Preview: A feast of French films in 2014 festival

Tour de Force

Alliance Française French Film Festival 2014
Christchurch, February 20-March 2
Auckland, February 27-March 16
Followed by Timaru (Feb 27-Mar 9), Nelson (Mar 5-16), Tauranga (Mar 13-23), Wellington (Mar 19-April 6), Dunedin (Mar 2-30),
Havelock North (Mar 27-April 6), Palmerston North (April 3-13), Hamilton (April 3-23) and Arrowtown (April 10-10)

The L’Oréal Paris-sponsored Alliance Française French Film Festival returns next month after having established itself as the largest French cultural event on the national cultural calendar.

After a five-fold increase in attendance figures since 2012, the event is now one of the largest French film festivals outside of France. After launching in Auckland it will tour 11 other towns and cities throughout the country.

The full film selection will be announced on January 31, festival director Sarah Reese says.

“We’ve got our most diverse film selection yet. We know there’s something there for everyone,” she says.

Four festival films, including Nicolas Vanier’s Belle and Sebastian, have been unveiled on the festival website for the annual Education Outreach Programme.

Belle and Sebastian was filmed in  the wilds of the French Alps. Vanier’s crew has developed incomparable experience shooting films in challenging environments, combining action and comedy.

His own personal experience with dogs, mountains, snow and winter has allowed him to provide a glimpse into the wild life of the mountains. Led by leading French specialists in the filming of animals, the team captured breathtaking images of the battles between chamois, the courtship rituals of grouse, of deer squalls and escaping eagles.

Laurent Tuel’s Tour de Force tells the tale of 40-year-old cycling fan François Nouel (Clovis Cornillac). Unbeatable on anything to do with the Tour de France, he spends as much time as he can on his bike to escape from a disappointing everyday existence.

At work, he is restricted to bicycle displays. And things at home are no better: his son thinks he’s a loser and his wife berates him for being a coward. So when his wife discovers on the eve of his holidays that he’s been volunteered to work on the Tour, it’s too much: she tells him she wants a divorce and leaves with his son.

Then he meets Rémi Pletinckx (Bouli Lanners), a depressive former sports manager who’s also at the end of his rope. Under Pletinckx’s influence, François makes up his mind to live his childhood dream: to do the Tour de France, which starts the next day.

Alone at first, François is quickly joined by others who have been inspired by the choice he has embraced. As each stage is passed, the media start to go crazy, the crowds cheer, the Yellow Jersey is furious. François must be stopped.

Other films include Homeland, a French Moroccan production directed by Mohamed Hamidi, and the children’s animated film The Day of the Crows, by Jean-Christophe Dessaint.

This will be the first time the festival in Auckland will screen at Hoyts' Berkeley Cinemas in Takapuna. Hoyts Northlands in Christchurch will also host the festival launch on February 20.

“We are delighted that the festival will launch in Takapuna next year,” Hoyts New Zealand film programmer Mark Chilvers says. “We see huge potential in developing Takapuna as a festival venue and look forward to the amazing selection of French films on offer.”

In Auckland, the festival also screens at Rialto Cinemas in Newmarket.

The festival now has a wide group, of sponsors related to French culture and products, including L’Oréal Paris, Essilor, TV5MONDE, Air France, the Embassy of France , BNP Paribas and Citroën New Zealand.

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