WMU News

Francophone Film Festival brings rare films to WMU

March 3, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A festival at Western Michigan University brings a slew of rare foreign films to town, offering area film buffs what's likely to be their only chance to see these hidden gems.

The fourth annual Francophone Film Festival Wednesday through Sunday, March 9-13, on the WMU campus will offer one U.S. premiere, while the remaining films will have their first screenings in Michigan. Besides being extremely rare, the films have one other thing in common: they all were produced in French-speaking countries outside France.

The festival again includes a competition of new feature films--five this year--and the awarding of the Gold Kazoo for best feature film. In addition, the feature film "Lumumba," a somewhat older film that has been more widely shown in the United States, will be shown. Feature films in the competition are all under three years old.

As in previous festivals, short films also will be in the spotlight. A total of seven shorts are to be screened this year. The best short film will be awarded the Kodak award. All of the films include English subtitles.

In a new twist, the festival is shining a spotlight on women. A unifying theme of this year's films is women filmmakers and women's issues in the Francophone world.

"What we've done this year, which we haven't done in the past, is try to build a theme," says Dr. Vincent Desroches, WMU assistant professor of foreign languages and the festival's organizer. "So there will be several films by women filmmakers, and that's a new feature."

A festival highlight will be the showing of "They Were Five," ("Elles etaient cinq") by Ghyslaine Cote, a Quebec filmmaker. Cote will present her film in person on opening night.

A graduate of the film program at Concordia University in Montreal, Cote has scripted several short films for children and teens, as well as a feature, "Blanche et Rose." In 1998, her short film "Pendant ce Temps" won first prize at the Stony Brook Festival in Long Island, N. Y., and was nominated for a Prix Jutra and a Genie award in the best short film category. In 1999, Cote directed the children's feature "Pin-Pon, le Film," which was nominated for two Jutras, the top Quebec cinema award, for best editing and best art direction.

The festival's opening night has been dubbed "Canada night" and will put the spotlight on the nation's northern neighbor. Besides Cote's work, another feature film from Quebec will be shown called "How to Conquer America" ("Comment Conquerir l'Amerique en une Nuit") by Dany Laferriere. The evening event is being co-sponsored by the WMU Canadian Studies program.

Desroches says this year's festival has come together well and has much to offer.

"It's really a good product," Desroches says. "Every year we present films that have won multiple awards, many of which have not been seen in the U.S., and bring them to Kalamazoo."

Tickets are $8 for general admission or $5 for students with school identification. A pass good for all films is $40.

The festival is supported by funding from the Canadian Studies program, the governments of Quebec and Canada, the Diether H. Haenicke Institute for International and Area Studies, the Department of Foreign Languages, the School of Communication, and the Alliance FranÁaise of Kalamazoo. Special thanks is given to the WMU Cultural Events Committee and the Kalamazoo Film Society for its collaboration.

Attached is a brief description of the festival's feature films, the film's director, countries they are from and screening day and time. For more information, visit the festival's Web site at <www.wmich.edu/fffkazoo>.

Feature films

"They Were Five" ("Elles Etaient Cinq") by Ghyslaine Cute (Quebec, 2004)

7 p.m. Wednesday, March 9

9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10

Manon Cloutier, 32, recalls a summer's day when she was 17, when she and her closest friends, Sophie, Anne, Claudie and Isa, organized a party at Sophie's parent's cottage. She remembers how happy they all were together... She also remembers the terrible events that happened later that evening. Since that night, Manon has refused to see her friends. To stay alive, she has fled from everything that reminded her of the events that occurred when she was 17. Fifteen years later, however, Manon realizes that only with the help of her childhood friends can she confront her painful past.

"How to Conquer America" ("Comment Conquerir l'Amerique en une Nuit") by Dany Laferriere (Quebec, 2004)

9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 9

4:30 p.m. Friday, March 11

Newly arrived in Montreal, and determined to conquer North America by charming blond-haired women, Gege, a Haitian in his thirties, lands up at Fanfan's -- an unambitious uncle who has given up poetry for a good old taxicab. Over the course of one night filled with humor and friendship -- highlighted by a party attended by twins Andree and Denise, two Quebecers with contrasting charms, the two fun-loving guys take stock of their lives, memories and fantasies. Meanwhile, on television, various celebrities draw up a comic portrait of North American society. The night comes to a somewhat unexpected end, with the two entertaining protagonists ready to embark on a conquest of... America !

"Kassablanca" by Guy Lee Thys and Ivan Boeckmans ( Belgium, 2003)

7 p.m. Thursday, March 10

9:30 p.m. Friday, March 11

Leilah is 17 year-old and her family comes from Morocco . She falls in love with Berwout, her 19 year-old neighbor, son of a Flemish neo-fascist. The plot showcases Kassablanca, a poor and multiethnic area of Antwerp , in the week before Black Sunday, when a third of the voters of Antwerp choose to vote for the far right.

"Kounandi" by Appoline Traore (Burkina Faso, 2004)

4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12

4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 13

Although Kounandi is a dwarf, traditionally regarded as a symbol of bad luck, she will play a very important role in her village. Kounandi is an adult fairy tale about love and the sacrifices it sometimes asks of us, but it also dares to address social conflict and prejudices.

"Rachida" by Yamina Bachir-Chouikh (Algeria, 2002 )

7 p.m. Saturday, March 12

7 p.m. Sunday, March 13

The young teacher Rachida is teaching at a school in Algiers, when she is stopped in the street by a group of youths who demand she take a bomb and place it in the school. When she recognizes one of the terrorists and refuses, she is shot and left for dead in the street. Miraculously, she survives. To recover, she hides with her mother in a village far from the city. But terrorism is unavoidable there too. There are no safe havens in Algeria.

Not included in competition

"Lumumba" by Raoul Peck (France/Belgium/Haiti/Germany, 2001)

7 p.m. Friday, March 11

9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12.

Made in the tradition of such true-life political thrillers as Malcolm X and JFK, Raoul Peck's award-winning epic dramatizes the rise and fall of legendary African leader Patrice Lumumba. When the Congo declared its independence from Belgium in 1960, the 36-year-old Lumumba became the first Prime Minister of the newly independent state but would last just months in office before being brutally assassinated.

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

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