American French Film Festival Targets Young Audiences – The Hollywood Reporter

Film festivals can entertain, inspire and often release new talent in front of and behind the camera. But some festivals, especially in the US, run programs aimed at developing younger audiences.

Going into its 26th edition, the American French Film Festival (an LA-based festival focused on French cinema and formerly known as COLCOA) has hosted Southern California high school students since 2008. The festival now opens its theater doors at the Los Angeles DGA. More than 3,000 students per year. This year, the total number of high school students who have seen a French film at the festival over the years will exceed 32,000.

It all started with an idea conceived by Francois Traffert, founder of the American French Film Festival (TAFFF), to invite students to share in the Francophone fun, says Pascal Laudret, head of the European Languages ​​and Films of America (ELMA) Foundation. Sponsors behind TAFFF’s education initiatives.

ELMA, a non-profit organization focused on screening European films, acts as a catalyst for festivals that want to add an educational component around cultural exchange and young cinema-audience building. “ELMA tries to help festivals go above and beyond,” says Laudret, who has a background in business and has worked in foreign affairs as director of French cultural centers on both sides of the Atlantic. “Festivals are run by passionate people working with very small teams, and often all this work goes into something and there’s no money for marketing, so nobody comes.” Or a festival might be able to bring out a dwindling group of foreign-language film fans — “immigrants and older cinephiles, but that’s really missing the mark.” ELMA helps expand reach to a younger and more mainstream American audience. In addition to TAFFF, this fall ELMA will support festivals including Screamfest, Animation is Film, Polish Film Festival LA and AFI Fest.

“The program is unique and a tremendous amount of work has gone into it,” says TAFFF’s deputy director Anouchka van Riel, who oversaw the fest’s educational component for six years. With the help of the Association of Teachers of French (AATF), the program annually draws students from public and private schools from approximately 50 to 70 high schools throughout Southern California. Students bus to DGA from far and wide. “Some wake up at 4 a.m., come from Santa Barbara or Victorville,” Van Riel says.

“The format of the high school screenings is the same as when we started and works really well,” Laudret says. This year the festival, which runs from October 10-16, will have performances every weekday. Students have the opportunity to pose with French props (berets and baguettes) in a step-and-repeat before a high-concept Friends comedy show. Two of a kind (Jumax mice pass trope) — about brothers, one black, one white, who share the same DNA — in the DGA’s largest theater, which seats 600. A first-time narrative feature directed by Olivier Ducray and Wilfried Meyens, the popular Ahmed starring Cilla and Bertrand Usclat, Two of a kind It won the audience award at this year’s Alpe d’Huez International Comedy Film Festival and was released in France on September 28. Students will be able to interact with writer-director Méance and actor Usclat during a Q&A.

Two of a kind

Courtesy of SND Groupe M6

Van Riel says the intercultural exchange and surprising dialogue that emerges from the Q&A after the screenings makes for a “very magical” experience. “Some great conversations happen when high school students ask questions of the talent in attendance. The questions are very uncensored and genuine.

“The cultural landscape is very dry here,” he adds. “We live in a city built on cinema, but some kids have never attended an American film show attached to talent. They’re floored when they interact with the people who made the film. Growing up in Europe, Van Riel says, “I’m kind of spoiled” in France, where cultural programs and field trips abound for students. . “In France, culture is completely subsidized.”

The fest interacts with schools throughout the year to coordinate the program. Public high schools have high head counts, some come in multiple buses, while private schools come in small packs. Van Riel notes that many public schools find it difficult to rent a bus to transport students to DGA: “On weekends, kids have to wash cars to pay for the bus. The turnout is an even mix of public and private schools that teach French. However, outreach has expanded to art schools and magnet schools that focus on the arts, or schools interested in “having conversations around culture.” ,” she said.

Van Riel says post-screening surveys from teachers and students collected by ELMA show “amazing data.” “About 80 percent of students said, ‘We don’t mind subtitles. We’re happy to introduce these films. When we see them, we want to see more.’ It is a virtuous circle.”

Van Riel says TAFFF’s programs are already building bridges to subtitled films, before wider American audiences discover foreign-language treasures like South Korean content, mostly through various streaming platforms. She points to a reference to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho Parasite The 2020 Best Picture Oscar winner: “‘Once you overcome the 1-inch-high barrier of subtitles, you’re introduced to so many more amazing movies.’ He adds, “Pascal has been with us for over 15 years. Subtitles don’t get in the way.

To help prepare students and teachers for the TAFFF film and subsequent conversation, an extensive curriculum document was created and shared with teachers in advance.

“Writing the syllabus is a big task, divided among three to four members of the AATF committee,” says Ines du Caus de la Hitte, president of the AATF’s Southern California chapter and school teacher of world languages ​​at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth. California “Those teachers collaborate, do a lot of research to validate the material, and create grade-appropriate activities with varying levels of complexity. Many of the activities geared toward AP students follow guidelines established by the College Board. It’s a “fun and enriching way to supplement a rigorous course,” she adds. Students participating in the demonstrations Eligible to submit to the Film Review Essay Contest “Winners will be awarded at a ceremony in late May.”

Among the comments shared on TAFFF’s website is a teacher who attended with students from Camino Nuevo High School (a charter school serving the Westlake / MacArthur Park area of ​​Los Angeles) in 2019: “(We are) a small French program low income charter. Attending the screening was extremely valuable for my students – to share the space with the film as well as all the other students from other schools learning French, and to share the conversations about film and French culture that took place in our classroom. … My students don’t have much contact with French culture in their neighborhood, so it’s really good for them.

In addition to high school screenings, TAFFF also conducts master class programs organized with ELMA and with the support of the Film and TV Department of the French Consulate. Master classes bring talent from festival films to university campuses. This year, the filmmakers will travel to Chapman University in Orange County and Pasadena City College.

“It was important to open up the programs to a more diverse crowd, not just to film schools,” Van Riel says. “We’ve gotten requests from community colleges and found that there’s great potential and hear from these places.” Heading to Pasadena this year is Anissa Bonnefonte Nadia, Doc about Afghan soccer player Nadia Nadeem. It includes an in-depth interview around the film and the filmmakers (Bonnefonte also directed the doc Wonder Boy, about Olivier Rousteing, creative director of the fashion house Balmain). Chapman welcomes writer-director Céline Devaux, her feature debut Everyone loves Jean The film will be shown to the students. Van Riel says the master class program is restricted in part because companies selling films must waive licensing fees for these on-campus screenings. TAFFF and ELMA organizers say they want the master class program to grow as robust as the festival’s high school screenings.

The wildly popular high school shows have some fest supporters claiming the show could be the cause of the festival. “With 3,115 students attending TAFFF in 2021, we have broken an attendance record,” says Francois Besson, member of the core organization behind TAFFF, the Franco-American Cultural Fund. “We can ask ourselves whether the educational aspect of the festival is a side-event or, on the contrary, whether it is the main purpose of the festival.”

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