Gay Caree 

The French Film Festival infuses the Byrd with some of France's finest cinema. But will Richmonders sit all the way through a movie without explosions?

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The 15th annual VCU French Film Festival returns to the Byrd Theatre with 12 features, 12 short films, a full house of actors and directors, and a lot of French culture. It's a long way from the festival's original intention: to just gauge the interest in French films in Richmond. Drs. Françoise and Peter Kirkpatrick, creators of the festival, screen about 240 French feature films each year, as well as about 300 short films. They choose two dozen or so, determined to offer films that best represent the diversity of French filmmaking.

"Those viewers who attend all the films and who interact with the actors and directors — they are the ones who truly benefit from the full festival and, in a way, participate in its artistic energy and the weekend's dynamics," Françoise says.

The format of the festival weekend, from the actors and directors present to the Q&A sessions following the films, allows for a unique connection between viewers and film professionals. Most of the films shown at the festival are shipped right back to France afterward and, without U.S. distributors, are unavailable to American audiences.

Director and screenwriter Gérard Krawczyk — director of French box-office sensation "Taxi 2" (as well as sequels 3 and 4) and his own independent film "La Vie est à nous!" which screens at the festival — cites the unique atmosphere as a major draw. "It is so rare to be able to show your film in such a cinema and at a festival where there is that ambience and état d'esprit of love for the French cinema in particular."

Krawczyk, who has worked with the likes of Luc Besson ("The Professional" and "The Fifth Element") will teach a master class on filmmaking open to the public. He likens the diversity of films presented to a rainbow.

"At the festival in Richmond, the many colors of French cinema are represented, showing the richness and diversity of French cinema," he says. "This diversity is something specific to the VCU French Film Festival and is an approach that you just can't find at other festivals."

With international coverage and accolades — including the Kirkpatricks serving on the jury for Best Technical Film at the International Film Festival in Cannes — the festival has entered a new era. S

The festival is March 30-April 1 at the Byrd Theatre. Tickets are $10 for each screening, and passes are $95. For more information, visit www.frenchfilm.vcu.edu or call 827-3456.

The Big Fromages

The festival includes seven North American premieres, including:

  • "Dans la peau de Jacques Chirac" ("Being Jacques Chirac"), winner of the 2007 César (the French equivalent to an Oscar) for Best Documentary — a film incorporating 40 years of footage to create an unauthorized biography of the French president.

  • "Le Passager de l'été" ("One Summer") — a film about a dangerous romance in a small village post-World War II.

  • Others entries include the César Award-winning film (Best Supporting Actor and Most Promising Young Actress), "Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas" ("Don't Worry, I'm Fine") — a film about a young woman's search for her twin brother.

    French award-winning director Claude Miller, who has worked with giants Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, will lead the 2007 delegation of actors and directors. His Excellency Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United States, will also be in attendance.

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