Friday, 19 February 2016

French Film Festival hits 10 - Q&A with the director Sebastien Donnadieu

French Film Festival hits 10 - Q&A with the director Sebastien Donnadieu

1) Congratulations on reaching your 10th anniversary, how does that feel?

Thank you. It feels quite good actually, especially since it is my first edition as Festival Director. I couldn't have dreamt of a better year to take over the direction of the event.

2) Obviously in light of the attacks in Paris, you feel the festival is more important than ever?

Definitely. I believe in the power of cinema, and its use in fostering dialogue, enabling voices to be heard, opinions to be confronted. The best way to fight against fear, which is what terrorists want to instigate in us, in our everyday lives, is to learn, be curious and open-minded. For instance, to forge an opinion about the refugee crisis, one needs to understand where they're coming from and how they feel. A way of doing so is by watching Mediterranea and Dheepan.
The Wait

3) You've added some new towns to the festival circuit this year - tell us more

Yes, we'll be showing the Festival for the first time in New Plymouth this year. One of our goals is to make sure the Festival is available to all New Zealanders, and one of the main barriers to attend is geographical. As we get more experienced, and build relationships with local cinemas, developing our geographical presence is a natural step forward.

4) Outside of the main centres, how is the festival received?

Extremely well, sometimes almost better than in the main centres! I am absolutely delighted to promote French cinema in a country where so much of the population is cinephile, appreciates and demands our films.

5) Having a patron like Antonia Prebble on board is a big boost for the festival, how did that come about?

When I started working on the Festival in July, I wanted to find a Patron who would illustrate what we are: a festival of French films for the New Zealand audience. I mentioned earlier the notion of geographical barrier. Another barrier is social, a form of self-censorhip, with people thinking French cinema is not for them. What better way to tackle such a barrier than having a familiar face associated with the event?
Valley of Love

I did my research, asked people around me and contacted Antonia. I was so thrilled when she accepted. We had such a great time sharing our thoughts on the films, working on the programme together. I know she also dreams to act in a French film one day, and hope this will help her achieve this goal.

6) You're showing a section called TV Out of the Box - tell us a bit more about this pls?

We are showing the first two episodes of two TV series, The Last Panthers and Un Village Fran├žais. I introduced TV series in the line-up for multiple reasons. I thought it would be a great way of celebrating our 10th anniversary, by showing something different, but I also wanted to highlight the fact that France produces great quality TV-shows.

7) Are there any themes running through the films this year?

Yes, quite a few. The refugee crisis (Mediterranea and Dheepan), ecology (with our 'All for nature' section, featuring the award-winning animated film April and the Extraordinary World and  Luc Jacquet's documentary Once Upon a Forest), music (Marguerite, In Harmony, Blind Date), fashion (Chic!, Lolo), grief (Valley of Love, The Wait), the ages of life (Memories, The Sweet Escape, The Student and Mr Henri), medicine (Hippocrates) and many more.
The Last Panthers

8) How do you perceive French film to be at the moment?

French film is still very strong and diverse. 2015 was again an extraordinary year for French cinema. For a second year in a row, we had more admissions abroad than in the country. I also feel French cinema is more comfortable in an increasingly globalised world, opening itself to labelling as 'French' projects shot abroad and in multiple languages.

9) Your line up from Cannes is pretty impressive, can you tell us more about these films?

Thank you. It definitely is one of our main highlights of the year. French cinema scored big at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, in terms of awards and critical appraisal. I knew we would have so much to choose from and thought 'why don't I just dedicate a section to the Cannes festival?'. Dheepan, Macadam Stories, Mon Roi, Bird People and Valley of Love. I recommend all 5 films, especially since all, in their own way, invite viewers to stop only focusing on their own lives and problems, and be open to, interact with the people who surround them.

10) Give us your 3 picks from the programme and tell us why these films need to be seen?
Un Village Francais

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) is definitely a must-see. It is the first feature film by Eva Husson and deals with teenager's sexuality in the most intelligent and beautifully looking way. A very controversial title and plot, but a 'winning try'.

April and the Extraordinary World. I know how people usually identify animation with children's movies but April can definitely be enjoyed by adults. Great script, amazing animation and a valuable theme: the impact of science on the environment. An extraordinary film!

Mediterranea. I was very pleased when Antonia told me it was one of her favourite titles. This film's cinematography and the cast's incredible performances reinforce its message. As I said above, this movie enables us to understand more what refugees experience and their motivation: that of living a happy and peaceful life.

Visit the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival site here

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