Updated: Dec 4, 2021
Having participated in last year's virtual edition of the festival - which was, coincidentally, the inspiration for me to finally launch Franco Files UK this year - I'm pleased to report that the French Film Festival UK will be back for their 29th instalment from November 3 to December 15.
Better yet, this year's festival will take place in cinemas and online, which is a huge win in terms of accessibility and making things more open to everyone. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it's that activities like this can be made more inclusive, and I'm hugely appreciative of those organisations who are taking that lesson into this new landscape we find ourselves in. While I'm looking forward to going back to the cinema again, I was grateful to watch films when I couldn't leave the house last year, and I'm glad that opportunity will remain open to those who can't leave the house for other reasons.
This year's selection features over 30 titles (including UK premieres, exclusive previews, new talents, classics, and shorts) and opens at Ciné Lumière in London on November 3 with Bruno Dumont’s On a Half Clear Morning (France) starring Léa Seydoux, who can currently be seen in Daniel Craig's final Bond film, No Time To Die.
There are some obvious highlights, such as Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane, but personally I'm looking forward to seeing two new films from Sandrine Kiberlain, which includes her directorial debut on A Radiant Girl (Une jeune fille qui va bien). Interestingly, the lead in that film, Rebecca Marder, co-starred in Spring Blossom (Seize printemps), which was the directorial debut of Kiberlain's daughter, Suzanne Lindon, last year. You can read my review of Spring Blossom here. Obviously they both see a lot in Marder, so based on that I'm keen to follow her career going forward.
I'm also very keen to see Hafsia Herzi's Good Mother (Bonne mère) which is her second film, but the first not to feature her in the lead role. Herzi has an interesting approach, which takes into account both the modern world and her own cultural roots, to create something quite unique. You can read my review of her previous film here.
Of course, it's also nice to have a good laugh, so I'm glad to see the latest instalment in Jean Dujardin's OSS117 series in the mix. I actually picked up my first OSS 117 novel while visiting the Puce de Vanves (flea markets) in Paris last month, so I'm familiar with this classic pulp series that pre-dates Ian Fleming's James Bond. OSS 117: From Africa With Love (Alerte rouge en Afrique noire) is the first film in the series to be directed by Nicolas Bedos, who is taking over from Michel Hazanavicius, so I'm keen to see what he does with it after his excellent La Belle Époque a couple of years ago.
Looking at the full line-up, there isn't really anything I'm not keen to see, so I think the only limitation will be my ability to adequately cover them in detail. Rest assured between a combination of long-form reviews, short snippets, and social media posts on @FrancoFilesUK, I aim to provide a full overview. Hopefully that inspires you to join in and follow along with the festival as well, rather than just experiencing it vicariously. My love of French cinema came from watching it, and the more you immerse yourself in the films of this wonderful country, the more you get a taste for them.
The full press release for the festival can be found below:
French Film Festival UK reveals 29th line-up in cinemas and online
3 November – 15 December 2021
Over 30 titles (including UK premieres, exclusive previews, new talents, classics and shorts)
The Festival opens in London, and thereafter nationwide, with Bruno Dumont’s On a Half Clear Morning, starring Bond’s Léa Seydoux:
The crème de la crème of French and Francophone cinema comes to the fore from 3 November to 15 December in over 30 leading independent cinemas nationwide as well as in a different online offer. The Festival opens with a UK premiere in his presence of Bruno Dumont’s On a Half Clear Morning (aka France) which features Dune and Bond star Léa Seydoux as a troubled celebrity journalist. It will screen at London Ciné Lumière on 3 November and also show in Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Lewes, and Stirling.
Presenting an all-embracing range of films, from highly anticipated award-winners to new talents, from animation and classics to documentaries and award-winning shorts, the Festival welcomes all to a diverse celebration of French and Francophone cinema.
Audiences will get a chance to discover some of the year’s hottest titles from many international festivals including Cannes and London. Watch out for special previews of Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane and Constance Meyer’s highly enjoyable Critics’ Week opener Robust, starring Festival favourite Gérard Depardieu as an ageing actor. Also screening is powerful animation Josep, winner of the best animated film César, and part of the Cannes official selection last year.
Relish the latest works by such directorial luminaries as Jacques Audiard (Paris, 13th District); Arnaud Desplechin (Deception); Stephane Brizé (Another World); Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Lingui); Emmanuelle Bercot (Peaceful); Joachim Lafosse (The Restless) and Céline Sciamma (Petite Maman).
Other big name stars comprise Isabelle Huppert who stars in Thomas Kruithof’s first film Promises; and Juliette Binoche who goes undercover in Emmanuel Carrère’s Between Two Worlds. Tunisian Leyla Bouzid impresses with her coming of age narrative A Tale of Love and Desire and Belgian Laura Wandel (recent London Film Festival award-winner) tackles tough themes in Playground.
There are stand-out performances aplenty, notably Kad Merad leading a bunch of inmates in a behind bars version of Waiting for Godot in The Big Hit, a huge hit in France.
No Festival would be complete without a couple of cult hits in the mix: Kaamelott First Chapter is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur while Bond spoof OSS 117: From Africa with Love finds Jean Dujardin in suave demeanour.
On the short film front, the 2021 selection comprises six films plus a bonus title. It includes one César nominee and winners from such festivals as Clermont-Ferrand, Angers Premiers-Plans and covers a wide range of genres, from documentary and animation to a slice-of-life realism, with showings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.
Thousands of pupils will learn to appreciate French-speaking cinema with their own specially curated Learning programme, which will take place in schools and in cinemas.
Funders and sponsors – among them Screen Scotland, Institut français, Alliance Française, as well as TotalEnergies, TV5Monde, Unifrance, agnès b, and Côte – have committed their support to this year’s edition despite difficult circumstances.
Richard Mowe commented: “We’re overjoyed to welcome back our faithful audiences, both in cinemas and online, to one of the strongest and most diverse line-ups of any edition of the 29-year-old Festival. To whet appetites there is everything from award-winners to new talents. Thanks to all our partner cinemas for showing enthusiasm and ingenuity in their choices from the official selection and to our sponsors and partners for their unwavering support in what have been and will continue to be challenging times. Vive le cinéma! and bon Festival."
For the full programme, please visit our website www.frenchfilmfestival.org.uk