After earning acclaim for seven years for introducing dozens of French films to American audiences, this year's Virginia Commonwealth University French Film Festival will continue its tradition of bringing to the United States a diverse sampling of France's most recently produced, groundbreaking feature films. In addition the Festival will showcase a series of short filmssometimes comic, sometimes tragicbut always with a probing and critical eye on society. This year's approximately twenty actors and directors comprise the largest and most diverse delegation ever to come from France to this annual cultural event.
This Festival, founded and organized by Dr. Peter Kirkpatrick, professor of French civilization and culture at VCU and by Dr. Françoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick, offers viewers a rare opportunity to ask in-depth questions directly to French actors and directors. The VCU French Film Festival is noted for flying in and screening newly released feature films from France, often making the screenings in Richmond North American Avant-Premières and sometimes World Premières.
Accompanied by a who's who of the country's acting and directing set, six French movies and eight short films will be premiered at VCU's eighth annual French Film Festival, set for April 1-2. VCU offers the nation's only American-led initiative to promote new and acclaimed French movies presented by their directors and actors and not yet distributed in the United States.
All movies have English subtitles. A question/answer session with directors/actors will follow each film. Discussions will be in English, or in French with an interpreter. Films will be screened at Richmond's historic Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary St. On the night of April 1st, an Official Reception and Gala Dinner with the Stars will be held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
This year's festival will feature a North American avant-première screening of the award-winning film, Rembrandt. This visually masterful work took the prize for art direction and set decoration at this year's César Awards, the French-version of the Academy Awards.
While Virginie Ledoyen is currently making a splash in the United States in the new hit The Beach, she's been riding the waves of success for years in France. French audiences recently succumbed to her charms in Héroïnes (Play-Back). This film is the story of a friendship between two girls from a mining town in Aveyron who become pop-rock stars. The film's director, Gérard Krawczyk, will be on hand with actress, musician and composer Maïdi Roth who will perform live songs from the movie.
The screenings continue with Le pique-nique de Lulu Kreutz (Lulu Kreutz's Picnic), starring Philippe Noiret, Carole Bouquet, and Niels Arestrup. Director Didier Martiny and producer Jean-Philippe Reza will present their film. The script was penned by playwright, Yasmina Reza, world-renowned for her play Art, the winner of Tony, Ace, and Molière Awards.
After the Official Reception and Gala Dinner in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a midnight projection will feature Une pour toutes (One 4 All), the newest work by director Claude Lelouch, known for his award-winning Man and a Woman and Les Misérables. Une pour Toutes, released on January 1, 2000making it the first French film of the 21st Centuryfollows three scheming young actresses on their road to success. On Sunday morning, Claude Lelouch will answer questions about his new film, live from Paris via a telephone conference, inside the Byrd Theatre.
The Festival will continue the French tradition of encouraging social commentary and criticism through the court métrage, or short film, by hosting a series of eight short films by France's next generation of directors. Jean-Loup Hubert, an established French director (Le grand chemin, Marthe ou la promesse du jour and Reine blanche), and former Festival-guest, will begin the Festival by talking about the important role that the short film has in French cinema. Following his brief presentation, the festival will begin with the screenings of the César winner for best short film, Sale Battars by Delphine Gleize, and Rien Dire, directed by actor Vincent Pérez. Pérez is widely acclaimed for his starring roles in Indochine, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Queen Margot. Hubert will return the second day to present his own short work Duel along with the following directors presenting their short films: Eric Guirardo, Un petit air de fête; Jean Stéphane Sauvaire, La mule; Pierre Pinaud, Gelée précoce; Lionel Balliu and Pierre-Yves Mora, Microsnake; and Alexandre Mehring, A deux sur la comète.
Following the series of shorts, the fifth feature film will be acclaimed musician Denis Dercourt's, Les Cachetonneurs (The Music Freelancers). This comedy paints a light-hearted picture of six young classical musicians, who must moonlight in order to eke out a living following their dreams. The film will be presented by the hilarious comedian and star Serge Renko, who received acclaim for his work with famed director Eric Rohmer, in Les Rendez-vous de Paris.
The last feature film will showcase Les Enfants du Marais (The Children of the Marshland), directed by Jean Becker and starring the award-winning actors Jacques Gamblin, Jacques Villeret, André Dussollier and Michel Serrault (La Cage aux folles, Nelly et M. Arnaud and Rien ne va plus). The film paints the life of four men in the Marais, a marshland community along the banks of the Loire during the 1930s. The film was nominated for three French César Awards (French Oscars).
"France, the birthplace of the seventh art, the cinema, continues to offer a diverse production of works ranging from historical drama, comedy, social commentary, and artistic expression. For many French cinéastes, it is a constant struggle to maintain their vitality with all the pressures coming from the American movie industry," said Professor Kirkpatrick, festival organizer and founder.
Yearly in France, about three-fourths of all moviegoers go to American films, with the remaining balance choosing mostly French films. In contrast, each year in the United States, less than one percent of the films released are foreign productionswith French films vying for the top-spot among those limited foreign releases. "For French filmmakers and producers, the United States is a very difficult market in which to get their films distributed," Kirkpatrick said. "The VCU French Film Festival offers the introduction of many notable new French films, providing a way for them to earn recognition by the American public. And with growing annual attendance, which reached 6,000 entries last year, the festival also signals to French producers and directors, as well as to American distributors, that American audiences desire to see more French films."
With support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., VCU will continue its second year the successful continuing graduate education course for middle- and high-school French teachers from across the mid-Atlantic region. Teachers completing the course earn required recertification credits. Twenty scholarships, covering tuition and festival events, are available. Embassy officials assisting with the project are Lazare Paupert, French cultural attaché, and Dominique Malicet, French cultural linguistics attaché; both will be in attendance.
To attend all film screenings and the discussions with the directors/actors at the Byrd Theatre as well as the Official Reception, participants can purchase a VIP Friends of the Festival pass for $35; $25 for VCU students and other student groups (high school and university) of ten or more. A VIP Friends of the Festival Plus Pass, available for $75, also provides admission to the Gala Dinner. Both the reception and the gala will be held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Tickets for individual screenings are $4 at the door.
The French Film Festival is sponsored by VCU's Division of University Outreach, the College of Humanities and Sciences and the Department of Foreign Languages. The full-sponsor of all screenings is Ellwood Thompson's Natural Market. French support for the Festival includes the SACD (Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques), L'ARP (Association des réalisateurs et des producteurs), Web Site Story and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. For more information about the films or show times, call the VCU French Film Festival Hotline at (804) 278-0210. For ticket information, call (804) 357-FILM.