Every year, around the end of March, we see the lovely French Film Festival posters on the walls and windows of Richmond businesses and institutions.
Every year, around the end of March, we see the lovely French Film Festival posters on the walls and windows of Richmond businesses and institutions. Right now, Carytown is lined with French flags only helping to build our excitement.
The posters tells us that it’s a festival about French film, but that’s the only information given. Maybe that’s the whole point – it’s supposed to be mysterious – just as French Film is mysterious and strange. You just have to go to see for yourself.
French Film is relevant for several reasons. Cinema was invented by the Lumiere Brothers in 1895 in Paris. One of the most notable accomplishment in French Cinema was in the 1950’s and 60’s with the advent of French New Wave where French filmmakers changed the way films were made by experimenting with jump cuts, art cinema narration, breaking away from free-flowing editing and the traditional narrative.
France goes alongside the U.S. as the world leaders of Cinema. The first movie palace ‘The Strand’ opened in 1914 in New York City. The French created Cinema and the US opened the first movie palace.
Here in Richmond, the French Film Festival was founded in 1992 by husband and wife, Dr. Peter Kirpatrick and Françoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick. And with Peter, a Professor of French and Cinema at VCU, and Françoise, a Professor of French and Film Studies at the University of Richmond, the The film festival is sponsored by both RVA mainstay universities.
The Three-Fold Mission of the festival is: 1) To Promote French language, cinema, and culture in the U.S. and in American educational institutions. 2) To distinguish the cultural richness of the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, the City of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia with a world-class, unique, and internationally recognized French cultural event. 3) To create professional & academic partnerships focused on French film cultures.
“We’re trying to interest our public, to bring more knowledge and to open their eyes,” said Ravaux-Kirkpatrick.
This is the 23rd year of the festival and it will be held Thursday March 26th-Sunday March 29th. The festival consists of seventeen feature films, and thirteen shorts. The films will be held at the Byrd Theatre.
There are a variety of films to cater to every curiosity. The feature films range from historical, political, controversy, children’s film, foreign experience, and life challenges.
The short-films are anywhere from five to thirty minutes long, many focusing on human emotions and struggles, and there are several animation shorts.
“The French are producing almost 200 films a year,” said Ravaux-Kirkpatrick. “We try to see all of the films the French are producing every year. It’s kind of difficult but we try to do that and we always have our audience in mind.”
Every year the festival hosts Master Classes that are free and open to the public, this year there are five. Each one covers a topic on the art and importance of filmmaking.
On Thursday the 26th, three of them will be held on the UofR Campus from 10-3pm. One of the classes is about the ‘Processes and Approaches to Screenwriting,’ a presentation by two French screenwriters, Juliette Sales and Fabien Suarez.
On Friday the 27th at 4pm, the fourth Master class will be held at the Byrd Theatre on ‘Cinema & Ethnography: Film at Work for Humanity,’ it is a presentation of two documentaries by French Director Daniel Vigne. His films concern different cultures, environmental and humanitarian issues.
“We have this theme about cinema being an artistic way of helping humanity,” said Ravaux-Kirkpatrick.
One of the goals of this festival is to bring new perspective to the audience, teaching people lessons about themselves and the world around them. The majority of the films are in French and takes place in France or French-speaking countries.
There a few new additions to this year’s festival. There will be a “Best of the Best” Saturday the 28th, an evening reception featuring chefs from Richmond where people can meet the talents of the films and sample Richmond’s cuisine.
After the reception, a collection of rare and restored French films from the 1890’s, it is an exclusive U.S. screening in partnership with La Cinémathèque Française. An Organist will be playing in the theatre to accompany the event.
Following is the World Premiere of ‘The Byrd: A Love Affair’ part of a series of the last Cinema Palaces in the world.
The Byrd was chosen to represent the U.S. The film was shot in December by a French Director.
The series will be featured on a French/German channel in Europe. A French and American crew worked on it together here in Richmond.
The Richmond French Film Festival is the biggest French Film Festival in the country.
Last year 42 U.S. states were represented in the audience.
“I hope that they will come, it’s a nice event which brings French and French cinema to Richmond,” said Ravaux-Kirkpatrick.
Experience the enchantment and mystery of French film. If you like Quentin Tarantino or Sofia Coppola films, then French Film is for you.
Tickets for individual films are $15 going on sale a half-hour before each show.
VIP passes get you into all films and Q&A sessions with actors and directors are $65 for students and $115 for regular admission. All master classes are free and open to the public.