CULTURE

Francophone Film Festival defies the Greek problem

It appears that the gods are mad at Jo: The annual cultural festival the French mother of four organizes on an Aegean island every year has been canceled due to the ongoing financial crisis, the island’s mayor is proving a handful, her grown-up offspring are pulling long faces and her teenage grandson is sleeping with a local girl.

In Brigitte Rouan’s “Tu honoreras ta mere et ta mere” (“A Greek Type of Problem,” 2013), ancient and 21st-century Greece blend into one comedy starring Nicole Garcia and Eric Caravaca. The film is one among many comprising this year’s Francophone Film Festival, which opens in Athens on April 4 (running to April 10) before traveling to the northern port city of Thessaloniki from April 11 to 17.

In contrast to Jo, the Francophone Film Festival’s Greek destiny seems intact: As the popular event turns 14 this spring, organizers are ready to host distinguished guests, screen a multitude of new releases and present the event’s customary parallel events. In Athens, screenings take place at the Onassis Cultural Center, the Danaos 1 and Opera Odeon 1 cinemas and the French Institute, while in Thessaloniki, Francophone film buffs can see this year’s offerings at the Pavlos Zannas movie theater.

Organized by the French Institute, the festival counts on the support of Unifrance, an organization in charge of promoting the French movie industry across the world. Besides French productions, the festival also includes entries from Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, Morocco and Romania.

Accompanying the French films in Athens are those who make them. Carole Bouquet will be serving as the festival’s “godmother” this year. Bouquet’s debut on the silver screen came in Luis Bunuel’s 1977 “Cet obscur objet du desir” (“That Obscure Object of Desire”). She was a Bond girl in “For Your Eyes Only” (1981), where part of the action was shot on location in Greece, and earned a Cesar – the French equivalent of an Oscar – for Bertrand Blier’s “Trop belle pour toi” (Too Beautiful For You) in 1989. The actress is also known for her charity work with La Voix de l’Enfant, an association she established 27 years ago, as well as for being one of the faces of French fashion powerhouse Chanel.

Born to a French father and a Greek mother who met in the United States, award-winning composer Alexandre Desplat will head this year’s jury in the festival’s competition section. In the last year alone, Desplat created original soundtrack music for Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning “Argo” and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” Also making the trip to Athens are directors Patrice Leconte, Brigitte Rouan and Regis Roinsard and screenwriter Daniel Presley.

The festival opens with Antony Marciano’s comedy “Les Gamins.” Starring Alain Chabat, Max Boublil and Sandrine Kiberlain, the film follows a soon-to-be father-in-law who encourages his daughter’s fiance to abandon his wedding plans and embark on a carefree road trip with him. The event will close with Patrice Leconte’s “Le Magasin des suicides” (The Suicide Shop), a movie marking the director’s first foray into the world of animation. Entrance to the opening and closing ceremonies is by invitation only.

The Francophone Film Festival is once again collaborating with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and the Athens International Film Festival, aka Premiere Nights, in a number of screenings. The festival also presents films from the Corfu Animation Festival, a tribute to Bouquet, an interactive cinema game for all ages at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, a section on groundbreaking animation films, as well as films by students at New School Athens.

For more information on the festival and parallel events, visit www.ifa.gr and www.festivalfilmfrancophone.gr. Screenings take place at the Onassis Cultural Center (107-109 Syngrou, tel 213.017.8000, www.sgt.gr), Danaos (109 Kifissias, tel 210.692.2655), Odeon Opera (57 Academias, tel 210.362.2683) and the French Institute in Athens (31 Sina, tel 210.339.8600).