A biopic about the private and often dark side of a French legend serves as the curtain raiser of the 15th Francophone Film Festival, a now-familiar institution to movie buffs in Athens and the northern port city of Thessaloniki. Featuring Pierre Niney in the title role, Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent,” which debuted across France in January, opens the festival in Athens on Wednesday, March 19. Screenings continue in the capital through March 26, before moving to Thessaloniki from March 27 to April 2.
Supported by uniFrance, an organization which promotes the French movie industry around the globe, the festival is organized by the French Institute. Beside French films, the event also includes cinematic works from Bulgaria, Canada, Luxembourg, Morocco, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Greece.
The event’s special guest is actress Nathalie Baye, whose silver screen debut came in Nina Companeez’s 1972 romantic drama “Faustine et le bel ete” (Faustine and the Beautiful Summer). Winner of two Cesar awards (France’s answer to the Oscars), Baye’s filmography includes a long collaboration with Francois Truffaut. For the festival the actress has chosen a selection of her films for screening, including Jean-Luc Godard’s 1980 drama “Sauve qui peut (la vie)” (Slow Motion), also starring Isabelle Huppert and Jacques Dutronc, and Frederic Fonteyne’s 1999 romantic drama “Une liaison pornographique” (An Affair of Love) with Sergi Lopez.
Other festival guests include Lespert, fellow directors Christophe Offenstein (“En Solitaire”) and Arnaud des Pallieres (“Michael Kohlhaas”), as well as actress Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, director of the 2013 “Un Chateau en Italie,” which brings the festival to a close on March 26.
Awards in the event’s competition section will be decided by a jury led by French actor Georges Corraface, while the public will also select its favorites movies and bestow its own award via a system of after-screening voting.
Other film categories include a panorama of Francophone cinema and films by young French directors, among others.
Once again the festival is collaborating with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and the Athens International Film Festival, known as Premiere Nights, while this year marks the launch of a new association with the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
Entrance to the festival’s opening and closing nights is by invitation only.
Screenings in Athens: Danaos (109 Kifissias, tel 210.692.2655), Embassy Nova Odeon (5 Patriarchou Ioakeim & Irodotou, tel 210.721.5944), French Institute of Athens (31 Sina, tel 210.339.8600). Admission ranges from 5 to 6 euros. Thessaloniki: Pavlos Zannas (10 Aristotelous Square, tel 2310.378400). For more information, go to www.ifa.gr or www.festivalfrancophone.gr.