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Better call Gaul – French Fest launches

The Alliance Française French Film Festival (AFFF) launched its 2015 edition in Auckland on Thursday evening, with festival director Sarah Reese doing the honours, TVNZ’s Dominic Corry and actor Shane Cortese providing perspective, humour and a couple of serious moments and gold sponsor L’Oréal the much-loved goodie bags.

Eden

Eden

Corry spoke about his trip to France in November courtesy of the festival and film funder UniFrance (“it’s a hard life”). He commented on the relationships on and off screen among those that he interviewed during his trip, noting that France was probably the last of the film-producing nations where it still seemed de rigeur for actors to marry the director who gave them their big break.

Cortese responded that he was glad the system didn’t work that way in New Zealand because he would now be married to John Barnett.

Corry also commented on the French view of New Zealand. In Mia Hansen-Love’s Toronto-premiered Eden, which screens in his year’s AFFF programme, there’s a line addressed to a character who’s very out of touch with contemporary culture, which is subtitled as “Where have you been? Mars?” although the spoken text is “Où étiez-vous? Nouvelle-Zélande?”

One of the more interesting statistics offered up was that 2014 saw 206 million cinema admissions for French titles in France. It’s the equivalent of every person in the country seeing at least three French films during the year and, for filmmakers, one of the benefits of living in a country where English isn’t the first language.

Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion

Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion

Among the mostly contemporary titles the AFFF has programmed a section marking the centenary of World War I. It includes Jean Renoir’s 1937 La Grande Illusion, which will be familiar to film students from many countries and decades. Referencing more recent conflicts and sadly topical following the killings at Charlie Hebdo, the programme also includes Toronto winner Abd Al Malik’s “hymn to tolerance” May Allah Bless France!.

May Allah Bless France! Not shot in Abbey Road

May Allah Bless France! Not shot in Abbey Road

Other highlights of the programme include Thomas Cailley’s double winner in Cannes last year, Love at First Fight, Alex Delaporte’s Venice winner The Last Hammer Blow

It wouldn’t be a French festival without Asterix or a Mathieu Almaric title, and both are duly present. Asterix: the Mountain of the Gods is the festival’s sole 3D offering, while the Un Certain Regard-premiered The Blue Room, with Almaric behind and in front of the camera, is also selected.

Better call Gaul: Asterix: the Mountain of the Gods

Classic Gallic flavours: Asterix: the Mountain of the Gods

The AFFF plays 11 centres around the country. The festival opens in Auckland on 19 February, hits Wellington on 11 March and ends its run in Hamilton from 9 – 29 April. All films play in French with English subtitles. All the programme and schedule info is on the festival website.

If you just can’t wait, warm up for the AFFF with some of the free French shorts available here.

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