URI wins grant to host French film festival

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KINGSTON, R.I., Feb. 1, 2016 – A French film festival is returning to the University of Rhode Island with movies about love, poverty, bigotry and religious fanaticism.

URI’s second Tournées French Film Festival was made possible by a $2,200 grant from the French American Cultural Exchange, a New York-based nonprofit that promotes French culture through grants and special projects in arts and education.

“The festival will provide the URI community with another great opportunity to watch a diverse line-up of films from the French and francophone world,” says Leslie Kealhofer-Kemp, assistant professor of French. “We are deeply grateful for the support of the French American Cultural Exchange and the Tournées festival sponsors, which have made this festival possible.”

The six films are free and open to the public. The first five films will be shown in Edwards Hall, 45 Upper College Road, and the final film will be screened in Quinn Hall, 55 Lower College Road. All films start at 6 p.m.

Here’s a list of the films, all subtitled in English:

* Love at First Fight/Les Combattants, directed by Thomas Cailley. Screening is Tuesday, March 1 in Edwards Hall. Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), facing an uncertain future in a small French coastal town, meets and falls for the apocalyptic-minded Madeleine (Adèle Haenel), who joins an army boot camp to learn military and survival skills to prepare for an environmental collapse. Intrigued by Madeleine’s wild ideas, Arnaud also signs up for the boot camp. They soon realize that the boot camp is harder than they’d imagined.

* Girlhood/Bande de filles, directed by Céline Sciamma. Screening is Wednesday, March 2 in Edwards Hall. Set in the impoverished banlieues on the outskirts of Paris that are home to many French-African residents, the film focuses on Marieme (Karidja Touré), a 16-year-old who is responsible for her two younger sisters while their mother works the night shift. She falls in with a group of tough girls. Led by the swaggering Lady, the crew boosts Marieme’s confidence. “You have to do what you want,” Lady says. Patiently and astutely, Girlhood follows Marieme as she tries to put this mantra into practice while being repeatedly reminded of her limited options.

* The King and the Mockingbird/Le Roi et l’oiseau, directed by Paul Grimault. Screening is Tuesday, March 8 in Edwards Hall. Paul Grimault has long been regarded as one of the greatest French animators. The film is a wondrous vision, dominated by reds, yellows and blues, and filled with futurist touches. Although set during medieval times in Tachycardia, the realm of the vain and universally despised monarch Charles XVI, The King and the Mockingbird features not only rocket travel but also giant robots. Grimault’s film is a visual and aural delight.

* Clouds of Sils Maria, directed by Olivier Assayas. Screening is Wednesday, March 9 in Edwards Hall. The film explores the unstable boundaries between performing and being. Juliette Binoche plays Maria Enders, an internationally renowned star; Kristen Stewart is Valentine, Maria’s personal assistant. Maria is considering whether to star in a revival of the stage drama that launched her career 20 years ago, in which she played a cunning ingénue who seduces, abandons and then drives to suicide her older boss. This time, Maria is to portray the spurned middle-aged lover. Her original part is offered to a rising phenomenon with a penchant for scandal and self-destruction. Throughout the film, the performers refract and reflect their own off-screen personae, creating a hall-of-mirrors experience that is exhilarating.

* The Painting/Le Tableau, directed by Jean-François Laguionie. Screening is Tuesday, March 15 in Edwards Hall. One of the most inventive animated films in recent years, The Painting offers lessons about bigotry. Three different classes of subjects live in a canvas abandoned by a painter: the tyrannical Allduns, who have been rendered in full, glorious color by their creator; the Halfies, only partially completed; and the Sketchies, simple charcoal stick figures who are considered pariahs. The Painting leads viewers through breathtakingly beautiful set pieces. They journey through a magically hued forest and to the very edge of the painting itself, where a portal leads the quartet to the painter’s studio. The four characters have one goal in mind: to meet their maker and ask him why he left some of them in an unfinished state.

* Timbuktu, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. Screening is Wednesday, March 16 in Quinn Hall. In his fourth feature film, Abderrahmane Sissako demonstrates his ability to condemn religious fanaticism and intolerance with subtlety and restraint. The film is about the jihadist siege of Timbuktu in 2012. A ragtag band of Islamic fundamentalists, hailing from France, Saudi Arabia and Libya, among other nations, announce their increasingly absurd list of prohibitions—no music, no sports, no socializing—via megaphone to Timbuktu’s residents, several of whom refuse to follow the strictures. Upbraided by a local imam for entering a mosque with guns, the jihadists reveal themselves to be men less concerned with the teachings of the Koran than with enforcing draconian, and ever arbitrary, law. As further proof of Sissako’s great compassion, even these horribly misguided dogmatists are presented as multidimensional characters, though the intolerant way of life they insist on is never less than criminal.

URI professors Rebecca Romanow, Keith Brown, Lars Erickson, JoAnn Hammadou Sullivan, Matthew Kemp, Mary Healey Jamiel, Jessica Frazier and Tom Zorabedian, as well as URI student Leah Dickerman, were involved in selecting the films.

For more information, visit Facebook, Tournees French Film Festival or call Kealhofer-Kemp at 401-874-4699.

Pictured above: A still from the movie, Timbuktu.

Photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group.