Silence, tout le monde!

The French Film Festival is a go

Pierce College is making strides in a post-covid era, eliciting more on-campus events to encourage student and community interactions as the school slowly succumbs to normalcy. 

It seems only appropriate that the Spring semester leads towards the reimplementation of the French Film Festival which kicks off Thursday, March 16. 

The festival, which will be held for the third time on campus, began as a step by step process last summer under the leadership of French professor Denis Pra and English professor Donna Accardo.

Accardo, who had watched the work accumulate starting from last year, was in awe of the thought and dedication Pra exhibited towards the event.

“The reason this event is here is because of his spirit and his work.” said Accardo, noting the work Pra did to get a grant from the French Embassy. “The fact that this is our third time receiving that award is due to Professor Pra.”

To qualify for the festival, Pierce went through an application process with the French Embassy, gaining the prestige and financial ability to host the event on campus. 

“The first step was the grant. We got a grant from the French Embassy. We were selected among three colleges in LA County,” said Pra, who was also the event organizer. “With the money, we pay for the license and rights to present the movies and promote the event.”

After being awarded the grant and licensing by the French embassy, Pra was sent a list of 50 movies that were sponsored and able to be shown at Pierce. These movies included French classics like “400 Blows”, and the César-nominated movie “Gagarine.” 

 “My goal is to bring the French experience on campus, and so students will be able to experience the French cinema, as well as French food because we have the support from Pascal Patisserie and Cafe,” Pra said.

The group participation in preparation for the event doesn’t end there. French Club President Anna Rull talked about how the club supported the event.

“Our club has posted various flyers around campus. We’re also posting on social media to spread the word,” said Rull. “I’m looking forward to new films from francophone countries and how different cultures share similar values or messages shown in these films.”

With the collaboration from offices such as Academic Affairs, the Vice President of Student Services, ASO, the French Club and individuals like Dean of Student Engagement Juan Carlos Astorga, and support from local businesses such as Pascal Patisserie, Pra and Accordo’s mission to bring the experience of French cinema and culture came to fruition.

Students can reserve seating on the festival website and as well as show up on the day of the screening, either way the experience is completely free. In addition to the films, students can look forward to raffles and prizes, with gift certificates to Pascal Patisserie and live performances from the band “Guys and Doll.”

Despite having last minute setbacks in venue, the event smoothly transitioned from the Great Hall to the Multicultural Center, which made its grand opening last month. The center encapsulates what the film festival needs, a more intimate setting meant to share in the various cultural experiences.

Astorga said that the event was another exciting opportunity to try and capture an on-campus event that could expose students to something other than what they already know.

“Part of my job is to really consider the outside the classroom experiences for students and I thought it was a magnificent opportunity to expose our students to culture outside of what they are normally exposed to,” said Astorga. “I don’t speak French, but I myself am so caught up in these movies, and at the end they can discuss them with the Q&A panels.”

According to Astorga, the Q&A panels are a way for students to really discuss and collaborate on the varieties of French culture and how the films capture the very same human experiences, even though they are from across the pond.

Accardo said there are many of these stories that she thinks will bring up the same issues that students have. Questions like: Where do they live? How can they protect themselves? How can they come to terms with trauma and loss in their own lives? How do they speak up to have rights as a woman or a minority?

Professor Pra said that even though the event is to express the importance of French cinema and culture, it is also an event that involves various educational departments in order to connect with different facets of the school.

“This is French cinema, but this is also an interdisciplinary event, so as you can see all the movies are connected with different departments. The first one is connected with the Music Department, because of Celine Dion,” said Pra. “Slalom is connected with the Departments of Physical Education because it highlights the abuse in sports.”

With the festival highlighting French films from various francophone regions, like Quebec and African countries, as well as over 50% of the films selected being directed by women, it demonstrates the importance of representation in every aspect of art.

Pra said that even though students are aware of the differences that French culture shares, they may still face a little weariness from something that is uncommon to their cultural experiences.

“In the end, students have to be open to discover something different. French movies are not run the same way as traditional American cinema,” said Pra, noting the different portrayals of violence between American and French movies. “Alternatively, French cinema may have more nudity.”

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