rural Pahokee, Florida and presents a series of portraits that triumphantly exhibit the true nature of the strong Black man in a culture that continues to perpetuate an image of degradation. The film has also recently won the Directors’ Choice Award and the Audience Choice Award at the 2021 Tallahassee Film Festival.

Kevin Contento is a Colombian-American filmmaker who grew up in South Florida. A University of Central Florida alumnus, he majored in cinema studies with a minor in philosophy, religion, and popular culture. His thesis film, Hierophany, had its world premiere at the 2018 LA film festival, before going on to play at over a dozen festivals, including Slamdance in Park City, Utah and a sold-out screening at the prestigious BAM Rose Cinema as part of the Caribbean Film Series. The Conference of the Birds, his debut feature film, had its World Premiere in Paris, France at the 7eme Lune International Film Festival where it was awarded the Lune d'or (Golden Moon) by the Jury.

The New Orleans Film Festival brings over 500 filmmakers from every corner of the world together and showcases more than 220 films. Over 35,000 people gather over the course of 8 days to champion film in New Orleans and engage with visionary films, directors, and other film lovers. NOFF is one of the few film festivals that is Oscar®-qualifying in all three Academy-accredited categories.