College stages French film festival after nabbing international grant

By Christine Aebischer
Correspondent

For students desperate for a dose of culture on campus, the College held the Tournées Festival, or the French film festival, in the Library Auditorium. The film screenings began last month and will continue until March 22.

The College was awarded a grant from the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs to hold the event.

Benjamin Rifkin, dean of the School of Culture and Society, contacted faculty from several departments last May, encouraging them to apply, according to Ariane Pfenninger, assistant professor of French.

According to a statement from the director of the Tournées Festival, the organization that makes the festival possible, the program “aims to bring contemporary French cinema to American college and university campuses … The program distributes over $200,000 in grants annually to encourage schools to begin their own self-sustaining French film festival.”

“The grant is very competitive, and we received it,” Pfenninger said. “It’s a lot of work to apply for the grant and the festival, but it’s rewarding that so many people show up.”

The grant, which buys the rights to the films so that they can be shown at the College, dictates that five films, selected from an approved list, are to be shown over four weeks, said Pfenninger.

Pfenninger and Moussa Sow, assistant professor of French, handled most of the preparations, including choosing the films, contacting the discussants that speak before each film and publicizing the event, according to Pfenninger.

The chosen films were “La Vie en Rose,” “Persepolis,” “La Classe,” “Bamako” and “Un Secret,” all of which are based on true stories and illustrate French and other cultures. The films have also all received awards for their cinematic quality.

“These movies are excellent,” Pfenninger said, who also said that they chose films that other departments could collaborate on, not just the Modern Languages Department. “We want to make this a campus event.”

The first film shown in the series, “La Vie en Rose,” attracted a crowd of about 100 students and faculty.

Joana Arruda, freshman history major, who attended “La Vie en Rose,” said, “This was my first French film, and I really enjoyed it. I’m definitely going to go to the other movies in the festival. It was nice seeing the French community at (the College) coming together to celebrate French film and language.”

Pfenninger described the French film fest-

ival as anything but passive movie watching. “It has an educational purpose,” she said.

Each film has a designated speaker who gives a presentation beforehand, which gives background information as well as discusses issues presented in the films.

Many of the speakers are from departments other than modern languages, such as communication studies, interactive multimedia and women’s and gender studies, giving the audience perspectives from other areas of study.

The most rewarding part of the festival, according to Pfenninger, is the discussion that the movies instigate and the students’ questions and comments about the films.

Pfenninger hopes that students will develop a love for French and francophone, or French-speaking, cultures as a result of the festival, in addition to recognizing French as a world language, and she also looks forward to other departments becoming aware of French cinema and language.

Robert Dougherty, sophomore political science major, attended “La Classe” and found the experience eye-opening.

“The French film festival is a great opportunity to experience French culture outside of the classroom,” he said.

“We really would like to go for the grant again next year,” Pfenninger said. “It has been so successful.”

“Un Secret,” the festival’s final film, airs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22 in the Library Auditorium.