Cultural variety is happening at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in downtown Moscow every Tuesday night from Sept. 17 to Oct. 15, as the fourth annual Tournées French Film Festival brings different aspects of either French society or Francophone areas to Moscow.
The first Tournées French Film Festival was in 2010. The French faculty at University of Idaho and Washington State University had been talking about doing something meaningful and helpful for the students and the community.
“French faculty is really helpful for our students to be able to see these recent films, and to see sort of the kind of vital, cinema culture that continues to be part of French society and culture,” said Sarah Nelson, UI French Section Coordinator. “So it’s very motivating for our students to be able to see that. And then it’s also helpful for high school students coming up and for the community in general just to have the presence of French and Francophone culture.”
Through the Tournées French Film Festival, the students and the community are expected to see the various aspects of different society and culture, and also to understand and respect the dissimilarities.
“When you come and watch a French film, you are viewing a piece of visual art created by a French or Francophone film maker who followed different trends and techniques than American film makers,” said Sabine Davis, French instructor at WSU. “Another important thing that the viewers take away from the film is a snapshot of another culture. The film exposes you to practices, values and attitudes of a particular French-speaking country that are often, if not at odds with, at least different from what Americans are used to. This glimpse into another culture is what we are really here to provide.”
Nelson said there were always students who were excited about some of the films and talk about them in class.
“I would say that definitely I can see the enthusiasm for what they learn about the culture,” Nelson said. “And they’ll make references to films in the film festival in class sometimes. They’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s like that movie about this or that from last year.'”
As part of the festival, faculty and staff members in both schools who have expertise in the films will prepare a short introduction before each film is shown, which can be educational for the audience. Usually after the introduction, viewing the films becomes a much richer experience as the audience can ask deeper questions brought up by the films that would not necessarily come to the audience by simply watching them.
Preparing to be self-funded
The Tournées French Film Festival is a yearly event funded by the French-American Cultural Exchange (FACE) Council. It provides non-profit groups with the funding to organize a French Film Festival in the venue of their choice.
“We’ve been lucky enough to keep getting that grant, every year,” Nelson said. “We don’t expect to get it for very much longer because those grants are conceived as sort of seed grants. The initial grants are for the first few years that you start the festival on your campus and then the festival is supposed to be self-supporting after that and they’ll stop giving the grants for them.”
Nelson said they are trying to increase the film festival account by asking people for donations so enough money is available to fund the festival once they stop receiving the grants.
It also means a lot to the French faculty that the whole community is supportive of the Tournées French Film Festival every year, Nelson said. The local restaurants, Moscow Food Co-op and the Wine Company of Moscow donate food and wine to the opening reception of the festival, and also some French cookies for the closing reception.
Partnership with Kenworthy
When the French faculty decided to start the event, board members from the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre were enthusiastic and passionate to help them organize the festival and make it possible to the community, Nelson said.
“It turned out to be a fabulous partnership between us and the Kenworthy to put this festival on,” she said. “They’re excellent, really knowledgeable about how to run a festival like this and they’re great at publicizing. It’s been a really good venue for the festival because it brings in both community members and people from both universities.”
The movies that are showing this year are heavy in content and meaning. Although some are described as depressing, they are thought-provoking, Davis said. Unlike some light stories, the more tragic films stay with the audience for a while after they leave the theater, she said.
“The festival has met good success every year and has become a yearly event many students and community members put on their calendar,” Davis said.
Chin-Lun Hsu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org