CULTURE

Speaking French on film

It has been a pretty excellent year for Francophone cinematic production if Oscar accolades are what you go by. Yet for all its Academy awards — including best film and best direction — Michel Hazavanicius?s silent movie ?The Artist? left its language of origin out of the picture.

There will be plenty of French, however, spoken in the large selection of films making up the 13th edition of the Francophone Festival of Greece, which takes place in Athens and Thessaloniki this month. Starting in Athens on Wednesday, March 21, where it will run through Wednesday, March 28, at the Ideal and Danaos cinemas as well as the French Institute, the festival will subsequently travel to Thessaloniki (March 29 to April 4).

Besides French movies, the festival showcases Belgian, Swiss, Lebanese, Canadian and Moroccan films, some of which will be accompanied by their directors and cast. Coming to Athens is Tony Gatlif (who will present his documentary ?Indignados? [Indignants], which served as the opening act at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival earlier this month) Eva Ionesco, director of ?My Little Princess,? and Remi Bezancon, director of ?Un heureux evenement? (A Happy Event).

The event?s curtain raiser is Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache?s blockbusting ?Intouchables? (The Untouchables), the story of an unlikely friendship between a paraplegic French aristocrat (Francois Cluzet) and a young black man from the projects (Omar Sy). Sy earned a Cesar for his work in the 20-million-tickets-sold film, effectively becoming the first black actor to win an award at the cinema industry awards known as the French Oscars, while also beating fellow nominee Jean Dujardin of ?The Artist? — a few days later the latter made up for his loss by becoming the first ever French actor to win the Oscar in the best actor category. (Access to the opening night is by invitation only.)

Besides film screenings, the new edition of the Francophone Film Festival features competitions and an innovative master class. In the competition section, a judging panel will award a prize for best film, which will also offer promotion for the film?s Greek release, while the public award — with viewers voting for their favorite movie after screenings — will be bestowed on the Greek distributor of the winning film in view of the movie?s local promotion.

A novelty this year will be a master class focusing on ?Transmedia,? the technique of storytelling through multiple platforms based on innovative digital technology. Led by filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari, the session includes a screening of Menelaos Karamaghiolis?s documentary ?Cineastes.?

Also part of the program are festival guests presenting films which have influenced and inspired them to local audiences.

Festival organizers are also adding their own silent touch to the event: Cecil B. DeMille?s 1915 drama ?Carmen? will be screened at Gazarte (32-34 Voutadon, Gazi, tel 210.345.2277) on Friday, March 23. It will be embellished by the music of the Orchestre National de Jazz led by Daniel Yvinec.

Ideal, 46 Panepistimiou, tel 210.3826720; Danaos, 109 Kifissias, tel 210.6922655; IFA, 31 Sina, tel 210.339.8600. For more information about films and screenings, go to www.ifa.gr and www.festivalfilmfrancophone.gr. Admission tickets cost 6 euros (Danaos, Ideal) and 5 euros (IFA).