WMU News

Annual festival reels in French-speaking films

March 1, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University film festival that is the only one of its kind in the nation will treat area film buffs to a wide range of films from around the globe, while also putting a spotlight on the civil war-ravaged nation of Haiti.

The third annual Francophone Film Festival March 10-14 on the WMU campus will include a number of other special events, including an international film competition for both feature-length and short films. Though very diverse, the films have one thing in common: they were produced in French-speaking countries outside France.

This year's festival will bring films from Africa, the Caribbean and Quebec to the Little Theatre at the corner of Oakland Drive and Oliver Street on WMU's East Campus. As in previous years, the festival will award the Gold Kazoo Award for best film.

"What we're interested in doing is to show the international culture of the French and to show other cultures to Americans," says Dr. Vincent Desroshes, a WMU assistant professor of foreign languages and festival organizer. "We want to present the French culture at large."

A special program on Saturday, March 13, will celebrate the bicentennial of Haiti's independence. The program will include the screening of two documentaries on Haiti, "Profit and Nothing More" by Raoul Peck and "A Work in Progress: Human Rights in Haiti" by Isabelle Abric and Simone di Bagno, preceded by a talk about Haiti by Dr. Espelancia Baptiste of Kalamazoo College. A discussion will follow the two films, time permitting.

This is an opportune time to take a closer look at Haiti, not only because of the civil unrest there, but also because 2004 marks its 200th anniversary, Desroches says.

"The Haitian revolution in 1804 was actually the first victory over slavery," Desroches says. "It was a hard-fought freedom when this small, black republic rose up and declared its independence from France. In black history, it was a very important moment."

Special activities also are planned for opening night. The evening will begin with an opening ceremony at 7 p.m. followed by the short film "Bowling Pin." Then the feature film "The Assassinated Sun " will be shown, attended by its creator, filmmaker Addelkrim Bahloul of Algeria, who will talk about his work. The evening has been dedicated as "African

Night" and will include a dance afterward in cooperation with the African Student Association.

Another highlight will come on Thursday with the showing of "Le Neg'," by Robert Morin, one of the festival's six feature films. "Le Neg" will be given its U.S. premiere at the festival.

As in previous years, short films also will provide much of the entertainment. Short films will begin the program each evening on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. An all-short program is planned for Saturday beginning at 2 p.m., while three shorts also will be featured on Sunday. An award for best short film, sponsored by Kodak, will be presented.

Shows are $5 for general admission or $3 for students with student identification. A 16-show pass is $50 for general admission and $30 for students. A patron pass, with reserved seating for 16 films, is $150.

The Francophone Film Festival of Kalamazoo is supported by generous grants from the Michigan Arts Council, 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 and Literatures, the French Section, and the Alliance Française of Kalamazoo. Special thanks is given to the Kalamazoo Film Society and Western Film Society for their collaboration.

All the films are in French and will include subtitles. Brief descriptions of the festival's feature films follows. For a look at the complete schedule, visit the festival's Web site at <www.wmich.edu/fffkazoo>.

Francophone Festival Films

The Assassinated Sun (Le Soleil assassine), by Abdelkrim Bahloul (France 2002). Set in Algeria in the period shortly after independence, Abdelkarim Bahloul's powerful drama is a tribute to the Algerian-born poet Jean Senac, murdered in 1962. A radio broadcaster promoting the pleasures of French literature, Senac acts as an inspiration to a group of young Algerian poets and performers looking for their own expressive outlet in a changing society. At once a political inquiry in the Costa-Gavras tradition, an essay on the complexities of racial and cultural identity, and a passionate plea for tolerance and against censorship. 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 10; 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13.

HOP by Dominique Standaert (Belgium 2002). All Justin and his father want to do is sit down and enjoy a soccer game together. This simple act sparks a chain of events leading to Justin running from the law. But in order to fight the system, he must enlist the help of a former anarchist and together they will need to apply the secret of the HOP. 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 10; 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 12.

Le Neg' by Robert Morin (Quebec/Canada 2002). One night, deep in the Quebec countryside, an angry black teenager destroys a statue depicting a black fisherman. Cedulie and her intellectually handicapped son Polo come out to investigate, armed with a rifle. Joined by others and fuelled by alcohol, old animosities begin to resurface among those gathered. Cedulie is shot to death with her own rifle and the black teen is wounded by a cop. The subsequent investigation elicits five contradictory versions of the night's events and the childlike Polo's interpretation of what happened. 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 14.

Darling Street (20h17 rue Darling) by Bernard Emond (Quebec/Canada 2003). Gerard owes his life to an undone shoelace. Through a series of minor mishaps, he arrives home one night, just minutes after his apartment building has exploded. There are six casualties in the fire. Questions torment him: Is there any sense to this event? Does life itself have any meaning? To answer these questions, Gérard rummages through the victims' pasts. 9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11; 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 14.

Me and My White Pal (Moi et mon Blanc) by Pierre Yameogo (Burkina Faso 2002). Winner of the RFI Public choice award at the FESPACO, the most prestigious African film festival. Mahamadi, an African post-graduate student in France, finds himself without money, while preparing his thesis. He decides to take a part time job in a car park. One day he finds a bag filled with money and drugs. Mahamadi isn't too fussy as long as he gets his thesis done and he can return home. But there, other realities await him. 7 p.m. Friday, March 12; 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13.

Paris Selon Moussa by Cheick Doukoure (Guinea 2003). The water pump in the village is on its last legs and Moussa is appointed to go and buy a new one in Paris. He comes across all the difficulties immigrants have to deal with: crime, police raids, working at small odd jobs, but he also experiences the solidarity of their community. 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 12; 7 p.m. Sunday, March 14.

Documentaries on Haiti (starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 13)

Profit and Nothing But! by Raoul Peck (France/Haiti 2001). Who said that the economy serves mankind? What is this world where one third of the population, in the rich countries, or more precisely the wealthiest two percent in these countries, control everything? Why do we accept this cynical and immoral state of being? What happened to solidarity? And to the militants?

Human Rights in Haiti: A Work in Progress by Isabelle Abrio and Simone Di Bagno (United Nations, 1999). In a delicate blend of paintings and exclusive footage, this documentary takes viewers through the history of Haitian people and the struggle for their rights. "A Work-In-Progress" is the fascinating and compassionate story of a people facing the challenge of building a society respectful of human rights.

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

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