When Providence’s Cable Car Cinema closed last May after 42 years in business, there was a possibility that the long-standing annual French Film Festival would be lost with it. But thanks to a joint effort between former Cable Car owner Daniel Kamil and various University departments, the Festival is currently in its 21st year, showing 14 films in 27 screenings over the course of nine days at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.
The Festival, which began on Feb. 21 and continues until March 1, is screening a selection of French films released in the past year, some of which have previously seen little or no distribution in the United States, Kamil said. The films were selected by Kamil along with the Department of French Studies and the Department of Modern Culture and Media.
Although this is the first year that the French Film Festival has taken place on campus, it has always been conducted in close collaboration with the University. Kamil said that this year represented a change in venue more than in organization.
“Everybody sort of throws in ideas,” he said. “We figure out what will work with the budget we’re working with, and what … we think will resonate for the Brown community as well as other people in town who have come to love the festival.” Kamil described the task of choosing the films as a “winnowing process” through which the organizers of the festival narrowed down 60-70 possible titles to the 14 ultimately selected.
The films vary greatly in their intended audience and production costs. While some, like “The Trouble with You,” or “Knife + Heart” are commercial films with quick plots and large budgets, a film like “The Competition,” which documents life in a Parisian cinema school, is comparatively small and fills a rather specific niche.
Miranda Mo ’22 attended the Festival and found some of the films uncomfortably slow, while others surprised her. She found “The Wild Boys” to be “pretty shocking in the beginning, but the overall plot was very interesting,” adding that the film’s discussion of feminism came as an unexpected conclusion.
Some of the films focus on difficult themes. “Earth Seen From the Heart” is a film about climate change, and “Until the Birds Return” features sections about the fallout from the violence of the Algerian Civil War. “Sorry Angel,” a film that chronicles the love-affair of two men in Paris, deals with the topics of cruelty in love, being gay in France and the personal tragedies brought about by AIDS.
Michelle Medina ’22 attended the festival for a class in the French Studies Department, intrigued by the broader differences between French and American cinema. “I was very interested in seeing how the French create thrillers,” Medina said, adding that if one were to consider French thrillers through the lens of “Knife + Heart,” “they’re pretty disturbing.”
The festival has 12 remaining screenings, with student tickets priced at $7.