The TOURNEéS French Film Festival 2017

You are cordially invited to OWU’s third annual Tournées French film festival! It is a great opportunity to become better acquainted with the diversity of French culture and filmmaking creativity. The features are artistically daring and thought-provoking, dealing with topics ranging from the Iranian Revolution to immigrant children’s life in Paris, and the challenges and opportunities of adapting 19th century works for the screen. We hope that this enjoyable selection appeals to a wide audience that also embraces members of the Delaware community.

Screenings start at 7pm in Merrick 301, and are free and open to the public. All films feature English subtitles and are presented with introductions and post-viewing discussions led by OWU faculty and students. This format allows the events to be much more interactive and engaging than the equivalent experience in the theater. As in previous years, we are delighted that there is great student involvement in the event: it is driven by their keen interest and supported by Allons-y!, the OWU French Club.

 The event is made possible through a generous, nationally-competitive grant from the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation recently awarded to Dr. Oancea. Please do not hesitate to contact her with any questions (aioancea@owu.edu).

March 24th, School of Babel

School of Babel follows a year in a Paris schoolroom for children who have recently immigrated to France. Using a surprisingly intimate fly-on-the-wall style, Julie Bertucelli’s film gives us unforgettable glimpses into the lives of teens from Mauritania, Serbia, Venezuela, Romania, Senegal, Libya, Ireland, Brazil, and China, children who have come to France for reasons ranging from studying violin at the Paris conservatory to escaping genital excision. While School of Babel is full of incidental insights into French immigration policy and various headline-grabbing sociopolitical situations, the focus remains squarely in the classroom and on the children as individuals wrestling with a new language and a new culture.

 March 31st, Mustang

While Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s extraordinary debut has striking thematic similarities to Sofia Coppola’s “Virgin Suicides,” its spirit of revolt is all its own. Ergüven goes beyond evoking the mystery and marvels of the world of adolescent girls to decry the denial of women’s rights the world over. Mustang begins at the point when the childhoods of five orphaned sisters come to an abrupt end: when their grandmother and uncle learn they have been seen splashing around in the sea with boys, they lock them up inside the house. From there, things only get worse: medical virginity checks, arranged marriages… The youngest sister, however, will not accept to be deprived of attending her favorite soccer team’s game, just as she will not stand to watch yet another sister be forced into a stranger’s arms.

April 3rd, Chicken with Plums

As they did with Persepolis (2007), codirectors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud once again magically translate a graphic novel by the former to the big screen. Unlike Persepolis, which was entirely animated, Chicken with Plums, set in Tehran in 1958, is mostly live action. But the flesh-and-blood actors—including a heartbreaking Mathieu Amalric as Nasser-Ali Khan, a gifted violinist so miserable that he wills himself to die—appear before wondrously hyper-stylized sets, a mise-en-scène that imbues Chicken with Plums with the power of a parable. As Nasser-Ali takes to his bed, where he plans to expire, the film recalls the source of his sorrow, stretching all the way back to his childhood. Soon the real reason for Nasser-Ali’s anguish becomes clear: the rupture of his first—and only—great love affair, with a beautiful woman called Irâne. Her name assumes subtle allegorical significance in this deeply melancholic film, suggesting that she represents not only a lost love but a country misled.

April 7th, May Allah Bless France!

May Allah Bless France! is the invigorating first feature by acclaimed French rapper and novelist Abd Al Malik, a coming-of-age story and redemption tale based on the writer-director’s own youth in the beleaguered projects of Strasbourg. The film follows the struggles of Régis, a budding rapper who relies on petty crime to fund his passion for music. But as his fellow musicians get lured into drug dealing, teenage Régis finds salvation in the classics of French literature and his conversion to Sufi Islam. While Abd Al Malik’s edifying hymn to education and tolerance is first and foremost a boldly idealistic statement, it is also a profoundly satisfying cinematic experience, shot in high-contrast black and white and full of powerful stylistic devices that break with convention to heighten the impact of everyday violence and injustice.

April 10th, My Friend Victoria

In this film, writer-director Jean Paul Civeyrac shifts the action of Nobel prize-winning author Doris Lessing’s short story “Victoria and the Staveneys” from London to contemporary Paris, but otherwise remains faithful to Lessing’s tale of a young black woman’s uneasy relationship with a wealthy white family. Victoria (Guslagie Malanda) becomes fascinated with the family as a little girl, then later has a daughter out of wedlock with one of the sons. As she struggles both with a sense that she is losing her daughter to this bourgeois family and the growing resentment of her own son, who has a black father and does not enjoy the family’s attention, Victoria provides an unusual and welcome insight into the situation of foreigners in France today: in the most concrete terms, privilege is within her reach, but never truly hers.

April 12th, The Marquise of O

In 1975, Eric Rohmer caught the world by surprise by following the series of low-budget, contemporary “Moral Tales” that had established him as a lateblooming master of the French New Wave with The Marquise of O, a German language period piece faithfully adapted from the novella by early nineteenth century author Heinrich von Kleist. The story deals with the quandary faced by the Marquise of O, a chaste young widow, when she finds herself inexplicably pregnant. The Marquise of O stands both as one of cinema’s greatest literary adaptations and one of its most pleasingly convincing period pieces. While the film is faithful to the cool detachment of Kleist’s prose, keeping the viewer hovering between mirth and outrage, its moral ambiguity is certain to spark heated debate.