WMU News

WMU's first Francophone Film Festival is this month

March 13, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- African films with a French connection will be the featured genre as Kalamazoo enters the world of competitive film festivals in a five-day event set for March 20-24 on the Western Michigan University campus.

The first "Francophone Film Festival" will take place at the Little Theatre, located on the corner of Oakland Drive and Oliver Street on WMU's campus. The festival will feature five French films that were either made in Africa or have African themes. The films are in either French or African languages with English subtitles. Francophone is a term that describes French-speaking cultures outside of Europe, including North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Quebec and the French Caribbean.

The first festival of its kind screened in Kalamazoo is also believed to be the only one in the nation devoted exclusively to Francophone films. To help kick off the event, Congolese filmmaker Mweze Ngangura (moo-EEZ-ay IN-gahn-gura) will be on hand to introduce the film he directed "I.D. (Pieces D'Identities)." He will introduce the first showing of the award-winning film, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20. In addition, French director Michael Ocelot will hold a conference call discussion following the festival's first screening of his film, "Kirikou and the Sorceress (Kirikou el la sorciere)" at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21.

The festival's organizer is Dr. Vincent Desroches, WMU assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures who teaches French. The festival's films were selected, he says, to "give Kalamazoo viewers a sense of other cultures, especially those that are Islamic."

"Especially given the post-9/11 climate, we all must make an effort to understand these other cultures," he says. "These movies present images of African in modernity and the social tensions that exist there. These cultures are very much alive and French is just one connecting link among them."

Each of the films will be shown twice during the festival. A jury will select the festival's top film as the winner of the festival's Golden Kazoo award , while a second Golden Kazoo will be presented to the film that festival audiences select as their favorite. The jury includes Kofi Amedekanya, a poet and playwright originally from Togo who now resides in Battle Creek; Cynthia Running-Johnson, a WMU professor of foreign languages and literatures; Mike Marchak, chairman of the Kalamazoo Film Society Board of directors; James Sanford, journalist and film critic with the Kalamazoo Gazette; and Bethany Gibson of the Western Film Society. Dillon's Music in Kalamazoo has donated gold kazoos for the awards.

The following is a brief description of the movies that will be screened during the festival and the times and dates of the showings.

"I.D. (Pieces d'Identities)," the top winner at the Fespaco Film Festival by Congolese filmmaker Mweze Ngangura, reflects the dilemmas of Africans living abroad through the story of an African king who visits Brussels and is shocked when no one recognizes his status. In addition to the showing introduced by Ngangura at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, it also will be shown 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 24.

"Night of Destiny (La Nuit du Destin)," a thriller from French filmmaker Abdelkrim Bahloul, is set among the Algerian Arabic community of Paris with an underlying tale of an immigrant community facing assimilation. It will be shown at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, and at 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 22.

"Kirikou and the Sorceress (Kirikou et la Sorciere)" by filmmaker Michel Ocelot, is an animated film that was a runaway hit in France. The Grand Prize Winner for Best Animated Feature at the International Festival of Animated Film, "Kirikou" tells the story of a boy whose African village is terrorized by a witch and shows how the boy's innocence and perseverance help him conquer ignorance and cruelty. In addition to the 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21, showing that will be followed by the conference call discussion with director Michael Ocelot, "Kirikou" will also be shown at 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 22.

"Faat-Kine," in which Ousmane Sembene, widely considered Africa's greatest filmmaker, tackles the question of women's lives in Senegal's capital city of Dakar. This warm, often funny story will be shown at 7 p.m. on both Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23.

"Life on Earth (La Vie sur Terre)," with Mali filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako playing a Paris-based filmmaker who returns to his native village of Sokolo, deep in rural Mali, to experience the arrival of the new millennium. It will be shown at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23, and at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 24.

The cost for the festival is $5 for general admission and $3 for students.

"Africa will be a big part of the next century, so it is important to expose others to those cultures, " says Desroches. "It is more feasible to expose people to these cultures through movies rather than trying to bring in five separate outside speakers. In addition, they are all very good movies and present diverse images."

The Francophone Film Festival was made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC), which provided a grant for the festival. Additional support has come from WMU's Diether H. Haenicke Institute of International and Area Studies, Office of Study Abroad, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the Alliance Francaise de Kalamazoo.

For more information, contact Dr. Vincent Desroches at (269) 387-3043 or visit the festival's Web site at <www.wmich.edu/languages/french/festival.htm>.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 269 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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