THIS year marks the 25th birthday of the hugely-popular Alliance Française Film Festival in Australia and Emmanuelle Denavit, director for the third time, exudes excitement at the many celebratory features.
For one thing, the festival will now have a patron in the form of French-born Julia Zemiro of “Rockwiz” fame, whose mother, it turns out, has a long-time involvement with the Alliance Française.Bearing in mind the “terrific response” from Australian audiences over the years, this year Denavit handed over the choice of the closing film to them, with online voting resulting in the selection of Jacques Tati’s “Mon Oncle”.
Chic cocktail events are planned both for that and for the Canberra opening night selection, “The Finishers”, a heart-warming film about a disabled triathlon contender.
This year they will break their own conventions by staging a retro-tribute to the seminal director François Truffaut, who died in 1984, with “Finally, Sunday!”, “Jules and Jim” and “The 400 Blows”.
Three documentaries from French Polynesia will head up that increasingly important part of the event, including “Jacques Brel, The Home Stretch”. As well, three short films by up-and-coming star directors will showcase the finesse of the national French film school, La Fémis.
There are 46 films in the festival and Canberra will get all of them.
In a mighty coup, “The Finishers” will be released in Australia even before it hits Parisian cinemas and “Folies Bergère”, featuring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Michael Nyqvist, will have its world premiere in Australia.Children’s films will be “even stronger than ever… when you start early, you keep going to the cinema,” Denavit tells “CityNews”, saying there will also be education kits and a schools’ program.
“Kiddies’ corner” films for 2014 are “Billy and Buddy”, starring a red-coated cocker spaniel; “Belle et Sébastien”, featuring another lovable dog; “Kirikou and the Men and Women”, a popular animation about the Senegalese crusader, Kirikou, and the poignant “My Mommy is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill”, about six-year-old Jean, who doesn’t know his mum has died.
A special treat for diplomacy-minded Canberrans will be “Quai d’Orsay”, a satirical comedy in which Thierry Lhermitte plays the beleaguered French foreign minister “Alexandre Taillard de Worms”.
Shock, horror. After many years of festivals dominated by Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve, you won’t see either of them. Denavit concedes that both are still “very productive”, but it’s a case of “not this year”.
Alliance Française Film Festival in Australia 2014, Palace Electric Cinemas, NewActon, March 6-25. Bookings to affrenchfilmfestival.org and palacecinemas.com.au