The 13th annual Providence French Film Festival opened Thursday with a screening of "Flandres (Flanders)", directed by Bruno Dumont, followed by Andre Techine's "La fille du RER (The girl on the train)." The festival this year will consist of 18 different films, which are all "a little bit on the edge," said Senior Lecturer in French Studies Shoggy Waryn.
The French Studies Department, along with numerous faculty, graduate and undergraduate volunteers, organized the festival, which is co-sponsored by the Modern Culture and Media Department. The festival runs through March 7 at the Cable Car Cinema. Though several films focus on "changing states" and "changing status," Waryn said, the this year's festival aims to showcase the great variety of films produced in the Francophone world. Youenn Kervennic, a lecturer in French Studies, said the organizers wanted to present an "eclectic" mix of films.
The French Studies Department incorporates the films, which are screened in French with English subtitles, into many of its courses, encouraging or requiring French students to attend some of the screenings. Waryn explained that the festival was designed to complement the activities of the department. Both Waryn and Kervennic said they hope the festival will help to dispel some myths about French cinema — for example, that French films are always serious and usually confusing.
The organizers of this year's festival began working almost immediately after last year's finished, Waryn said. They looked at films that did well in 2009, returned to films they previously could not show and got ideas from several other film festivals, eventually accumulating a wish list of titles. This year, the process of booking the films, which began in November and finished in December, went quickly, Waryn said.
Waryn said he hopes the lineup will be "exciting, both in terms of filmmaking and script."
Both Waryn and Kervennic said student attendance in past years has been very good. Most of the spectators are students from Brown or the Rhode Island School of Design, Kervennic said.
One of this year's films is "Polytechnique," directed by Denis Villeneuve, a film that follows six fictional characters through the story of the massacre at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique 20 years ago, when Marc Lepine shot 28 people, killing 14 women.
Another, "36 vues du pic de saint-loup (Around a small mountain)," directed by Jacques Rivette, focuses on a small, struggling circus. After the owner of the circus dies, his daughter returns to the show, leaving the rest of the troupe to wonder why she originally left and why she later came back.
Several of the films have already won or been nominated for notable awards. "Flandres (Flanders)," the first film to be shown at the festival, received the Grand Prix at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. "Un Prophete (A prophet)," directed by Jacques Audiard, won the same prize in 2009 and is nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
The festival also includes some lighter fare — "Panique au village (A town called Panic)," an animated family film directed by Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar, and "C'est pas moi, je le jure (It's not me, I swear)," a humorous film directed by Philippe Falardeau that tells the story of the troublesome and overly imaginative Leon Dore.
Waryn said he recommended seeing at least two or three films to get a better feeling for the festival and for French filmmaking as a whole. He said he hopes viewers will be "astounded by the variety" of the films in this year's festival.