Romance, War and Animation En Francais

Go to the crawl space and dust off your joie de vivre, the Brown University French Film Festival is back. This year there’s a well balanced variety of films including a feature animation based on a best-selling graphic novel; a period drama that takes an original look at three days in the life of a doomed monarch; a documentary that traces the evolution of French society through the lens of a homosexual; and the latest film from legendary French director Alain Resnais, just to name a few.

Though the festival has been running for about 16 years, the organizers are still debating when things really got started. “Some of the archives were lost, but the archives on the website are almost correct to one year,” says Shoggy Waryn, one of the main organizers of the festival. Waryn, Senior Lecturer in French Studies at Brown, has been involved with the festival for over seven years after starting out as a ticket collector. Waryn also directed the Festival trailer, a delightful animated promo that can be viewed on the festival’s website.

As usual, the films will be screened at Cable Car Cinema, continuing an important relationship that has existed since year one. “From the beginning of the festival, Cable Car was central to the success of the entire project… making it less of a campus-oriented festival and allowing for a greater opening to the rest of Providence and Rhode Island,” Waryn says. “The current owners understand this very well and are actively involved in helping make the festival happen; we would probably not survive without their active support.”

In terms of what he looks for during film selection, Waryn says there are two main criteria. One consideration is to mix sources. “This is not a Parisian French film festival but a francophone – a French speaking festival – so we try to showcase films from as many different French speaking countries as we can, from as many continents as we can. Indeed the bulk comes from France and Belgium, historically the biggest producers, but we also have all of French speaking Africa, Québec, etc. Then we have styles and topics that we try to fill, such as documentary, animation, kid oriented films and dramas. We try to include films that have been overlooked by main distribution in the US despite their qualities,” he explains.

As for mixing old films with new, Waryn says, “We are always looking at reprints of reissues of classic film to mix in and to introduce to a new audience as these films are part of the history of cinema and have been seen by new filmmakers. This year, for example, The Battle of Algiers is the Algerian version of Zero Dark Thirty and tackles the issue of torture as a source of legitimate information 45 years ago.”

While the Festival originally intended to attract students and introduce them to a different kind of film, organizers quickly discovered that there was a huge audience in RI for foreign films. “We have people coming to the festival every year and spending their entire day camping out at the Cable Car because of their love for foreign films,” Waryn says. “We also have good outreach with other schools in the area and we provide transcripts of all the trailers for their classes on our website.  Finally, because of the location of the Cable Car, many people come to watch films right after work.”

This year, Waryn is most excited to share with the public: “The Rabbi’s Cat, a non-Disney animation suited for a more mature audience, that deals with cultural identity in a tongue-in-cheek way; Invisible, which tackles the coming out of an entire generation before stonewall… the film’s interviews are simply beautiful; and Barbara Hammer’s Resisting Paradise will please film aficionados.” He’s really proud of the balance the organizers struck this year between different genres and styles.

The Brown University French Film Festival runs at the Cable Car Cinema February 21 through March 3. Tickets can be purchased in advance or on the day of the screening beginning at 9am, either in person or online at  $7-9 for a single ticket; $20-55 for a multi-film pass. 204 South Main Street, Providence. 273-3970.



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