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An exclusive look into the 2018 Alliance Française French Film Festival

French version

This article has been published exclusively by the  Courrier Australien and the Alliance Française de Melbourne.

The largest French film festival to exist outside of France makes its big return in Australia with a program that is positive, meaningful and abundant, presenting 50 works, including two documentaries and one TV series. The festival’s artistic director Philippe Platel, speaks to us about the must-see films and of the general tone of this year’s festival which is not to be missed.

Last year, the Alliance Française French Film Festival attracted a record 175,000 spectators, with a selection of films that were considered serious, dark even, perhaps as a result of the political climate at the time. “In 2018, the line-up will be marked by some good comedies”, reassures Philippe Platel “with themes that celebrate team spirit, courage, love, and modern families”. We’ll see a real shift towards optimism, with a selection aimed at a younger audience as well as reduced ticket prices for students.

Almodovar in tears

To begin with: there is an LGBTI theme that runs through the festival. “In light of the recent vote in Australia to legalise gay marriage, we are delighted to offer seven films that bring the LGBTI theme to the screen. In Australia, there is a tradition of Queer and Mardi Gras film festivals. In an ideal world, there shouldn’t be any difference between these films and others, however we wanted to mark the occasion”. Among them, spectators will have the pleasure of discovering BPM (120 battements par minute), “This one got the Grand Prix at Cannes and had Pedro Almodovar in tears when it came out”. A difficult film which aligns with the theme of team spirit, while at the same time incorporating personal melodrama. In addition to the quality of the imagery, “the music is very beautiful”: with a strong message about courage and commitment.

French-Australian friendship

To mark this year’s 100-year anniversary of the French-Australian friendship which was established during the First World War, the festival has also chosen to visit the time of the Great War with three very different films. The Guardians (Les Gardiennes) (by Xavier Beauvois) which brings together mother and daughter Nathalie Baye and Laura Smet, is also a beautiful story about women. See You Up There (Au revoir là-haut) adapted from the Goncourt prize-winning novel by Pierre Lemaitre, is a “big production” from actor and director Albert Dupontel, a vitriolic film which is set just after the war. Finally, Golden Years (Nos années folles, André Techiné) tells the true and unsettling story of a wounded soldier who dresses as a woman, with the help of his wife, to avoid having to return to battle.

Nothing but good

In the comedy category, Philippe Platel makes mention of Aurore by Blandine Lenoir starring Agnès Jaoui, Jealous (Jalouse, David and Stéphane Foekinos) starring Karine Viard, or Rock’n Roll an energetic and exuberant film” by Guillaume Canet who plays himself alongside Marion Cotillard. These works reflect the tone of French productions in 2017. “For me, there’s nothing but good” smiles Philippe Platel who struggles to only name a few films, with all of them being worth seeing. “We were lucky that our sales partners and distributers have been so cooperative and supportive. I’m of course thinking of the Australian [distributers] but also of MK2 and Gaumont” Thanks to them, there is a rich selection, and something for everyone.

For the kids there’s Belle & Sebastien, Friends For Life (Belle et Sébastien 3) for example. “Moreover, I also want to emphasise the documentaries which are much more than documentaries” continues Philippe Platel. Before its official release, Braguino, from visual artist Clément Cogitore, was firstly shown as a video installation at the Paris-based art centre ‘Le Bal’ established by Raymond Depardon. Braguino tells the story of two families who chose to retreat from the world to go and live in Siberia. “It’s a harsh film with magnificent imagery which talks about utopia and human relations”. Lastly, The French film festival will also show three consecutive episodes of the TV series Paris etc. created by Zabou Breitman for Canal+, “a beautiful homage to Parisian women” which doubles as an unusual cinema experience.

The festival will take its marks in cinemas in eight cities around Australia, kicking off in Melbourne on the 28th of February. The artistic director keeps quiet about the special guests, director or actors, who will travel from France to join the festival “We’re still working on it, but there will be some nice surprises”. He can, however, announce a discussion at the ACMI on the 2nd of March with one of the scriptwriters from BPM, Philippe Mangeot. The 2018 festival is also lucky enough to have the benevolent and informed patronage of film critic David Stratton. He is entrusted with the honourable job of guiding cinephiles through the twists and turns of this annual homage to French cinema. We’re counting on him!

Article by Valentine Sabouraud

Translation by Ilaria O’Brien

For more information: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/