French film festival kicks off

Radhika Garland

The latest international films are rarely shown in Appleton, where a venue and the necessary resources to finance them are lacking. This January and February however, French professors Judith Sarnecki and Eilene Hoft-March have set a precedent by showcasing the first French film festival at Lawrence, called Tournes.
Students and especially Fox Valley residents are invited to attend, as the Tournes festival specifically requires that their films are made available to the largest audience possible.
The Tournes Festival, in French literally a “tour” or “series,” is a program that is sponsored by FACE Council, a French/American cultural exchange program that widely promotes French culture throughout the United States.
Since Hollywood-produced films have a strong monopoly in movie theatres throughout the country, programs such as Tournes offer Americans a unique opportunity to view international films.
Lawrence University, among many other American universities, applied for and received a grant by the council to show five films from a list in the FACE archive.
According to Hoft-March, the five films in this festival were chosen specifically for their ability to create “a better understanding of diversity within the francophone world.”
The five films alternately address diverse socio-economic, religious, gender-based and cross-cultural issues. Yet all of the films are firmly grounded in the present, in order that Lawrence faculty and students will continue to benefit from this new collection.
The first film in this series, “No Rest for the Brave,” will be shown Jan. 11, 12 and 13. It follows Basile, a French teenager who is convinced that he will die if he falls asleep.
The film features elements of French existentialism, along with bright and vivid imagery. These elements lead the viewer skillfully from one scene to the next, as Basile discovers more about the sometimes-licentious world around him.
Next, on Jan. 18, 20 and 21, the festival switches gears to visit an unnamed village in Africa where four young girls are on the brink of being forced to endure ritual circumcision. A woman protects them under a tradition of sanctuary called “Moolade,” creating a conflict that pits neighbor against neighbor.
“Little Jerusalem,” playing Jan. 25, 26 and 27, closely depicts the lives of two sisters, Laura and Mathilde, who are living in an area of Jewish immigrants. The scene is set during a time of marked hostility between their community and the neighboring Muslim one, shaping and changing each sister’s preconceived view of sexuality, religion and family relationships.
“The Child,” to be shown Feb. 1, 2 and 3, tells the story of Bruno, an unemployed, thieving and depressed man who was driven to sell his newborn for profit. The dire consequences of this instill a sense of responsibility in Bruno, who seeks to repair his mistake.
The series concludes with “Far Side of the Moon,” which will play February 8, 9 and 10. Two brothers, a failed doctoral student and a meteorologist, relive old rivalries while disposing of old belongings in their familial home.
Philippe, the elder brother, has been futilely defending his dissertation on human narcissism and space exploration. This fraternal rivalry is juxtaposed with a larger rivalry between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. for supremacy over outer space. During the course of the film, Philippe finds an opportunity to gain recognition for his dissertation when he is invited to Russia to present his findings.
Professors hope that, when Lawrence applies for the grant next year, there will be enough additional funding to continue the festival for the following four years. As Hoft-March so aptly put, “It was time to have something without Gerard Depardieu,” referring to the highest-grossing French actor, who appeared in “Green Card” (1990) and “1492: The Conquest of Paradise” (1992).
The Tournes films are meant to be enjoyed by French majors, students pursuing a degree in film, and “even people who just love cinema.” Students are encouraged to attend, as tickets are complementary upon presentation of school ID.