French and Filipino cinephiles unite

/ 12:03 AM June 06, 2018

Kristen Stewart in “Personal Shopper”

In a time of suffering and strife, cinema’s role becomes all the more crucial in building a progressive and inclusive society.

Nicolas Galey, France’s ambassador to the Philippines, told the Inquirer: “The root of many conflicts all over the world is intolerance and the failure to accept different beliefs, traditions and values. Cinema is a medium that promotes understanding among different people and cultures. It is a way of opening minds.”


With this principle in mind, the Embassy of France to the Philippines continues to spearhead the French Film Festival, now on its 23rd year.

“Every year, we hope that the festival makes a positive contribution in broadening the perspectives of viewers, and in offering them stories from the other side of the globe,” he asserted.


Variety precisely marks this year’s lineup of 21 films. “Our first consideration is to ensure diversity, in terms of genres and stories,” he explained. “While we usually feature comedies and dramas, which are well-received by Filipinos, we also want to include films that can attract different types of audiences.”

This year, there’s an animated film (Jean-François Laguionie’s “Louise by the Shore”), a science-fiction flick (David Moreau’s “Alone”), a documentary on French movies (Bernard Tavernier’s “A Journey Through French Cinema”), and an action hit (Franck Gastambide’s “Taxi 5”).

Organizers also made sure to include award winners and festival favorites in the program: Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper” (Cannes 2016), Stéphane Brizé’s “A Woman’s Life” (Venice 2017), Étienne Comar’s “Django” (Berlin 2017), and Cédric Kahn’s “The Prayer” (Berlin 2018). Anthony Bajon won best actor for “The Prayer” at the Berlinale last February.

Marion Cotillard (left) and Guillaume Canet in “Rock ’n Roll”

Another stellar attraction is the Marion Cotillard-starrer “Rock ’n Roll,” which is directed by her real-life partner Guillaume Canet. The comedy, which chronicles the travails of a “show biz” couple, dishes out heapfuls of inside jokes on the movie industry.

For fashionistas, the fest is offering the lush and luxe biopic, Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent,” which depicts the struggles of a celebrated couturier. Art connoisseurs will surely relish Danièle Thompson’s “Cézanne and I,” which follows the turbulent friendship of painter Paul Cézanne and
author Emile Zola.

“We included French movies acquired by Filipino distributors like Pioneer Films, which picked up ‘Personal Shopper’ and ‘Taxi 5,’” he noted.

The fest also pays homage to auteur Jean-Pierre Melville with a retrospective of his noir films from the 1940s to the 1960s. “We chose films that we think would be relevant and resonate well with the local culture,” he remarked.


Indeed, there is something for everyone in this year’s French fest.

The ambassador related: “We organize this event every year to give Filipinos a glimpse of contemporary French society … for them to see that our societies share similar values and deal with similar concerns, particularly when it comes to family issues and relationships.”

He reiterated: “Cinema is one of the best ways to promote understanding because France and the Philippines share a strong passion for film.”

” Louise by the Shore”

It has also become an annual tradition for the fest to feature Filipino films (that won in France) on June 12, the country’s Independence Day. “I was surprised to learn of the victory of Zig Dulay’s ‘Bagahe’ at the Vesoul Asian Film Festival early this year,” he said. “We are screening Raymond Red’s ‘Anino’ and ‘Himpapawid,’as well. To date, Raymond is the only Filipino filmmaker to win the Palme d’Or in Cannes (for his short film ‘Anino’ in 2000).”

He pointed out that holding the festival in malls makes French movies “more accessible to the average Filipino.”

This year, the fest will take place in three cineplexes in Metro Manila: at Greenbelt 3 in Makati (ongoing until June 12); Bonifacio High Street, Central Square in Taguig (June 8 to 12); and UP Town Center in Quezon City (June 10 and 11). The fest is also traveling to Abreeza Mall in Davao City (June 21 and 22) and Ayala Center Cebu (June 25 to 27). (Tickets are priced at P150.)

According to the ambassador, France’s love affair with cinema remains just as vibrant today as it was on the day of its invention by brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière in 1895. Until now, in the “digital age,” “cinema is still regarded as one of the most accessible and widely consumed mediums in telling stories.”

He stated: “France recognizes that cinema is a way to preserve and promote cultural heritage. As such, our government strongly supports the film industry … This positive environment contributes to the constant evolution of French cinema as an art form in France. And like Filipinos, the French love going to the movies!”

The ambassador volunteered that the embassy is working closely with French producers and the Film Development Council of the Philippines “to make more French movies available for screening to Filipino audiences.”

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