Today in Harlem there are trendy restaurants, art galleries, and a Whole Foods, but to go to the movies, there are few options. “Apart from AMC Magic Johnson or very small cinemas, there’s not much,” says Adeline Monzier, head of the New York office of UniFrance, an organization promoting French cinema art abroad. “While the expansion of cinema is going rather well in New York, as shown by the opening of new theaters in Brooklyn and Downtown, Harlem has remained on the outside.”
It was this observation that prompted her to team up with another French woman from Harlem, Marie Gentine, to create Uptown Flicks, a monthly series of film screenings devoted to recent French films and documentaries that have little or no exposure in the United States. It launches on Saturday, October 14 at the mythical Maysles Cinema. “There’s so much information that the public is overwhelmed. They don’t follow the cinema-related news, apart from the big American blockbuster titles. The idea of the series is to have a regular meet-up to draw attention to certain films,” she explains. “It’s a challenge.”
The films and documentaries screened are all favorites in France, often crossed overlapping with the current activities of UniFrance. Not all screenings will have invited speakers to talk after the film, but there will always be allotted time for a discussion over drinks.
À voix haute – la force de la parole (“Speak up”) will set the stage for this new Harlem event as the first film in the series, screened in the presence of the director and one of the film’s protagonists, who have come to New York to participate in the prestigious New York Film Festival (NYFF) which runs until mid-October. The documentary tells the behind-the-scenes story of an speaking competition that captivates the University of Saint-Denis in the suburbs of Paris. Seating in the main hall is sold out, but the organizers will sell tickets for $10 to see the film in the cozy Maysles lounge downstairs.
“We also want to highlight African co-productions to target the melting-pot population of Harlem and highlight the diversity of French cinema,” adds Adeline Monzier. The next screening, Visages, Villages (“Faces, Places”) by the artist JR and director Agnès Varda, is scheduled for Thursday, November 9.
Uptown Flicks is just the beginning. Adeline Monzier wants to launching a series of children’s film screenings in January at CGC Harlem, and plans to create “movie dinners” around French classics in local restaurants.