2015 French Film Festival Guide

A little more insight into the films that will give you a better idea of how to put together your game plan. You…are putting together a game plan, right?

The 2015 French Film Festival–a collaboration between University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University that began way before anyone invented a cross-town basketball rivalry–kicks off this weekend.

The Byrd will basically be showing French movies nonstop, and nobody wants to brave the crowds just to see an arbitrary screening of what they may or may not like. Use our guide below to decide which one (or ten, if you’re up for it) is/are right for you.

Why you should care about this festival

The festival, which is now more than two decades old, has some pretty neat missions. Also, it is a huge draw for tourism, including international tourism. The most compelling reason is that you will have the chance to see films that aren’t brainless American comedies that are currently drifting like tumbleweeds through the post-Oscar landscape.


  • Individual tickets are $15 and sold at the Byrd only 1/2 hour before the film begins, which is why you always see those lines
  • VIP passes are $115, get you into every film, and can be extended by $25 to include the reception on Saturday night
  • Almost every screening includes an amazing opportunity to learn IN-PERSON from someone intimately connected with the film (usually the writer and/or director)

For those who want to get into the biz

Head to UR’s campus on Thursday for a full morning of free and open to the public master classes given by experienced pros. The master class series on the technician as artist, and how to use your skills to become a better filmmaker. Or just to become a filmmaker at all.

Processes and Approaches to Screenwriting

  • Thursday, March 26th • 10:00 – 11:00 AM
  • University of Richmond, Jepson Hall, Room 118
  • Free and open to the public!

Truffaut, Technician?

  • Thursday, March 26th • 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
  • University of Richmond, Jepson Hall, Room 118
  • Free and open to the public!

Rémy Julienne, THE Artist-Technician of Stunts

  • Thursday, March 26th • 1:00 – 3:00 PM
  • University of Richmond, Jepson Hall, Room 118
  • Free and open to the public!

The Importance of the Assistant Director to Both Process and Creativity

  • Monday, March 30th • 7:00 – 9:00 PM
  • Trademarky Films Studio, 1613 W. Main Street
  • Free and open to the public (reserve spot by emailing sophie@virginiabertholet.com)

For those who like film theory

Master Class Cinema & Ethnography: Film at work for humanity

  • Friday, March 27th • 4:00 PM
  • Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary Street
  • Free and open to the public!

Feature-Length Films

We did a little research on each film to tell you why you should see it. Each screening is at the Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary Street.

La Nuit américaine (or “Day for Night”) – Françoise Truffaut 1973

A classic Truffaut film about the making of films, so a perfect kickoff to the fest. This film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974!

  • Thursday, March 26th • 4:30 PM

L’Enlèvement de Michel Houellebecq (or “The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq”) – Guillaume Nicloux, 2014

This film, about the disappearance of a French author, has been heralded by Sydney and Tribeca Film Festivals, and has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (granted, it’s only been rated by nine critics). It is unlikely we will get to see this film in Richmond ever in our lives–except this weekend!

  • Thursday, March 26th • 7:00 PM
  • Includes discussion with cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn and stunt coordinator Rémy Julienne

La Retour de Martin Guerre (or “The Return of Martin Guerre”) – Daniel Vignek, 1982

The classic story (remade for Americans once as Sommersby) was nominated for Best Costume Design in 1984, and won a bunch of César awards in France. Another 100% Rotten Tomatoes designation!

  • Thursday, March 26th • 9:00 PM
  • Includes discussion with screenwriter and director Daniel Vigne

Le Temps des aveux (or “The Gate”) – Régis Wargnier, 2014

Wargnier’s Indochine won many awards, including BAFTA’s Best Film Not in the English Language (which is some pretty dismissive wording if you ask us) in 1992. This newest film, while too new to have racked up a bunch of laurels, is almost sure not to disappoint.

  • Friday, March 27th • 7:00 PM

Parisiennes or “Parisian Women” – Slony Slow, 2015

This film is a regular ghost–not much to be found on it on the ol’ Internet. But from what I do know, it’ll be an exploration into leaving a misogynistic Japanese culture for a liberated Parisian one. Sounds pretty good to me.

  • Friday, March 27th • 9:00 PM
  • Includes discussion with director Slony Sow and actress Eriko Takeda

Avoir 20 ans dans les Aurès (or “To Be Twenty in the Aures”) – René Vautier, 1972

The screening of this film is a direct homage to its director (and writer). As Americans, we don’t see a lot of films about French military in Algeria, and it’s probably time we started. Vautier passed away this past January, and this 1972 classic will remind us all what we have lost.

  • Friday, March 28th • 11:00 PM

Belle et Sébastien (or “Belle and Sebastian”) – Nicolas Vanier, 2013

A boy and his dog! The classic duo, and a classic tale, specifically. This oft-retold story is family-friendly yet not corny, according to some reviews on Letterboxd, which I tend to trust.

  • Saturday, March 29th • 10:15 AM
  • Includes a discussion with screenwriters Juliette Sales & Fabien Suarez.

Dead Man Talking – Patrick Ridremont, 2012

A death row inmate basically filibusters his way into a few more hours of life. Director Ridremont is actually from the Congo, not France, but this film is French-language, and has been nominated for César and Lumiere awards.

  • Saturday, March 29th • 1:00 PM
  • Includes discussion with director and actor Patrick Ridremont & actor Jean-Luc Couchard.

Un illustre inconnu (or “Nobody from Nowhere”) – Matthieu Delaporte, 2014

According to Cineuropa, this film explores “identity and depersonalization disorder,” which is pretty neat, and Delaporte is coming off of a huge box office success for his 2012 film Le Prénom. Those are two rights that will hopefully make another right.

  • Saturday, March 29th • 3:30 PM
  • Includes discussion with director Matthieu Delaporte and co-screenwriter Alexandre de la Patellière.

Bébé Tigre (or “Young Tiger”) – Cyprien Vial, 2015

Living between two worlds, an Indian kid who has emigrated to France still has pressures from home. Director Cyprien Vial got some attention for a couple of shorts he did in the mid-aughts, but this is his first feature length. And sometimes a first is exceptionally interesting to watch.

  • Sunday, March 30th • 11:00 AM
  • Includes discussion with actor Harmandeep Palminder.

De toutes nos forces (or “The Finishers”) – Nils Tavernier, 2014

This’s gotta be a real feel-good flick, which is just the kind of backwoods-sounding sentence a French person would not utter. A wheelchair-bound kid does a rigorous sporting event with his dad. Hide your heartstrings.

  • Sunday March 30th • 1:00 PM
  • Includes discussion with director and co-screenwriter Nils Tavernier.

Pas son genre (or “Not My Type”) – Lucas Belvaux, 2014

At last! The film to which the festival’s poster refers! And also, love and all that. Pas son genre was nominated for a couple of César and Lumiere awards, and won a bunch of Belgium’s Magritte awards.

  • Sunday, March 30th • 2:45 PM
  • Includes discussion with director Lucas Belvaux.

Diplomatie (or “Diplomacy”) – Volker Schlöndorff, 2014

Everybody loves a good WWII flick, and Diplomatie won a César for Best Adapted Screenplay, which is one of the most legit categories! Pretty good achievement for a guy’s second film.

  • Sunday, March 30th • 5:30 PM
  • Includes discussion with original playwright and co-screenwriter Cyril Gély.

Gemma Bovery – Anne Fontaine, 2014

Gemma Arterton, whom you may remember from actual movies but also from Lost in Austen (!!), stars in this comedy about some folks who are uncannily like Flaubert’s Bovarys. I love a good literary film, particularly when it’s done by a director who has been celebrated all over the place.

  • Sunday, March 30th 7bull; 7:30 PM

The Shorts

First Short Film Series


  • TGV – Émilie Noblet • A comedy about a woman working on the French high-speed train
  • Son seul – Nina Maïni • Sound guys work all night
  • Samouraï – Juliette Sales & Fabien Suarez • These guys are a noted team! They wrote Belle et Sébastien (see above)!
  • Planter les choux – Karine Blanc • Daycare is a hard thing to find, especially when you have a job interview. What is Julie to do?
  • Mr Lune – Julien Sèze • An animated one!
  • Tiroir-caisse – Gérard Camy • Sometimes, people go insane when they can’t get published.
  • Odile et Michel – Danny Sangra • A boyfriend will no longer speak to a girlfriend.
  • Saturday, March 28th • 8:00 AM
  • Includes discussion with directors Nina Maïni, Juliette Sales & Fabien Suarez, Karine Blanc, Julien Sèze, Gérard Camy, Danny Sangra and actor Antoine Coesens

Second Short Film Series


  • La Fille du rail – Eva Sehet and Maxime Caperan • West African women have it way different than we do.
  • J’ai pas envie qu’on se quitte maintenant – Joachim Cohen • There’s a way to make a first date more awkward!
  • Le Futur proche – Ted Hardy-Carnac • A little splitscreen action, a little “there’s hope for us” action…
  • Lune et le loup – Toma Leroux and Patrick Delage • Another animated one!
  • L’art et la manière culturelle à l’école – Julien Carny • Documentary short about the city of Cannes and a particular arts-promoting program it has for young people from disenfranchised groups
  • Marcel – Jean Achache • Two people realize that a piece of junk their parents have looks a lot like an existing contemporary art sculpture, and they try to sell it. There has GOT to be a Friends episode about this.
  • Sunday, March 30th • 9:00 AM
  • Includes discussion with directors Eva Sehet, Joachim Cohen, Ted Hardy-Carnac, Patrick Delage & Toma Leroux, Julien Camy and Jean Achache.

Special stuff

Rare & Restored Films


France, as I’ve said before, was truly the birthplace of cinema. And if you’re into film, these rare and restored moving pictures will be like looking in the faces of prehistoric humans and finding out exactly what they did all day. To clarify: these do not star prehistoric humans.

  • Saturday, March 28th • 9:45 PM
  • Includes the Mighty Wurlitzer doing its thang!

The Byrd Theatre: A Love Affair – Jean Achache

French people made a movie about THE BYRD!!!! I think we all just got a little bit classier.

  • Saturday, March 28th • 10:25 PM
  • Includes discussion with director Jean Achache.
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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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