Your guide to the Cork French Film Festival

Cara O’Doherty looks forward to the Cork French Film Festival and a reacquaintance with some classics as well as to some new cinematic voices at one of the city’s oldest festivals
Your guide to the Cork French Film Festival

Sisters: The opening film with Isabelle Adjani, Rachida Brakni and Maïwenn Synopsis

One of Cork’s longest-running festivals, the Cork French Film Festival, is back for its 32nd year. Running until Sunday, the festival has an online element and screenings at the festival’s traditional home, the Gate Cinema.

The programme comprises 12 French-language films from three French-speaking countries, presented by Alliance Francaise de Cork and programmed by Green Ray Film Agency.

Úna Feely, the co-founder of Green Ray, says that the 12 films represent the best in Francophone cinema.

“This year’s programme is a snapshot of what is happening in French-speaking cinema now. We have films from France, but also French-speaking countries including Canada and Belgium.”

Ms Feely says many of the films will be fresh from their premieres, such as the Canadian film Goddess of Fireflies, which recently premiered in Berlin, and is excited that Irish audiences will have the chance to see them for the first time in Cork.

The programmer also says that this year’s festival sees the inclusion of two documentaries and a selection of short films. There are seven shorts in total, all of which have been produced by a renowned French production company.

“We have expanded the programme this year which really allows us to showcase French cinema. As well as the addition of two documentaries, we also have a short film program that focuses on the work of Autour de Minuit, one of the best known and most successful French production houses. The company is celebrating 20 years of production, so it seemed only right to acknowledge them.”

A Bigger World: Based on a true story.
A Bigger World: Based on a true story.

French film is on a high at the moment, with shows like Lupin and Call My Agent dominating Netflix’s Top 10 list. Cinephiles have always regarded French cinema as some of the best film-making in the world, but this upswing in general audiences has emerged as a positive from lockdown. Feeley believes that the complexity of French storytelling makes it attractive to audiences.

“French cinema has something unique to it with layered plots and complex, astute psychological aspects where there’s more going on under the surface. Those of us who have been around cinema a long time have always been attracted to that. With Lupin and other French shows appearing on Netflix, people are getting a sense of French scripting and the layers involved in film-making. The complexities are really drawing people in.”

Ms Feeley believes that Cork’s connection to France is one of the reasons why the film festival has been running so successfully for over three decades.

“There’s a great connection between France and Ireland; they are now our closest EU neighbour. Cork and France have a very strong connection and particularly Cork and Brittany. Much of Cork is twinned with towns and villages in Brittany. France has a special claim to film in the overall scheme of the arts, and their rich tradition of film and cinema always connects to our audiences. Cork has a great film-going audience that has always recognised that French film is a bit different and special.”

The programmer also points out that Cork is home to many French nationals, so, for them, the festival is a chance to catch up with the best their cinema industry has to offer. Between all the layers of connections culturally, financially, economically, politically, and then film-wise, there is great support for the festival and people in Cork really look forward to it every year.”

The online element is a new addition to the festival this year, which Ms Feeley says gives people more opportunity to see the films in the programme but says that there really is no place quite like the cinema when it comes to film.

Paris 1900: Sows Paris through unique archival footage
Paris 1900: Sows Paris through unique archival footage

Feeley is looking forward to audiences enjoying all the films in the programme, particularly the opening night film, Sisters (Soeurs) and A Bigger World (Un Monde Plus Grand) which plays on Saturday.

“Sisters is such an interesting film starring three fantastic actors, including Isabelle Adjani, who has been away from cinema for years. This is her big comeback. It is a story about three French sisters with Algerian heritage who go back to Algeria after years living in France and have to face something difficult from their past. It’s just a really powerful film with fantastic performances.”

A Bigger World (Un Monde Plus Grand) starring Cécile de France is based on a true story that follows a bereaved musicologist who travels to Mongolia to deal with her grief and discovers the world of shamanism.

Alphaville: The strange adventure of Lemmy Caution.
Alphaville: The strange adventure of Lemmy Caution.

“Our primary partner is The Gate Cinema, and we’re so thrilled to be back on a big screen. We believe that people will be delighted to get back to The Gate, to be able to meet, sit socially distanced and share the big screen experience. Online is another offering; it’s a different type of experience, but it makes it possible for people who would rather watch at home for whatever reason, but I would say our primary thing is our home in the Gate Cinema.”

Margaret Greene, the Gate’s general manager, says she is delighted to welcome back the Alliance Cork French Film Festival to The Gate Cinema Cork.

“The Gate Cinema’s team are thrilled to have the festival back on the big screen from September 2 to 5. Tickets are selling fast for the fabulous opening movie Soeurs.

“We have added a second later screening on the opening night. It’s a strong programme for its 32nd year, thanks to Una Feely and Mick Hannigan of Green Ray Film Agency.”

Greene says festivals are a vital part of the Gate’s scheduling this autumn and says it is essential to book tickets online at gatecinemas.com due to very limited capacity. Tickets for online screenings are available at corkfrenchfilmfestival.com.

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