If you’re feeling trapped and isolated by the Kenyon winter blues the Francophone Film Festival, hosted from Jan. 30-Feb. 13 in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater, might just be the refreshing cultural escape you need.
Pierre Dairon, assistant professor of French, and the French Club, co-hosted this event, specifically called the “Francophone” film festival as opposed to the “French” film festival because the goal is to celebrate many different cultural aspects of French-speaking countries. “The films we’ve chosen this year really deal with issues of cultural identity, journey and transformative experience,” Dairon said. The films this year truly do emphasize cultural differences, with films set in Francophone countries like France, Nigeria, Chad and Algeria.
Unlike in past years, the festival was able to take place entirely in the gallery’s Community Foundation Theater, whereas organizers were forced to use the Beulah Kahler Theater in the Kenyon Athletic Center in the past. “Natalie Marsh, the director [of the Gund Gallery], she welcomed us,” Dairon said, “and we collaborated … and we were really quite happy to be able to use the theater.”
The festival opened with a showing of Grigris (Charms) and Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat). Le Chat du Rabbin is an animated film and a personal favorite of Dairon, who often shows it to his Francophone Literature class. “The students love it,” he said, “and I would really advise everyone to watch it. It’s really a fantastic movie.” Dairon was passionate and excited about every film he selected, not just Le Chat du Rabbin, and explained how each film had something different to offer, be it cultural edification or entertainment.
This past week, in addition to showing a traditional French film, À Bout de Souffle (Breathless), the Gallery presented a World War II documentary film: Le Dernier des Injustes (The Last of the Unjust) is Claude Lanzmann’s second documentary about the Holocaust. The first, Shoah, featured so much footage it was nearly 10 hours long. The documentary presented on Friday was an extension of Shoah and featured unused footage from it as well as new footage in which Lanzmann interviewed Benjamin Murmelstein, a senior official in the Jewish community of Vienna, about his life in the Holocaust and how it affected him. “It wasn’t like other Holocaust movies I’d seen,” Leah Zinker ’18 said. “It let the subject tell the story while continuously asking difficult questions of the subject. It revolved around the experience of one man, and because of that choice, you could really understand how personal it was, and how passionate they felt about being able to share their stories.” Showing Le Dernier des Injustes, after a classic French film such as À Bout de Souffle only the night before emphasizes just how much there is to learn about the Francophone world. The films selected show vastly different perspectives, exhibiting that the film festival held something that would appeal to everyone. Tonight marks the final weekend of the Francophone Film Festival. Elle S’en Va (On My Way) will be shown tonight at 8 p.m., and tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 13, there will be a closing ceremony at 5 p.m. followed by a showing of Le Passé (The Past) at 6 p.m. All showings take place in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater and are free and open to the public.