Bienvenue La Fete du Cinema, 2020

The French Film Festival UK is on the road again: 220 films, 28 cinemas, 25 locations, 44 days – La crème de la crème of Francophone Cinema.

After the cancellation of all the Edinburgh Festivals this year, and with most theatres still closed, it is most welcome news that the French Film Festival UK decided to plan ahead in positive spirit.  The 28th edition is back again, from Wednesday 4 November until Thursday, 17th December, 2020.

The inaugural Festival was in December 1992, as one of the selected cultural events as part of the Summit of the European Council in Edinburgh. Almost three decades later, the French Film Festival UK has developed into a major annual celebration of French-language cinema. 

The FFF is due to take place across the UK in independent Art House cinemas from Aberdeen to Plymouth*, screening a hand-picked selection of new movies from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec and Africa.

(N.B * Cinemas may be affected by changing national and regional health and safety restrictions.)

The programme is distinctly diverse with a good deal of comedy to offer the much needed feel good factor, as well as romance, thrillers, family drama, documentaries, Shorts and Classic retrospectives.

The UK premiere in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen will kick off the Festival with Mama Weed / La Daronne. This zany crime caper stars Isabelle Huppert as a police interpreter for the anti-drug squad in Paris. When she gets embroiled in a failed drug deal, inheriting a pile of cannabis, she crosses to the other side to become a well-known drug dealer.

An award winner at the Cannes Film Festival, My Donkey, My Lover & I /Antoinette dans les Cévennes is already a smash hit in France, seen by 600,000 people since opening last month.

When a planned vacation with her secret lover is cancelled, Antoinette sets off to walk  the same the route described in 1879 by Robert-Louis Stevenson in Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes – humorous tales of his stubborn, slow, travel companion and baggage carrier, Modestine.  Accompanied by her donkey, Patrick, Antoinette experiences an emotional journey of self- discovery against a panoramic landscape. 

Juliette Binoche stars in How to be a Good Wife/ La Bonne Épouse as the immaculate Paulette, who runs the Van der Beck’s School of Housekeeping and Good Manners in Alsace. The year is 1968: a satirical comedy about teaching traditional family values in the era of Women’s lib.

Director Valérie Donzelli  had just completed filming at the iconic location for Notre-Dame,  before the catastrophic fire at the Cathedral in April, 2019.  The unwittingly topical narrative is about an architectural competition to re-design the square in front of Notre-Dame in which Donzelli plays Maud, the winner of the prestigious project. “Sizzling, unconventional comedy, which turns sadness into shared joy“. Cineuropa

Love Affairs/ Les Choses qu’on dit, les Choses qu’on Fait is a charming, romantic Brief Encounter tale, in which two strangers are thrown together by chance, set against the lovely, lush French countryside.

If you can only dream of a winter sports trip this year, enjoy the cinematic experience instead in Slalom. Lyz, a 15 year old student, is put through competitive training at an elite ski club in the French Alps.  The title refers as much to downhill racing as to Lyz’s conflicting feelings for her coach, Fred, when their après-ski relationship develops. 

Slalom -off piste drama set in the French Alps

The heritage of French Cinema has always a part of the FFF, represented this year by two influential Film Noir classics from the 1960s.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Breathless, 1960

To celebrate its 60th anniversary is a new 4K restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Michel, a cool, suave, bad guy on the run from the police, hiding out with his girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Seberg), at her Paris apartment to plan an escape to Italy.  

This movie liberated the cinema — as clearly and cleanly as Picasso freed painting and the Sex Pistols rebooted rock.” Boston Globe

Franco-Greek director Costa-Gavras made his debut in 1965 with The Sleeping Car Murders/Compartiment Tuers starring Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. Reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s chillingly gruesome plot line in “Murder on the Orient Express,” six people travel in a railroad sleeping car from Marseilles to Paris.

When a woman is found strangled, police investigate the other five passengers as prime suspects. With stylish camera work, flashbacks and internal monologues in Hitchcockian moody manner, this fast-paced whodunit is described as “Maigret on speed.”

Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Claude Mann in Compartiment Tueurs

The Mobile Film Festival also presents a snappy, one minute mini movie on the subject of Climate Change, each filmed on a mobile phone, to be shown as a curtain raiser before each cinema screening.

The series of Short Cuts has been selected this year by the FFF team with the help of university students. Between 3 and 21 minutes, they cover animation, comedy and Sci-fi.    

Following the success of Netflix and Amazon Prime, an innovative venture this year is FFF @ home.  Seven movies will be able to be viewed in your own home from 27th November to 4th December.  This online Festival is ticketed with a limited number of subscriptions – so book ahead asap.

Guest directors and actors have always attended selected cinemas for Q/A sessions during the FFF.  As it is not possible to travel to the UK without quarantine just now, interviews are being pre-recorded. A line up of Virtual Guests include Valérie Donzelli, Anne Fontaine, Emmanuel Mouret and Jean Paul Salomé.

Richard Mowe, the Co-founder and Director of the FFF UK commented:

Despite the challenges, we are delighted to have one of the most varied and vibrant programmes ever at this year’s French Film Festival. We hope audiences will respond to the selection in cinemas ..and will appreciate the option of fff @ home. In these dark times we need the light and reflection that cinema can offer.” 

For the full list of Films, what’s on where and booking tickets: www.frenchfilmfestival.org.uk

FFF@home www.frenchfilmfestival.org.uk/online

Printed brochure available.

Funders and sponsors – including Screen Scotland, Creative Scotland, Institut française, Alliance Française, Total, TV5Monde, Unifrance, agnès b, and Côte.

L’Ecole du Cinema: the FFF UK’s Learning Programme inspires young students to engage in the French language and culture through films and online resources as part of the Modern Language curriculum. 

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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