Friday, March 25, 2011

Richmond’s French Film Festival Returns and Spotlights Recent Documentaries

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The 19th Annual French Film Festival opened last night at the Byrd Theatre and continues until Sunday. The event attracted 21 thousand people last year and is a joint effort by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond. It is a production of the married duo Dr. Peter Kirkpatrick of VCU and Dr. Francoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick of U of R, who personally select the films from the roughly 170 released from France each year.

Ravaux-Kirkpatrick said that the goal of the festival is to present to Richmond the French community and culture through cinema.

“Every year what we do is we are trying to present to Richmonders and people from Virginia, but also from very far away states a sample, a sampling of last year or this year’s cinematographic productions,” she said.

According to Ravaux-Kirkpatrick, this year’s festival is presenting multiple environmentalist documentaries, because there have been so many that have been released in the past year.

Ravaux-Kirkpatrick said that when she and her husband started the festival, it was very small, but has gotten bigger every year. The festival was initially on campus, but as it grew larger, more and more screenings became necessary.

“Pretty soon, we had to have two or three screenings of the same film and so on,” she said. “And then little by little we came to the Byrd like our fifth year, I think we came to the Byrd, and since then this event has been in the Byrd and it’s grown and grown and grown.”

At last year’s festival, Myriam Guedjahi worked as an intern for college credit, and decided to come back this year because of how much she enjoyed the experience.

“I’m back because last year was for me one of my best experiences as a student, because I learned a lot of things and we want to work in event management, you know like, to organize events,” she said. “I really want to work in this field, so for me that was the best experience ever.”

Guedjahi said that in France, the city of Richmond and the French Film Festival has become well-known, and renowned.

“In France, people know Richmond, thanks to the French Film Festival,” she said. “Because we have a lot of French people who know that, thanks to the students, every year French students are more and more likely to work for the festival.”

Yesterday the festival opened with the documentary “Food Beware, Our Children Will Accuse Us.” In “Food Beware,” director Jean-Paul Jaud deftly illustrates not only the catastrophic results of using pesticides and chemically treating food, but how a small village in France has started eating only organic and local foods.

Nancy Nock, a U of R employee at the Jefferson School for Leadership Studies, has gone to the festival every year since it started. She said she was very impressed with Jaud’s documentary,

and how he presented the issue.

“I think where the director was able to capture this experiment and in this very small village form its inception all the way through to the end of a year or so, and to see how people’s attitudes were changing towards favoring the organic and sustainable way of agriculture and eating, it was amazing,” she said.

Today the festival will showcase more documentaries, including another screening of “Food Beware” at 9:15. Jaud will also present “Severn,” which is about an activist’s campaign to promote biodiversity at 3:30. On Saturday and Sunday, short films and features will be presented, along with “Oceans,” the 2011 Cesar winner for Best Documentary. “Oceans” will be presented on Saturday at 3:00.

According to Nock, documentaries are not common at the French Film Festival, but are a welcome addition.

“Usually, there are more dramatic kinds of films, comedies and dramas, and so forth. Not too many documentaries,” she said. “So I think it’s a really interesting and important departure.”

To Nock and many participants at the French Film Festival, this and other multicultural efforts are becoming more and more important.

“The world is getting smaller, and the more we get to know each other, and know about each other and our cultural perspectives, I think people will find it interesting and learn about each other,” she said.

Nathaniel James Klentzman

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