Guide to the 2016 French Film Festival

We talked to the organizers. We know what’s up.

It’s French Film Festival time, which to many is one of the most exciting weekends of the year. You camp out, you smuggle in snacks, you try not to act too stupid around poised French celebrities–it’s the premiere French cinema event in the country. AND IT IS IN CARYTOWN.

A conference call with Françoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick and Peter Kirkpatrick–the two-person team behind the French Film Festival every single year–is like talking to your tween niece about which Taylor Swift song she likes best. Only they’re talking about films, really good French films.

We asked them to name a few favorite movies and other parts of this weekend’s French Film Festival so you can get your scheduling on. It was really tough for them to choose highlights in the schedule, but narrow it down they did. 

However, be warned, it’s often the best idea just to come early and get your set. This thing is dang popular, to say the very least. Visit for all your ticketing and scheduling needs — it’s $15 per movie, and tickets are available 30 minutes before showtimes, at the Byrd Theatre Box Office. Passes, which are much easier to manage, are $65 for students, $115 for regulars, and $105 for professors at UR or VCU.

The French delegation on stage at the Byrd in 2015.

The French delegation on stage at the Byrd in 2015.

La Loi du marché — Thursday, March 31st • 8:40 PM

Dir. Stéphane Brizé

Presentation by and discussion with co-screenwriter Olivier Gorce

There’s a little bit of a theme running through French film these days–social justice and labor stuff, and it’s done in a variety of ways. Notably, humorous ways. “[They’ve been showing] the importance of having both solidarity between workers and good humor and mutual assistance.” says Peter. This film won some Cesars (France’s Oscar equivalent), and deals with the problem, as Peter puts it, of “How do you balance your need to work and your ethic. How far do you want to go in order to keep your job? It is a very touching and moral film.” 

Le Dernier Coup de marteau — Thursday, March 31st • 10:55 PM

Dir. Alix Delaporte

Music plays a starring role in several of the films on the list, like this one (I won’t tell you how I wrote it phonetically during our phone conversation, but it was seriously embarrassing). Says Françoise, “A young boy who discovers who his father is–a famous conductor of an orchestra– and he comes to the town where this boy lives. The father wasn’t aware of his son’s existence also! So he discovers his father through the world of classical music.”

Un temps de Président — Friday, April 1st • 4:15 PM

Presentation by and discussion with director Yves Jeuland and editor Lizi Gelber

Dir. Yves Jeuland

This director filmed French President Hollande for a really tumultuous six months of his presidency–a tell-all book came out about him, Charlie Hebdo had its terrorist attack. I can’t even imagine this movie even happening in America. Plus the director himself will be there to talk about it, and talk about it I will. Incessantly! To his poor, unsuspecting face! Editor Lizi Gelber will also be there, AND she’ll be doing a master class on the subject 

Arrête ton cinéma ! — Friday, April 1st • 6:40 PM

Dir. Diane Kurys

Presentation by and discussion with actress Josiane Balasko.

I have it on good authority that Josiane Balasko, the leading lady of this film (and also of Le Grand Partage, two movies down on this list) is one of France’s most beloved actresses. My French Pal (we’ll call her “French Pal” from now on) is VERY EXCITED about the idea of Balasko being here. Her strength lies in tackling difficult topics with humor, and both Peter and Françoise agreed with French Pal–Balasko is a marvel.

Le Goût des merveilles — Saturday, April 2nd • 12:30 PM

Dir. Eric Besnard

Presentation by and discussion with director and screenwriter Eric Besnard

Director Eric Besnard presents his film about Aspbergers–“It opens up and lets the viewer see a new perspective,” says Peter. “You can see what it’s like when you have this condition, and you can see how it affects a typical French family in the countryside and how it changes their life.” Françoise continues the train of thought: “They see how he sees the wonders of the world. This man who’s affected by this syndrome–we’re looking at the world in a different way for viewers.”

From Le Goût des merveilles.

From Le Goût des merveilles.

Le Grand Partage — Saturday, April 2nd • 3:45 PM

Dir. Alexandra Leclère

Presentation by and discussion with director and screenwriter Alexandra Leclère and actress Josiane Balasko.

Economic inequality brings a whole lot of fairly nasty things out in us–but through humor perhaps we can laugh about it! Josiane Balasko is back for movie #2, and it’s positively thrilling.

Balasko herself in Le Grand Partage.

Balasko herself in Le Grand Partage.

Human — Saturday, April 2nd • 8:00 PM

Dir. Yann Arthus-Bertrand

“The thing about Human,” says Peter. “Is that it’s a film that the director made in order to be seen in a cinema, and so we’re excited about that, because having our guys from France who come to tweak the image and sound makes the Byrd Theatre the optimal place for it to be seen. It’s an honor for Françoise and myself and the festival and the Byrd and the city of Richmond that the director Yann Arthur-Bertrand has picked the festival as the place in North America to show this special screening.” 

From Human.

From Human.

Floride — Sunday, April 3rd • 2:55 PM

Dir. Philippe Le Guay

Presentation by and discussion with director and screenwriter Philippe Le Guay.

Keeping in the mental illness theme begun by Le Goût des merveilles, Floride depicts a daughter who’s experiencing her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s. “It goes about it in a different way,” says Peter. “It uses humor and lets viewers be more comfortable when seeing someone try to make a life more enjoyable in the time they have together. It’s a film that allows us to grow as individuals. Florida does that more in another sense, and it’s about seeing a daughter go through having her father have alzheimers, and it goes about it in aa different way, using some humor and lets viewers be more comfortable when seeing someone trying to make a life more enjoyable in the time they have together. it’s a film that allows us to grow as individuals.

— ∮∮∮ —

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Susan Howson

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

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