IT is a wonderful time to be a French person in Ireland, and in Cork in particular.
The relationship between our two countries has existed for centuries and is stronger than ever now that France is Ireland’s closest EU neighbour in the post-Brexit era.
Just last week, we welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron to Ireland for his first official visit and now, the magic of French-language cinema is about to descend on Cork. The Cork French Film Festival opens at the Gate Cinema tomorrow (Thursday, September 2) and aims to provide insights into French and Francophone cultures and societies.
It was an honour and a privilege to be in Dublin last Thursday, during President Macron’s one-day visit to Dublin. Mr Macron was in Ireland to speak to political leaders about EU affairs and began his visit with a trip to Áras an Uachtaráin. He told an tUachtarán, Michael D Higgins that Ireland holds “a precious place at the heart of the European dream” and that France will remain a faithful friend for the future. Mr Macron also met with An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin at government buildings and he spoke to students at Trinity College where he also visited the Long Room Library.
I had the opportunity to meet with seven Ministers from Ireland and France on Thursday. French Minister Clément Beaune actually studied Economics and Business at Trinity College which highlights the deep and enduring ties in education. I was in Dublin to attend the renaming ceremony of the Lycée Français d’Irlande to Lycée français international Samuel Beckett by French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Irish Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD. It is the only school in Ireland to offer the entire French curriculum. The French language is learnt by more than 180,000 people in Ireland either in schools, universities or in our Alliance Française network. Additionally, French is the first foreign language chosen in the Leaving Cert, explaining why France is a top destination for Irish Erasmus students.
Looking back on history we know that Cork is a Francophile city.
A Huguenot cemetery is still visible today in Cork, right in the middle of the city centre, in French Church Street. However many people might not be aware of Nano Nagle and her links to France. Nano Nagle was born in Ballygriffin, near Mallow in 1718 and before she died in 1784, she had opened seven schools for poor children across Cork city, founded an almshouse for poor women, and most notably, founded the Presentation Order, who continue her education and social inclusion work today. Nano was educated in France and afterwards went to Paris to live with her relatives. She was inspired to devote her life to the service of the poor and joined a convent in Paris before returning to Cork. H. E. Vincent Guérend, Ambassador of France to Ireland, spent a day in Cork in August and it was really special to join him when he visited Nano Nagle Place. He was humbled by her legacy and most interested in the transformation of the convent school.
I am delighted that two representatives of the Embassy of France in Ireland will be spending the day in Cork tomorrow (Thursday).
Marianne Barkan-Cowdy, Deputy Head of Mission, and Paul De Vos, Economic Counsellor, Head of the Economic Department, will be attending the opening film at the Cork French Film Festival at the Gate Cinema. They will also meet political representatives from Cork as well as the Chamber of Commerce and the Port of Cork.
The Cork French Film Festival has been part of Cork City’s cultural programme for the last 32 years. The festival is not just for Francophiles and people interested in French-language societies and cultures, it is for anyone who loves great cinema and runs until Sunday 5th September. The festival features 12 French-language films including Sisters (Sœurs) which opens the festival. The film was released in France in July and tells the story of three sisters struggling with their complicated Franco-Algerian family history.
There will be 11 Irish premieres in total, with several coming straight from their world premiere at festivals such as Berlin and Toronto.
The festival is celebrating all that French-language cinema has to offer, with films from Belgium (Madly In Life) and from Quebec (Goddess of Fireflies). The diversity of the French language is further included in films such as the documentary Africa Mia which follows a band from Mali on their musical journey to Cuba.
There will be limited capacity on screenings at the Gate Cinema, which has additional safety measures in place. This year, for the first time, there also will be an online option for film lovers who wish to join in from home.
Tickets can be bought online at www.gatecinemas.com for screenings at the Gate Cinema in Cork and at https://corkfrenchfilmfestival.com for online screenings.
The programme for the 32nd Cork French Film Festival, from September 2 to 5, has been curated and managed by Green Ray Film Agency and the festival has been directed by myself and Valérie David-McGonnell for the Alliance Française de Cork.