Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Destination Auteur: the Premiers Plans Festival D'Angers and AFS' New French Cinema Weekend

SPARTACUS & CASSANDRA

AFS Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick reports on one of the best film festivals in the world: 

To see selections from the Premiers Plans Festival D’Angers, attend AFS’ New French Cinema Weekend, taking place May 1-3. Filmmakers and Premiers Plans programmers will be in attendance.  

Best known for it’s medieval history (i.e., The Apocalypse), the Loire Valley city of Angers, France is also a key destination for cinephiles. For the past 27 years, Angers has presented the Premiers Plans Festival D’Angers, a festival celebrating new European cinema. Each year, alongside excellent new films from emerging auteurs throughout the continent, the festival also presents dazzling retrospectives of European greats.

The breadth of repertory programming at Premiers Plans is truly astonishing. The festival does not favor one thread of programming over another, and both the presentation of new films and the repertory programs play to sold-out crowds.  I sat in a full 600 seat theater at 10 AM to see a beautiful restored 35mm print of Il SORPASSO—playing as a part of a complete Dino Risi retrospective. Gerard Depardieu took part in a screening of the 1974 classic, GOING PLACES, playing in a retrospective of Bertrand Blier, who was on hand for introductions at each of his screenings.  Veteran French director Benoît Jacquot (FAREWELL MY QUEEN) was on hand to introduce NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, projected in the historic 1871 Grand Theatre in the city’s main plaza.  

And yet, the best surprise of the festival was stumbled upon at a first film competition screening at 10PM after a full day of retrospective screenings and festival gatherings. SPARTACUS & CASSANDRA, a documentary by a new French director, Ioanis Nuguet, was filmed in a Roma community at the center of Paris. Nuguet followed two squatter Roma children, largely abandoned by their parents, who fall under the care of a 20 year-old trapeze artist. SPARTACUS & CASSANDRA defies conventional documentary structure and respectfully prioritizes the emotional reality of its young protagonists, and the story seems to belong to them. I wasn’t surprised that the film made the cut of this year’s True/False Film Festival, a boutique documentary festival with a small and extremely selective line up.  It’s next US screening will be in Austin with us at AFS’ New French Cinema Weekend.

I got to thinking—Premiers Plans Angers looks a lot like AFS. These are two organizations that support emerging directors alongside maintaining a passion for great cinema of the past.  As we see fewer small independent European films have distribution opportunities in the US, it becomes all the more important to collaborate with organizations that create programming opportunities for us for undistributed films.

Each film in AFS’ New French Cinema weekend is a wonderful discovery. Check out this review of Marianne Tardieu’s QUI VIVE (INSECURE), and Guillaume Brac’s TONNERRE.

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