What to watch at this year’s French Film Festival

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Selections from Cannes Film Festival, gritty thrillers, riveting dramas, and charming portraits of life in France are part of this year's French Film Festival.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Hot off the heels of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the 22nd French Film Festival brings 13 French films to the country as a cultural exchange between France and the Philippines, both of which have continuously participated in a cultural dialogue through cinematic expression.

The films will be screened from June 9 to 17 at Ayala Malls Cinemas in Greenbelt 3 and Bonifacio High Street Central Square.

Aside from the French features, Filipino films that have participated in the Cannes Film Festival will also be screened: “Nakaw” directed by Noel Escondo and Arvin Belarmino (Short Film Corner, 2017); “Ma’ Rosa” directed by Brillante Mendoza (Main Competition, Best Actress Award, 2016); “On the Job” directed by Erik Matti (Director’s Fortnight, 2013); and “Anino” by Raymond Red (Short Film Corner, Palme d’Or for Best Short Film, 2000).

This year also saw another Filipino short film, “Jodilerks: Employee of the Month” starring Angeli Bayani in one of Cannes sidebars, Semaine de la Critique, which has also premiered films by Guillermo del Toro and Wong Kar-wai in its previous iterations.

In line with the bilateral exchange between the two countries, Institut Français has chosen Mendoza as the “parrain” (godfather) of the La Fabrique Cinéma, a mentorship program for young filmmakers. “Jodilerks” director Carlo Manatad was a participant of the program in 2016.

The festival is part of a year-long event, themed “Feel French,” organized in part by the French Embassy to celebrate 70 years of French-Philippine diplomatic relations. The festival aims to give Filipinos a taste of France “in various aspects of everyday life, including arts, culture, and of course, film, and at the same time, celebrate the growing and diversifying partnership between France and the Philippines in all sectors.”

Here are nine films that might be worth checking out during the festival’s run.

Personal Shopper (2016)

A sensual ghost story that’s shrouded more in intrigue and mystery than jump scares and cheap effects, “Personal Shopper” follows Kristen Stewart’s dazzling and enigmatic Maureen, a young American who works in Paris as a personal shopper for a French celebrity as she awaits supernatural contact from her twin brother, Lewis, who recently died, something they promised each other when he was still alive. As Maureen shuffles through the mundanity of a job she loathes, frustrated by her isolation and the lack of contact from her brother, she starts receiving text messages from an unknown source.

“Personal Shopper” is Stewart’s second film under the direction of Olivier Assayas. The first was 2014’s “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which won her the César Award (which Vanity Fair called France’s version of the Oscars), a first for an American actress.

Update: “Personal Shopper” is no longer available in the French Film Festival lineup.

Tour de France (2016)

Playing with the format of putting together unlikely pairs and a good old road trip to bring two different worlds together, “Tour de France” follows the journey of Far’Hook (Sadek), a twenty-year-old French-Arab rapper with scores he can’t settle in Paris. To help him lie low, his producer Bilal suggests that he accompany Bilal’s father, Serge (Gerard Depardieu), as a chauffer on Serge’s tour of all the ports of France — a promise he made to his wife — going on his own pilgrimage as he follows the path taken by 18th century painter, Joseph Vernet. Their adventure takes them to Marseille, where they find they aren’t the same people as when they first met.


21 Nights with Pattie (2015)

In a small village in the south of France, a forty-year-old Parisian named Caroline arrives to arrange the funeral of her mother, someone she barely saw when she was alive. Welcoming her is Pattie, a candid and humorous woman, who likes to talk about her love affairs with anyone who’ll listen. As the valley gets ready for the traditional midsummer dance, Caroline’s mother’s corpse mysteriously disappears. “21 Nuits avec Pattie” puts together the three things that make the world go round: sex, death, and humor.


In the Shadow of Women (2015)

French New Wave veteran Philippe Garrel directs "In the Shadow of Women (L'Ombre des femmes),” a romantic drama depicting the ease with which relationships can go awry. Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau), despite being poor, seem to have achieved contentment with their domestic lives — until both of them end up having affairs that cut through the apparent simplicity of their love. The film, told in beautiful black and white, was selected to open for the Director's Fortnight section in the 2015 Cannes Festival.


The White Knights (2016)

Joachim Lafosse's "The White Knights (Les Chevaliers blancs)” turns the refugee crisis on its head and asks how far — and how destructive — one's idealism can go. Based on the 2007 Zoe's Ark controversy (where a French charity that transported orphans from Chad for supposedly humanitarian reasons was accused of kidnapping them), "The White Knights" questions the means through which we pursue our convictions even in a world that severely needs all the help it can get. The Belgian-French drama won Lafosse the Silver Shell for Best Director in the 2015 San Sebastián International Film Festival, and was also selected to screen in the Platform section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.


Geronimo (2014)

Reminiscent of the clannish conflicts of “Romeo and Juliet” or “West Side Story,” “Geronimo” is a nerve-wracking drama that starts with a runaway bride, who sparks hostilities between her own Turkish family and the gypsies, of which her lover is a member. Director Tony Gatlif (who is of gypsy descent) puts the film's titular character, a social worker, in the middle of the musical battles and pent-up tensions of the St. Pierre neighborhood of southern France. The film premiered in the Special Screenings section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.


Nocturama (2016)

Anticapitalists seeking refuge in the heart of capitalism — this is what the second half of Bertrand Bonello’s “Nocturama” explores as it follows a diverse group of young men and women who stage a terrorist attack in Paris in the film’s first half. They spend the latter half of the film in a lavish department store, set to a soundtrack that includes Paul Anka’s version of “My Way.” The motives are unclear (an answer, “It had to happen. We knew it would,” summarizes the irrationality of their acts towards the end) but Bonello (“Saint Laurent”) unpacks how the youth can react to the demons of society and take matters to their own hands. The film was conceived years before the 2016 Paris terror attacks and the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015, but when it was released in time for the 2016 Toronto Film Festival, “Nocturama” was ridden with the realities that the world was facing. The film ended up on the 13th spot of Sight and Sound’s Best Films of 2016 critics poll.


A Castle in Italy (2013)

Several threads run through Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s film “A Chateu en Italie (A Castle in Italy),” her third feature film which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Official Selection. Bruni-Tedeschi plays Louise, a former actress, who has to deal with the death of her father, her mother trying to sell their heirlooms and open their villa (the titular castle) to the public, and her brother, Ludovic, who is stricken with an AIDS-related disease. Louise also meets a young actor who remembers her from one of her films and sets off an affair. The blunders and failings form the most part of the film’s ingredients, as the characters struggle to get out of their ruts.


I am a Soldier (2015)

Though bearing stylistic and narrative inspiration from the works of the Belgian filmmakers, the Dardenne brothers, Je suis un soldat (I am a Soldier )” tackles the gloomy fate of Sandrine as she tries to get back on her feet after losing her job and her apartment. She ends up working at her uncle’s dog kennels which turn out to be a home for trafficked dogs across Europe. The film was part of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard selection and stars Louise Bourgoin, described by The Hollywood Reporter as “a sort of Gallic Jennifer Lawrence.” The film won the Palm Dog Award (a play on Palm d'Or) in Cannes given to "the best performance by a canine," whether live or animated .


For more information and screening schedules, visit the French Embassy website and Facebook page, or Sureseats.com for tickets.