Although the average movie-goer might be intimidated by the idea of six French films, the organizers of the Tournées Film Festival: Love in the 21st Century are making it accessible to all. The event, which kicks off on Friday, Feb. 6 with an opening reception at 5:15 pm will be bringing together not only students and faculty from different departments within Vassar, but also the greater Poughkeepsie area for a month of French films.
Visiting Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Anne Brancky was the main organizer of the festival and wrote in an emailed statement, “The Tournées festival is a wonderful opportunity to bring some of the most celebrated and talked-about films in French of the past several years [to Vassar].”
Brancky was joined along with Visiting Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Michael Reyes in her preparation for this event. Reyes wrote as well in an emailed statement about what he anticipates about the festival, “We hope that the Tournées Film Festival will bring together people from throughout the community in their discovery of (or continued interest in) French cinema…Faculty from Vassar, Bard and Smith Colleges will provide brief introductions and help to moderate post-screening discussions.”
Brancky commented on the reasons she wanted to expose Vassar to French cinema, saying, “This year, we had access to some very important recent French-language films that have caused quite a stir among both the film community and general audiences for their daring subject matter and their innovative filmmaking.”
She continued, “Many of them raise important questions about love and sexuality, class and aging, and family relationships, among other topics. We felt that these were themes that could inspire rich and lively discussions among our faculty members, students and the broader Hudson Valley community.”
Before the organizers could consider the films within and a theme for the festival, there were ample arrangements which had to be made to even get it to Vassar’s campus. Screening of these films is a highly sought-after privilege, and Brancky explained what the process was to obtain it, “Our department was fortunate enough to receive two grants, one from the Tournées Festival through the French American Cultural Exchange of the French Embassy and one from the New York Council for the Humanities, as well as the generous support of the Film Department and the Dean of Faculty to put on the festival,” she said.
Once the Department was able to secure this exciting opportunity, they were then given creative authority with the films. Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies and the Chair of French and Francophone Studies Vinay Swamy was very involved with this festival as well and commented on the process, “They have a list of several films that they sponsor and we can choose from the list and curate our own festival.”
On selecting an overarching theme for the festival, and consequently a title, the curators of Tournées had to look no further than the films themselves. Brancky wrote about the reasoning behind the name Love in the 21st Century, “As we thought about the films we were interested in and wanted to share with our community, we started to see the theme of love emerge from our selection. Since the festival will take place over the month of February, the month of Valentine’s Day, we thought that this would be an exciting thread to connect these diverse films.”
Reyes and Swamy commented as well on this evident theme shared by every film in the lineup, which includes (in order) “Polisse,” Maïwenn; “Declaration of War,” Valérie Donzelli; “Amour,” Michael Haneke; “Blue is the Warmest Color,” Abdellatif Kechiche; “Mauvais Sang,” Leos Carax; and “The Past,” Asghar Farhadi. Reyes wrote, “I think one of the most important things for us…was trying to make the festival as accessible as possible. I think that many, if not all, people have strong thoughts and feelings about ‘love,’ whether it’s the longing of romantic love, the heart-sundering pain of love lost, or perhaps more overtly political concerns about whose love gets to be recognized by the State.
Swamy said, “One of the things that we are so used to thinking or hearing about is this word ‘love’, and we think that it is the core of our identity in some ways. But a lot of the representations of love on the ‘big screen’ are very much weighted towards a certain kind of romantic notion of what love is all about.”
He continued, “And especially when you see mainstream Hollywood cinema, one of the things that I think the people who curated this festival in the department felt was that France has a very different way of representing love… they also have a way of thinking about other ways in which love can be important in people’s lives.”
With all planning, selecting and designing out of the way, the organizers of the Tournées Film Festival now look to enjoy the festival themselves and hope that the community will do the same. Brancky wrote about what aspect of the festival she is anticipating most: “I am most looking forward to seeing students, faculty and the community interacting in the post-screening discussions following each film. Many of these films raise important questions and universal issues that I hope will incite interesting discussions.”
The organizers aren’t the only ones looking forward to the festival; Delphine Douglas ’18, a French student at Vassar, wrote about her excitement for the festival. She said, “I’m really excited for the festival! I’ve seen three of the films they’re showing and really enjoyed them, so I’m looking forward to seeing the other three. Sometimes it’s hard to find ways to watch foreign films, and this seems like a great opportunity to see them. It’s easy to forget that other countries make really cool films so it’s nice to be reminded of that.”
The festival is free and open to the public, and each film has subtitles so there is no need to know French to enjoy and appreciate the films. On a final note, Swamy commented on what he hopes viewers will take away from the festival, “I think this is a wonderful way for us to actually reflect on the different issues that are presented by the films and my hope is that we will not just be thinking about French cinema as something thats produced out there across the Atlantic…but actually maybe these discussions will lead us to think about what our own society does and how it’s constructed.”