The much anticipated 31st season the French Film Festival is here. I was very lucky to have been kindly invited by host Alliance Francaise to the Brisbane launch. Not only did I get a sneaky peek at some of this year's highlights, I got to drink champagne (French naturally) with like-minded Francophiles. This year, there are even more locations spread across 12 cities, presented by screening partner, Palace Cinemas. You can catch up to 50 contemporary and classic French films, many enjoying their Australian premiere. This is the biggest French film festival outside France and also the biggest film festival held in Australia.
The Festival will launch the 2020 season with The Extraordinary, one of the most, well, extraordinary films to emerge from France in recent years. The Extraordinary is inspired by a true story and was honoured as the Closing Night Feature at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. For twenty years, Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and Malik (Reda Kateb) have run two separate non-profit organisations where they train young people from underprivileged areas to be caregivers for autistic youth abandoned by the state system. But the authorities, concerned that they've never sought certification and that many of their carers aren't 'officially' qualified, decide to mount an investigation.
LA BELLE EPOQUE I have previously reviewed this film for WeekendNotes. See La Belle Epoch – Film Review. On 26 March, you can enjoy this film with French wine and cheese. Ooh, la la.
THE SWALLOWS OF KABUL (Les Hirondelles de Kaboul) This film is based on the novel of the same name. The animated drama follows two couples living in the Afghan capital of Kabul during the 1990s and the impact Taliban rule has on their relationships. Through their individual love stories, unforgettable characters emerge amid the devastating impact of armed combat.
THE MYSTERY OF HENRI PICK (Le Mystere Henri Pick) Henry Pick, an unassuming pizza maker, is posthumously celebrated as a brilliant author when a lost manuscript, attributed to him, becomes an overnight literary success. But there is one outspoken reader who thinks the whole thing is a fake. After he loses his wife, his job and his credibility due to his opinions, the intellectual decides to uncover the truth or trickery about the book. One for fans of literature as well as film.
SIBYL The eponymous Sibyl, a psychiatrist, is dissatisfied with her life. She decides to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. (Can you see a literary theme happening here?) she "casts" her professional ethics aside, and secretly uses the private sessions of her actress patient, Margot, as inspiration for her novel. Of course, this backfires and the decision impacts both their lives. Watch the exclusive screening.
HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE (La Bonne Epouse) This international premiere is set in the lush region of Alsace in 1968, in a Housekeeping School that transforms teenage girls into ideal housewives The Head of the school has her quiet life interrupted when she again meets her long lost, first love. Added to that experience is the knowledge that her business is on the verge of collapse.
Here is yet another one where the central character is a woman. As the only female in the European Space Agency astronaut-training programme, single mother Sarah struggles with the limited time spent with her young daughter. This guilt escalates when she is invited on a one year space mission called Proxima, which forces her to choose between her work and her child. Sound familiar mothers? Do men usually have to make this choice? With Ava Green and Matt Dillon.
SPREAD YOUR WINGS (Donne-moi des Ailes) Christian is a visionary scientist, who studies wild birds. I like him already, but for his son, who is a teenager obsessed with video games (of course), the idea of spending a vacation with his father in the middle of nature is a nightmare. However, the father and son soon bond over a daring project to save an endangered species, which takes them on an incredible journey.
ZOMBI CHILD You know I love a good zombie movie. In Haiti in 1962, a man is resurrected from the dead and trapped in a nightmare of slavery. Now, in modern-day Paris, a Haitian teenager called Melissa, who is the new girl at an elite school, is invited to join a secret 'literary sorority'. But the family secret she harbours becomes a source of fascination to others, who exploit her heritage with shocking results.
And concluding the season, with champers, will be The Bare Necessity (Perdrix), the directorial debut of Erwan Le Duc, starring Swann Arlaud, Maud Wyler, Fanny Ardant and Nicolas Maury. Set within a tiny town nestled in the woody mountains of Vosges, this sweetheart of a movie, which delighted hardened cynics when it premiered in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes 2019, looks at the romantic mayhem that ensues when an enigmatic young woman forces a stagnant family to re-define their boundaries and begin to truly live.
For further details on Alliance Francaise and the French Film Festival click here.