186 films from more than 10 countries. 42,000 attendees to the more than 100 educational screenings, events, and Q&A sessions.
At the annual Focus on French Cinema independent film festival, French is front and center. The purpose of the festival is “educational outreach”: cinema is more than just entertainment, it’s a vehicle for storytelling. It’s one big star-studded cultural exchange of short films, indie breakaways, and many Oscar and César nominated films.
Now on its 13th edition, this year’s festival runs from Monday, March 27th to Sunday, April 2nd, in New York, NY, Greenwich, CT, and Stamford, CT. Of the 17 special guests this year, the biggest star is Claude Lelouch, a legendary French director, producer, and actor, with 50 years and many awards (including two Oscars) under his belt to show for his experience.
Following the kickoff party on March 27th in Stamford featuring a screening of Un plus une (“One Plus One”) and talk with festival headliner Claude Lelouch, FIAF hosts the next evening’s event. At their Film & Party, a special 20-minute cut of Philippe Azoulay’s upcoming documentary Tourner pour vivre (“Shoot to Live”) about Lelouch’s film career will be screening at 7:30pm. Azoulay himself will introduce this cut of his documentary. Then, Lelouch will present the 50th anniversary restoration edition of his Oscar-winning film, Un homme et une femme (“A Man and a Woman”).
Another highly anticipated film, Le ciel attendra (“Heaven will wait”) will be presented by its director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar. Widely praised by critics, this full-length feature film shows how Daech (what France calls ISIS) recruits and radicalizes people through the internet. It follows the story of Sonia and Mélanie, ages 17 and 16, ready to give it all to guarantee their families a “place in paradise.” The film screens on Wednesday, March 29th at 6:00pm at the Lycée Français de New York in New York, NY, and again on Saturday, April 1st at 12:30pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich, CT.
The César for Best Director, the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix du Jury… Juste la fin du monde (“It’s only the end of the world”) is highly decorated, to say the least. Presented by the film’s director Xavier Dolan, this full-length drama will screen Friday, March 31st at 7:45pm in Greenwich, CT. After 12 years away from his family, Louis (Gaspard Ulliel, 2017 César winner for Best Actor) pays a visit to his mother (Nathalie Baye), sister (Léa Seydoux), brother (Vincent Cassel), and brother’s wife (Marion Cotillard). Though Louis’s there to announce his impending death, unresolved bitterness and high tension derails this family reunion. With a star-studded cast, Dolan presents a behind-closed-doors perspective of a family that is both anxiety-inducing and breathtaking.
Co-organized with the Francophone film festival Cinemania in Montréal, Focus on French Cinéma will be doing a special tribute to Québec. As the managing director of Cinemania Guilhem Caillard said, “Quebec cinema lacks exposure in the US,” and this festival will be a great opportunity to reach an American audience. The schedule includes several feature Québecois films such as Le pacte des anges (“A Pact Among Angels”) by Richard Angers, Les mauvaises herbes (“Bad seeds”) by Louis Bélanger and Alexis Martin, and 1:54 by Yan England. An emotional drama, 1:54 tells the story of a brilliant and nerdy high school student named Tim who is constantly teased by his classmates. He decides to take revenge by beating the class bully in track… if only it were that simple. England will be presenting his film Sunday, April 2nd at 7:30pm in Greenwich, CT.