Section: Arts

Francophone Film Festival puts focus on colonial narratives

Gambier gains an international perspective as The Francophone Film Festival explores the French-speaking world. The festtival held every third semester by the French section of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (MLL). This semester’s festival has included an especially diverse  collection of francophone films. The festival, which lasts from October to November, has included “Makala” (2018), a documentary on charcoal production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; “Félicité” (2017), the story of a nightclub singer in the Congolese city of Kinshasha; and “Moi, un noir” (1958), a portrait of the lives of three Nigerian immigrants in Côte d’Ivoire. The festival will continue on Friday, Nov. 9, with “I Am Not Your Negro” (2016), Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated biopic on author and civil rights leader James Baldwin.

Assistant Professor of French Pierre Dairon, who was responsible for organizing the festival and applying for the French Embassy grant that supports the festival, described his interest in bringing Francophone films to Kenyon as an extension of his primary field of study: Francophone literature.

The Embassy provides a list of films which may receive grant funding, which Dairon says is both fortunate and unfortunate. The list is tight, but he says the Embassy picks good movies, many of which come from former French colonies in Africa. Dairon tries to establish a global perspective in the lineup of films– and he hopes that Kenyon’s reaction is equally widespread.

“It’s not just for French students,” Dairon said. This year the festival will include an English-language movie (“I Am Not Your Negro”).

His goal is to create a dialogue between some of the movies he selects — particularly this week, “Moi, un noir,” on Wednesday, Nov. 7, which is translated to “I, a Negro” in English and will be followed almost immediately by the Friday, Nov. 9 viewing of “I Am Not Your Negro.” Dairon sees a tie between Jean Rouch’s 1958 film, which the Festival’s website calls “revolutionary through its attempt to address the problem of the ethnographer (nearly always a white man) filming subjects (nearly always people of color) objectified and stripped of agency,” and Peck,  who the website calls, “a director from the so-called third world looking at and looking back at a black poet from the first world.”

Dairon hopes that the films, which begin with a faculty introduction and end with a group discussion, will help students to see the ties between anti-American sentiment in the global south, Peck’s experience under the Duvalier Regime, Baldwin’s life as a black man in America and the seemingly inescapable influence of colonialism. He finds “I Am Not Your Negro” compelling because “it’s about Baldwin. It’s a movie which is impacted by colonialism, but it’s about Baldwin and France is not even there.”

Dairon wants the festival to provide some community outreach. “There are so many things to do on campus,” he said, but he wants to build a space where the students can connect and continue to learn outside the classroom. The film festival does that, and gives them the chance to see films that they otherwise might not have gotten a chance to see.

The Francophone Film Festival will continue through the end of the semester, with showings of “Métamorphoses” on Nov. 28 and “Nocturama” on Dec. 5.

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