Live Review- AFFF Review
Words by Daniel Hickey
The lounge of the Palace Como in South Yarra was bustling with excited voices. Those in attendance included journalists from various publications, dedicated staff, and other distinguished guests. The evening of February 6, marked the media opening of the 29th annual Alliance Française French Film Festival.
The opulent lounge was decked out with platters of canapés and desserts, and unsurprisingly there were many glasses of wine and flutes of champagne, à la française. The atmosphere was intriguing with not only French and English being heard, but a number of other languages and accents, too. Hence, a true reflection of Melbourne’s multiculturalism. The many guests not only spoke about the special screening they were invited to of See You Up There/Au revoir là-haut, by Albert Dupontel, but also of the number of films on offer during the festival’s run, February 28 – March 27.
After all the guests had a chance to mingle, the festival’s publicist, Annette Smith, said a few words in front of a full theatre. Ms. Smith’s humility was evident as she asked to, ‘please, tell your friends’ about the festival; words which seemed almost ironic given the crowd, and the festival’s huge popularity in the general public.
Gilbert Ducasse, President of the Alliance Française de Melbourne, also spoke about how the 2018 festival will, ‘include nine directorial debuts’, an exclusive Australian premiere of 50 Is the New 30/Marie-Francine by Valérie Lemercier, and approximately 900 screenings of 50 films throughout the festival.
A significant moment in the speech of Mr. Ducasse was where he spoke of the festival’s inclusion of the highly anticipated film BPM/120 Battements par minute by Robin Campillo. A top contender at France’s imminent César awards, with 13 nominations, ‘this film passionately illuminates the fight for social acceptance by people living with HIV… seen through the prism of the Act Up movement’, an organisation that fought the AIDS epidemic in the ‘90s. What’s more, Mr. Ducasse alluded to BPM in Conversation a meaningful event that will take place at ACMI on March 2. BPM’s co-writer and former president of Act Up-Paris, Philippe Mangeot, joined by Australian author, Christos Tsiolkas, will engage in an important discussion about the turbulent period of AIDS activism in Paris in the ‘90s, the activism that still continues today, and LGBTQIA+ activism more broadly.
See You Up There/Au revoir là-haut is also a contender for 13 César awards. Interestingly, ’this epic crime drama adapted from the best-selling, award-winning novel by France’s answer to James Ellroy, Pierre Lemaitre’ stars director Albert Dupontel, who is also the film’s writer. Beginning just before the Armistice of World War I, the film comes into its own when the audience is transported to Paris in 1919. Here, we are told the story of Édouard Péricourt, a young soldier who was disfigured in the trenches, trying to move on with his life in Paris. This new life includes artistic endeavours, a scam which is surprisingly established for the greater good, and the evolution of family relationships. A beautifully told story, that tackles the themes of masculinity, self-discovery and acceptance, as well as a few blunt, evocative illustrations of racism.
Following the screening, Deputy Director & Cultural Events Manager, Françoise Libotte, was undoubtedly excited for the festival to finally begin. The hard work of the Alliance is clear as Ms. Libotte said the festival is a project the Alliance has ‘been working on for more than six months’.
The hard work of the Alliance, teamed by its efforts to engage with prevalent social issues exemplifies the influence of this cultural event and makes it a highly awaited one by many Melburnians.