Women directors a big feature of 2017 French Film Festival

This years French Film Festival opens with a film about the life of Jacques-Cousteau

The Alliance Française French Film Festival
Various centres
March 1-April 12

The Alliance Française French Film Festival has announced the programme for this year’s festival featuring 36 films presented over six weeks in 12 cities. The festival will launch with Jérôme Salle’s The Odyssey (L’Odyssée), starring Lambert Wilson, Audrey Tautou, and Pierre Niney.

Based on the life of oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, The Odyssey combines elements of biopic, romance and family drama.

The festival will close with Bertrand Tavernier’s epic documentary A Journey Through French Cinema (Voyage à travers le cinéma français).

Tavernier explores French films from the 1930s through to the 1970s that inspired him to start out as a director. From giants like Renoir, Godard, and Melville (for whom he worked as an assistant) to now overlooked figures like Edmond T Gréville and Guy Gilles, he rediscovers and reassesses filmmakers, films, and composers, taking us on a voyage through time and stories.

The festival features a number of award-winning titles, numerous female-directed features, and slapstick comedies and includes the world debut of writer-director Carine Tardieu’s comedy Just to be Sure (Ôtez-moi d’un doute). Starring François Damiens (The Bélier Family, AF FFF 2015) and Cécile de France (La Belle Saison, AF FFF 2016), the film leads the La Vie et L’Amour section of the programme.

Fans of classic French cinema will enjoy a fresh look at classic film genres with the Classics Remixed section, which pairs The Umbrellas of Cherbourg with Julie and the Shoe Factory, and the film noir Le Doulos with Dark Diamond.

Featuring a line-up ripe of César Award nominees from Best Film (Slack Bay, From the Land of the Moon, and Best Actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle for A Decent Man, Fabrice Luchini for Slack Bay, Omar Sy for Monsieur Chocolat, Gaspard Ulliel for It’s Only the End of the World) to Best First Film (Dark Diamond by Arthur Harari).

The festival will highlight a number of female directors including;

Planetarium (Planétarium)
Director: Rebecca Zlotowski

Rebecca Zlotowski’s Planetarium tells the story of two young mediums in Paris in the 1930s. Zlotowski, famed for visually striking and intricately presented films such as Grand Central, creates another cinematic delight with Planetarium. Deservedly being screened out of competition at the Venice International Film Festival in 2016

Ogres (Les Ogres)
Director: Léa Fehner

Ogres follows the highs and lows of the eccentric life of a travelling troupe of performers. Léa Fehner’s unique personal voice is obvious in this big-hearted and energetic offering, and she features several members of her own family in the cast. Inspired by her own background in her family’s circus troupe.

From the Land of the Moon (Mal de pierres)
Director: Nicole Garcia

Nicole Garcia presents a tale of repressed femininity and personal liberation in From the Land of the Moon. Featuring a dazzling performance by Marion Cotillard, the film screened in competition at Cannes in 2016. Garcia creates a razor-sharp portrayal of societal constraints on the romantic and emotional development of a young woman.

150 Milligrams (La fille de Brest)
Director: Emmanuelle Bercot

Arguably one of the line-up’s most suspenseful thrillers, Emmanuelle Bercot delivers a forceful masterpiece in 150 Milligrams, which tells the story of one woman’s struggle to take on a pharmaceutical giant. It is a stunning directorial work from Bercot, focusing on feminine courage and the capacity for change.

Standing Tall (La tête haute)
Director: Emmanuelle Bercot

Bercot’s second offering of the festival is confronting and thought-provoking, Standing Tall draws on Bercot’s own experiences with her family’s interaction with the juvenile court system. Bercot’s audacious juxtaposition of gritty reality and moments of true joy highlights her astounding ability to connect to a viewer and retain tension and suspense for the entire span of a film.

In Bed with Victoria (Victoria)
Director: Justine Triet

Justine Triet’s In Bed with Victoria, which featured at the Critics’ Week opening night film at Cannes in 2016 is a true example of the ability of a female director to subvert expectations and make her unique mark on a genre. Due to Triet’s assured and sophisticated directing, romantic comedy is refined in this side-splitting comedy.

Baden Baden
Director: Rachel Lang

Rachel Lang directorial debut is simultaneously hilarious and beautifully complex achieved with the assurance of a seasoned director. Following a young woman’s journey through the ups and downs of one unforgettable summer, Lang’s treatment of themes of love lost and the desire for identity elevate this simple tale to a true example of free-spirited and confident directing.

Just to be Sure (Ôtez-moi d’un doute)
Director: Carine Tardieu

Carine Tardieu’s romantic comedy Just to be Sure is a touching and humorous exploration of family tension and the search for identity, convincingly directed and charmingly performed. Tardieu is also responsible for The Dandelions, which featured in the 2013 line-up.

The Woods Dreams are Made of (Le bois dont les rêves sont faits)
Director: Claire Simon

In this superb documentary, Claire Simon observes the stories of the people she encounters in a huge park outside Paris. She invites us to see what she sees as openly and nonjudgmentally as she does. Simon demonstrates a unique and thought-provoking view of our industrial world and commercialised society, reinforcing the strength of feminine perspectives in French cinema.

Things to Come (L’avenir)
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve

Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come is a moving illustration of new identity and rebirth after a loss. Inspired by her relationship with her own mother, Hansen-Løve boldly treats the complexity of mature life as a woman, and skilfully navigates themes of feminine self-fulfilment and self-knowledge. Hansen-Løve deservedly gained the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival 2016.

Other festival highlights:

Monsieur Chocolat
France 2015
Director: Roschdy Zem
Starring: Omar Sy, James Thiérrée, Noémie Lvovsky, Clothilde Hesme

Based on a true story, Omar Sy excels as Chocolat the clown, the first black performer in French circus. Joined by James Thiérrée (grandson of Charlie Chaplin) as the white clown George Footit, the two form an unforgettable performance partnership, and journey through the challenges of gaining success in the 1890s. The film deftly mixes incredible feats and uplifting moments with thought-provoking themes of racism and the corrupting power of fame. 

It's Only the End of the World (Juste la Fin du Monde)
Director: Xavier Dolan

Derived from the play Juste la fin du monde, by Jean-Luc Lagarce, It’s Only the End of the World introduces Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a writer suffering from a fatal illness, who returns to his family to inform them of his inevitable demise. Familial divisions, personal conflict, and past grievances are capably treated by director Xavier Dolan, as we follow Louis’s poignant story. 

Dark Diamond (Diamant Noir)
Director: Arthur Harari

Arthur Harari’s film opens with the death of Pier Ulmann’s father; poverty-stricken and ousted by his family after a fatal accident. Pier’s (Niels Schneider) desire to avenge his father leads him to infiltrate the ranks of his affluent diamond-dealing extended family. Considering the family culpable for his father’s loss, Pier plans a heist under the guise of carrying out construction work on the diamond firm. This polished film noir challenges the distinction between right and wrong and is a master class in the effective building of tension.