From our unpronounceable street names to our love for beignets of all shapes and sizes, it’s not hard to find French influence in New Orleans. Especially true this time of year, the New Orleans Film Society is gearing up for the 22nd Annual French Film Festival, opening Feb. 15 and closing on Feb. 21.
While the larger film fest encompasses a wider array of films and filmmakers, the French Film Fest focuses specifically on excellence in contemporary and classic French cinema. This year, the fest will showcase a curated selection of French and French-language films and short films.
The opening night film, Gaspard at the Wedding (directed by Antony Cordier), kicks things off on Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Prytania Theatre. Title character Gaspard was raised in a literal zoo amidst both his eccentric family as well as tigers, monkeys, and bears. Gaspard eventually grows up, leaves the nest, and decidedly keeps his distance. He is ultimately forced to return when his father gets remarried. Afraid to attend alone, Gaspard convinces a stranger, Laura, to be his date for the wedding. The rest of the film unravels to reveal a charming tale about the bonds of family and the animal-instincts in all of us.
Opening night also kicks off with a private party held exclusively for French Film Festival Patron Pass holders and members of the New Orleans Film Society’s Producer’s Circle and Executive Producer’s Circle. Tickets are available for purchase here.
Other feature films to be shown are La Caméra de Claire (Claire’s Camera) by Hong Sang-Soo about a music teacher in possession of a potentially magical camera, Sorti du chaos: un voyage d’artiste à Haiti (Out of Chaos: An Artists’s Journey in Haiti) about trans-media artist Pascal Giacomini spending a month in Port-au-Prince working with Vodou practitioners and artists to create art from material sourced from the streets, L’Homme Fidèle (A Faithful Man) by Louis Garrel about a man who returns to his old flame after she is widowed by his best friend, and Mon garçon (My Son) by Christian Carion, a film that tells the story of perpetually absent father Julian and his disturbing message from his distraught ex-wife that their seven-year-old son has disappeared from a class camping trip.
The films that stand out the most, however, are those that use fresh and creative storytelling to depict many hard and difficult topics that we have seen represented in real time and in recent popular culture. La Religieuse (The Nun) is adapted from an 18th-century novel depicting a young woman removed from her family home to become a nun against her will, who morphs into an allegorical figure of freedom of speech and revolution. In 1999, a small town in French-speaking Canada is haunted by a suicide and the film shows the transformations of all those involved.
For crossover France and Disney fans, the fest will be screening the original version of Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête), filmed long before Emma Watson played Belle in the blockbuster remake and the Beast signed autographs at Disney World.
The festival comes to an end with the closing night film Double Vies (Non-Fiction), directed by Olivier Assayas, a story told amidst the intelligentsia of the publishing world of Paris. It traces the romantic and emotional fallout that results when a controversial writer begins blurring the line between fact and fiction, using his real-life love affairs as fodder for his explosive new novel.
The New Orleans Film Society dedicates itself to creating year-round programming through the discovery, cultivation, and amplification of diverse voices of filmmakers telling the stories of our time. Building a vibrant film culture in the South is a priority in order to share transformative cinematic experiences with audiences as well as connect filmmakers to the career-advancing resources they may not otherwise have access to. The French Film Fest is an ongoing endeavor to build a vibrant film culture in the city of New Orleans.
For a sneak peek of the festival, see the trailer below. For the full lineup of films at the French Film Festival as well as ticket information, visit the website here.