It’s time to celebrate the French

Austin Walker
Staff Writer

The annual French Film Festival will feature screenings at the Byrd Theater from March 26-29. photo by Taylor Thornberg

The 23rd annual French Film Festival will be held at the Byrd Theater this week from March 26-29 to celebrate recent releases of feature-length and short independent French films.

Each film has a $15 ticket price  at the door, or student VIP passes can be purchased, which allow attendance to all screenings of nearly 50 movies, all shown with French audio and English subtitles.

The festival is sponsored mainly  by Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond, as well as the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Unifrance, l’ARP — also known as the Guild of French Directors and Producers, and the SACD — or “Guild of Authors, Composers and Directors.

The technicians of the event are the same who oversee the Cannes Film Festival.

For 23 years, the festival has been hosted with help from both VCU and U of R. Master classes, where talented artists from France come to share knowledge on a particular subject, are going to be held on the U of R campus. They’re completely free and open for anyone to participate in.

The first master class, to be presented on Thursday at 10 a.m., is “Processes and Approaches to Screenwriting,” taught by prestigious screenwriters Juliette Sales and Fabien Suarez. Held in the Jepson School Lecture Room 118, this presentation centers around the artistry and technique behind crafting an effective screenplay, including plot, story structure, shot breakdown, scene development, dialogue and characterization.

Some of Sales and Suarez’s work include “L’Île aux trésors,” “L’entente cordiale,” “Belle et Sébastien” and “Super Girl,” which they co-wrote for. Their latest work together is a short film titled “Samouraï,” which will be screened Saturday morning.

Other master classes include “Remy Julienne, THE Artist-Technician of Stunts,” “Truffaut, technician?” and “Cinema & Ethnography: Film at work for humanity.”

The first film to be presented will be “La nuit américaine,” or “Day for Night”. This 1973 classic won an Oscar for best foreign film, and tells the story of a struggling director who works desperately to get his movie off of the ground. The presentation for this film will be done by the movie’s original cinematographer, Pierre-William Glenn, and the stunt coordinator, Rémy Julienne. They will introduce the movie, and participate in a Q&A session afterwards.

Fifteen other feature-length films will be presented over the weekend, some with the directors and actors being a part of the presentations, and some without. On Saturday and Sunday morning, they’ll hold the short-film screenings which will showcase some independent work from both abroad and from within the United States.

Admission to these events is equal to the cost of a single feature-length film, $15. On Saturday, seven films will be screened and there will be six screened on Sunday. For each of these films, the directors will be present for introductions and questions afterward.

In an homage to renowned French director René Vautier, a screening of his famous documentary-style drama “Avoir 20 ans dans les Aurès” will take place Friday at 11:00 p.m. This work was met with much controversy in 1962 for its seething critique of France’s actions during the Algerian war. Réne Vautier passed in January of this year, and this event will serve as a remembrance for his contributions to French cinematography.

On Saturday at 9:45 p.m., a special event will take place which will display some rare and antiquated films that have been carefully restored. Some of these films date back as early as 1896, and have yet to be publicly displayed since their restoration.

This was only made possible by the festival’s collaboration with La Cinémathèque Française, which is one of the largest and oldest film repositories in the world.

To purchase tickets for the event, as well as find directions and a more detailed schedule of events, go to their website at

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