WMU News

Francophone Film Festival includes U.S. debuts of 10 films

March 1, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- The second installment of the only film festival of its kind will feature the U.S. premieres of 10 foreign films plus bring a delegation of foreign dignitaries to town for the Francophone Film Festival March 13-16 at Western Michigan University.

The annual event spotlights films made in French-speaking countries outside of France, including North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Quebec and the French Caribbean.

"There are African and French film festivals in New York and Los Angeles," says Dr. Vincent Desroches, the festival's organizer and a WMU assistant professor of foreign languages, who teaches French. "But this is the only festival dedicated entirely to movies from across the French-speaking world."

In all, five feature-length films and five short films will be making their U.S. debuts. Two others were only shown once before at a November film festival in New York. The festival takes place in the Little Theatre at the corner of Oakland Drive and Oliver Street.

Desroches and his assistants have scoured the globe and gleaned the offerings of numerous international film festivals, looking for just the right films to bring to Kalamazoo. In all, the festival will offer 16 shows during its four-day run. Shows will either be one feature-length film or several shorts screened consecutively. No film will be shown twice.

"We selected films that are very good and have won awards at international film festivals," Desroches says. "These are not experimental films. They are very entertaining movies with a message."

In addition to the screenings of top French-speaking films, the festival includes a competition in which a jury of film experts will select the top film as the winner of the festival's Golden Kazoo award, which includes a cash prize. A second Golden Kazoo will be presented to the film that patrons select as their favorite.

Several dignitaries, including government officials representing France and other French-speaking nations, are expected to attend, Desroches says. They include Dominique DeCherf, French consul in Chicago; Yvan Bedard, Quebec delegate in Chicago; and Francios Carre, vice consul of Haiti in Chicago. Two directors, Camille Mouyeke and Pierre Falardeau, also are expected to attend screenings of their films and meet the public. In a related event, DeCherf will take part in a roundtable discussion with a German consul general to explain their countries' views on the crisis in Iraq. That event is at 1 p.m. Friday, March 14, in the Fetzer Center.

Film buffs are not the only people to whom the festival is being geared. Desroches is inviting teachers of French and African studies to attend as a way for them and their students to learn more about the cultures they are studying.

"One of the objectives of the festival is to promote cultural diversity and artistic creations from countries whose art is rarely seen in the United States," Desroches says. "But another objective is to try to promote this cultural diversity within French curricula and within school curricula at large."

In particular, teachers will be interested in the festival's many short films. All of the short films run 40 minutes or less, with some running as few as nine minutes, and can be easily squeezed into the length of the average high school or college class.

The festival will begin with an opening reception at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 13, in the lobby of Walwood Hall by invitation only. Doors will open to the public at 7 p.m. when director Mouyeke presents the U.S. premiere of his film "Journey to Ouaga." Film screenings begin again at 4 p.m. Friday and continue all day Saturday and Sunday. A festival highlight for children will be a free screening of seven animated films at 10 a.m. Saturday that tell traditional tales and legends from Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Congo. The animation show is made possible through the French Cultural Services and the Alliance Francaise of Kalamazoo.

Shows are $5 for general admission or $3 for students. Passes for all 16 shows are $50 general admission or $30 for students. Reserved seat patron passes are $150. Students also may see four shows for the price of three. Tickets are available online at <www.wmich.edu/fffkazoo>.

The Francophone Film Festival of Kalamazoo is supported by funding through the Regional Minigrant program of the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the governments of Quebec and Canada, the Diether H. Haenicke Institute for International and Area Studies, the Department of Foreign Languages, the French Section, and the Alliance Francaise of Kalamazoo. Special thanks are given to the Kalamazoo Film Society and Western Film Society for their collaboration.

Attached is a brief description of the festival's feature films, the countries they are from and times and dates they are being shown. For a look at the complete schedule, visit the festival Web site <www.wmich.edu/fffkazoo>. For more information, call Desroches at (269) 387-3043.

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Francophone Film Festival Films

"Journey to Ouaga," Gabon, by Camile Mouyeke (U.S. premiere)--Lionel, a young Frenchman, is charged with taking a car to Africa for resale. When he arrives in Cotonou, Benin, the vehicle and his hopes go up in smoke during a riot against the devaluation of the CFA franc. 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13.

"Quebec-Montreal," Canada/Quebec, by Ricardo Trogi--On Highway 20 between Quebec City and Montreal, three groups of people in three different cars have a single subject of conversation: love. Along the way there are crossed wires between cars, hitchhiking, a gas-sniffing scene and even a talking road sign. 4 p.m. Friday, March 14.

"Tar Angel," Canada/Quebec, by Denis Chouinard--Refugees from ravaged Algeria, Ahmed Kasmi and his family have been waiting for their Canadian citizenship for three years. Shortly before being sworn in as a citizen, Ahmed sees his dreams reduced to dust when his 19-year-old son Hafid becomes part of a group of radical activists. 7 p.m. Friday, March 14.

"15 Fevrier 1839," Canada/Quebec, by Pierre Falardeau (U.S. premiere)--Within the walls of a colonial prison, 800 Canadian patriots, powerless but united, face their tragic destiny. Twenty-four hours separate Marie-Thomas Chevalier De Lorimier and four fellow soldiers from death. 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 14.

"Free," Republic of Senegal, by Jean-Pierre Saune--Hor has been deeply affected by war and goes to Dakar to attempt to make his living. He meets up with another young man, Tierno who is protecting eight-year-old Desire. While Tierno and Desire don't hesitate to steal or become involved in all sorts of shady deals to survive, Hor refuses. The three friends begin dreaming of another possibility, a boat that will take them far away from Dakar. 4 p.m. Saturday, March 15.

"Borders," Algeria/France, by Mostefa Djadjam--A group of Africans, six men and a woman, go in search of their dream: Europe. In the course of their clandestine trip, from the Senegal River to the straits of Gibraltar, feelings of solidarity and defiance grow among them. The group is faced with a number of dangerous situations as it reaches Tangiers, last stop before the crossing to Spain. 7 p.m. Saturday, March 15.

"Beyond Gibraltar," Morocco/Belgium, by Taylar Barman and Mourad Boucif--Karim, born in Morocco, has lived with his family in Belgium since the age of four. He has just finished a brilliant career as a student but cannot find work-something that his father, also unemployed, has difficulty understanding. While looking for a job, he meets Sophie, a young Belgian woman. Their love puts to the test Karim's fidelity to his father and the traditions that his father represents. 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15.

"Ali, Rabiaa and the Others," Morocco, by Taylar Barman and Mourad Boucif (U.S. premiere)--Ali is imprisoned in the '70s for political reasons, and then is freed 20 years later. This film follows the life of Ali and his friends during the '70s in Morocco, showing the hopes, pleasures and tensions of those years, and the state of things upon his return. 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16.

"Royal Bonbon," Haiti/Canada/France, by Charles Najman--An unhappy man wanders the streets of present-day Cap-Haitien, dreaming of an imaginary kingdom in which he is le Roi Christophe, former slave and liberator of Haiti in 1804. Chased out of the city, he takes refuge in the ruins of the Ch,teau Sans Souci, accompanied by Thimothee, a young boy he has taken under his wing. 7 p.m. Sunday, March 16.

"The One Who Knew," Canada/Quebec, by Julien Elie (U.S. Premiere)--On May 16, 1998, Seth Sendashonga, ex-Minister of the Interior of Rwanda, is assassinated in downtown Nairobi. His wife, Cyrie, is convinced that Seth was killed because he knew too much about atrocities committed by the current governing party, the Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR). Despite the risks involved, Cyrie decides to find the assassins. 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 16.

"Bintou," Burkina Faso, by Fanta Nacro-Technically a short film at 28 minutes. Antoinette wants to start a business in order to realize her dream that her sons "and daughter" be educated. Having no particular training, but driven by her need to succeed, Antoinette turns to the skill taught to her by her mother, sprouting millet for beer. 12:40 p.m. Sunday, March 16.

"Betting on Love," Ivory Coast, by Didier Aufort (U.S. Premiere)--A made-for-TV movie popular with African audiences tells of Caroline, a hair stylist in the capital city of Abidjan. She is preparing for her marriage to her long-time boyfriend, a stable Abidjan businessman. But this calm existence is disrupted by the unexpected results of a horse race. 4 p.m. Sunday, March 16.

"Circus Baobab," France, by Laurent Chevallier--In this film, Chevallier combines two of his greatest passions: French Guinea and the world of the circus. For a full year, he follows the activities of the circus he helped found, witnessing the difficulties of its birth, the tough training period, and its tour across French Guinea. 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 16.

Short films in the competition will be grouped into three programs starting at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. Films to be shown starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday are "La Voie lente" (France/Algeria) by Samia Meskaldji; "Scenes d'enfants" (Canada) by Lara Fitzgerald; and "La Meche" (Canada/Quebec) by Daniel Canty. To be shown starting at 2 p.m. Saturday are "Une femme pour Souleymane" (France/Senegal) by Dyana Gaye; "Le Silence viole" (Morocco) by Mohammed Ahed Bensouda; "Chapelet" (Morocco) by Layla Triqui; and "Le Piano" (Morocco) by Lahcen Zinoun. To be shown starting at 10 a.m. Sunday are "Ame Noire" (Canada/Quebec) by Martine Chartand; "Le retour de la main habile" (France/Burkina Faso) by TahirouTassere Quedraogo; "Je m'appelle" (France) by Stephane Elmadjian; "Le RÍve de Rico" (Mauritius,) by Selven Naidu; "Jingle" (Canada/Quebec) by Genevieve Poulette; and "Pas de deux", (Canada/Quebec) by Francis Lussier.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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