9 March 2017

Digital & Dissected: 2017 Alliance Française French Film Festival

| Ariel Larkey
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45. That number again: 45. Beginning today, and throughout the month of March until early April, Palace Electric cinemas in New Acton will be screening 45 films à la Française as part of the French Film Festival – a highlight in the Canberra-calendar cornucopia of film festivals which make their way to the nation’s capital.

Returning in its 28th iteration, the 2017 Alliance Française Film Festival shows no signs of slowing down. Having gone from strength to strength over its 28 years, its scale is a testament to the sustained reach of the Francophonie – the cultural and linguistic spread of all things French across the globe. It is a beautiful reflection of our cultural synergy with the French that the festival is the single biggest showcase of French film anywhere in the world outside of France. Having lived in France, I can attest to the allure of the French way of life and their cinematic output certainly falls into that category of appeal.

The ten festival categories this year include: Laugh It Off, Centre Stage, In the Court of Versailles, A Little Bit of Cannes, On the Road, Girl Power, Growing Up, Age of Innocence, Wish You Were Here and A Great Adventure, so you are bound to find something to pique your appetite. This year, the festival also aims to foster and nurture growing talent thereby showcasing seven feature-film debuts from emerging film-makers.

The buffet begins March 9 with L’Odyssée (The Odyssey), starring Lambert Wilson and Audrey Tatou, a biopic which traces the life of a man whose name is known to many but whose feats are less widely understood: famed French oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau.
*At the time of publishing, tickets are selling fast to four simultaneous sessions.*

Closing night treats us to Le Petit Locataire (A Bun in the Oven), a French comedy about pregnant Nicole (Karin Viard of recent The Bélier Family fame), who is set to begin her unconventional journey into motherhood at 49 years of age.

The festival will also feature three special events presented by The High Commission of Canada, The Canberra Business Chamber and The Canberra International Music Festival respectively. All will host pre-screening parties including music and amuse-bouches.

Dr Gemma King, a researcher and lecturer in French studies from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences will be in attendance for two Q&A sessions following A Kid and Farewell, My Queen; the latter to coincide with the current Versailles Exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.


Opening night – 9/3/17

L’Odyssée (The Odyssey)
Adventure directed by Jérôme Salle (France)

6:30 Reception incl. drink on arrival and gift-bag
7:00 Film, followed by after party and live music

High Commission of Canada presents – 16/3/17

Le Fils de Jean (A Kid)
Drama directed by Philipe Lioret (France/Canada)

6:30 Pre-screening party with DJ
7:00 Film screening followed by Q&A with Dr. Gemma King

Canberra Business Chamber presents 23/3/17

La Vache (One Man and His Cow)
Comedy directed by Mohamed Hamidi (France/Morocco)

6:30 Pre-screening party with DJ
7:00 Film screening

Canberra International Music Festival presents – 29/3/17

Les Adieux à la Reine (Farewell, My Queen)
Drama directed by Benoît Jacquot (France/Spain)

6:30 Pre-screening party with live classical music
7:00 Film screening followed by Q&A with Dr. Gemma King

Closing night – 4/4/17

Le Petit Locataire (A Bun in the Oven)
Comedy directed by Nadège Loiseau (France)

6:30 Pre-screening party with live entertainment
7:00 Film screening

At a glance and in no particular order, my picks for the festival are:

Monsieur Chocolat – Omar Sy in an important French drama concerning race and the stage

A Journey Through French Cinema – writer/director Bertrand Tavernier’s promenade through French cinema history

From the Land of the Moon a romantic epic and three-country co-production starring Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel (France/Belgium/Canada)

The Unknown Girl another searing piece of social realism from acclaimed Belgians, the Dardenne brothers (The Child; Two Days, One Night)

A Bag of Marbles a depiction of the French occupation during WWII through the eyes of two young Jewish boys (France/Canada co-production)

150 Milligrams adaptation of real-life nurse turned whistle-blower Irène Frachon’s bestselling memoir about her crusade against a large-scale pharmaceutical company

The Innocents ­– Based on true experiences of Madeleine Pauliac, Anne Fontaine’s fable of a young doctor caring for soldiers during WWII who is thrust into a moral quandary of convents, nuns, pregnancies and war (France/Poland co-production)

Things to Come a fifty-something woman must suddenly reinvent her life. Anything starring the inimitable Isabelle Huppert is probably worth your time (France/Germany)

Elementary – a drama highlighting the personal, moral and physical demands placed upon modern-day teachers in a job which is both heart-warming and heart-breaking

Standing Tall – Catherine Deneuve stars in this bold insight into the French juvenile justice system

A Kid – an ode to life, death, family and self-discovery (France/Canada)

Heal the Living – Maylis de Kerangal’s internationally acclaimed novel is adapted for the screen, fusing disparate tragic events into a medical drama about family, hope and the fragility of life

Moka psychological thriller of revenge and ulterior motives set in the Swiss Alps, adapted from Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel and anchored by the gripping Emmanuelle Devos (France/Switzerland)

Mercenary closer to home, a debut realist drama from Sacha Wolff about rugby, dreams, reality and French Polynesia

The Stopover –Winner of ‘Un Certain Regard’ for Best Screenplay at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, a serpentine tale of two female soldiers dealing with the trauma of war (France/Greece)

Tomorrow Cesar-award winning documentary from actor-filmmaker Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) about communities around the world trying to find solutions to our grand and prescient environmental problems


All films are in French, and some include a combination of other languages reflecting the multicultural diversity of the films on offer. All films have English subtitles.

As is customary, the biggest drawcards on the bill will likely enjoy ‘back-by-popular-demand’ encore screenings towards the end of the festival.

You can also pick up the Unofficial Soundtrack to the Festival, So Frenchy, So Chic at JB Hi-Fi to really get into the swing of things between screenings.

The Official Program is available at Palace Electric Cinemas in New Acton or you can visit the website at www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/

Be sure to also register on the website for your chance to pick up some fantastic prizes!

Book tickets at www.palacecinemas.com

Local Sponsors: Pialligo Estate Canberra, Canberra International Music Festival, Travel Makers, Nonstop Media, Canberra Business Chamber, High Commission of Canada, Autolyse (RIP), National Gallery of Australia, Arum Floral Design

Profitez du festival!

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Ariel Larkey3:18 pm 17 Mar 17

My pleasure! It’s very gut-feeling on my part. I approach film festivals like art galleries in that I definitely don’t expect to like everything I see, let alone everything on the actual bill! Ha. As you say, just seeing any 45 great films per year would be a pretty solid return for most people.

Zoe Pleasants2:08 pm 10 Mar 17

Thanks for unpacking this festival Ariel, very helpful. I also heard that 150 Milligrams is good. But I was wondering, can all 45 films really be good? I don’t think I could think for 45 English language films released in a year that are good!

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