CULTURE

A panorama of French-speaking cinema

The diversity of French-speaking cinema lies at the heart of the 12th Francophone Film Festival which opens in Athens today, in the presence of Catherine Deneuve and Anna Mouglalis, the latter acting as the event’s godmother.

Running to April 8 at the Attikon and Apollon Cinemax Class theaters, the Greek Film Archive and the French Institute of Athens, the festival will then travel north to Thessaloniki, with screenings at the city’s Olympion cinema from April 7 to 12.

The festival opens with Francois Ozon’s «Potiche.» Starring Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu and Fabrice Luchini, the story evolves around a housewife who becomes a fierce businesswoman — access to this particular event is by invitation only.

Since its inception some 12 years ago, the event has contributed to Greece becoming the buyer and distributor of 8 percent of Francophone film production and a major ally of French-speaking cinema, with about 50 French films opening in local theaters every year.

A critically acclaimed actress and Chanel muse, Mouglalis (whose father is Greek) has collaborated with several leading directors, among them Claude Chabrol, Arnaud Desplechin and Joann Sfar. In Athens, the actress will present four of her all-time favorite films, along with the international premiere of «Chez Gino,» a comedy directed by her companion Samuel Benchetrit in which a quiet pizzeria owner turns into a ruthless gangster in order to claim his dying uncle’s inheritance.

A jury comprising director Theo Angelopoulos, historian Eleni Glykatzi-Ahrweiler, journalist-author Giorgos Archimandritis, former ERT Sat chief Eirini Gavala, French film critic Elisabeth Quin and «Dogtooth» producer Yorgos Tsourgiannis will award a prize at the end of the festival, while audiences attending screenings will also get a chance to vote for their own favorites films.

Among the long list of recent French films to be screened are the following: Fred Cavaye’s adrenaline-charged «A bout portant,» in which Samuel has three hours to free his kidnapped wife; Olivier Assayas’s «Carlos,» a portrait of international terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal; Michel Leclerc’s elegant comedy «Le Nom des gens,» where an activist seduces her political opponents; Nicole Garcia’s nostalgic «Un Balcon sur la mer,» which traces a youthful love before and after the Algerian War; and «Yves Saint Laurent: Pierre Berge, l’amour fou,» a documentary directed by Pierre Thoretton which takes a look at a great love story and one of the most exciting fashion stories of the 20th century.

Also on the festival’s program is a panorama of French-speaking film with movies from Canada and Chad, a series of after-hours screenings in collaboration with the Athens International Film Festival, as well as movies for young film lovers. The festival will also pay tribute to late master Claude Chabrol with a selection of films which will be screened at the Greek Film Archive.

The festival ends with the world premiere of «Nicostratos,» a film directed by Olivier Horlait, starring Emir Kusturica and Francois-Xavier Demaison. Shot on location in Greece, the movie presents a singular friendship on a bare, beautiful Greek island.

In view of this year’s edition, Greek-French designer Antoine Antoniadis has created a limited collection of scarves and signature interwoven leather bags — the designer’s accessories collection for winter 2011-12 was recently presented at the 9th edition of the Athens Xclusive Designers Week earlier this month.

The 12th Francophone Film Festival’s artistic director is Elise Jalladeau.

For more information on films and screenings, visit www.ifa.gr.