Les bons moments roulez at 22nd French Film Festival

Madison Mcloughlin

The lights dim, the sound of munching popcorn fills the air and the giant, one-screen room comes alive with a film. The subtitles on the bottom of the screen translate the French dialogue into English, offering New Orleanians to experience French culture in the comfort of the plush Prytania Theatre seats.

From Feb. 15 to Feb. 21., French films were screened in front of over 4,000 individuals. The French Film Festival is one of the longest running foreign festivals in the United States, according to the New Orleans Film Society.

Fallon Young, executive director of the New Orleans Film Society, loves seeing film fanatics pack the theater. The audience has grown in the past 22 years from a few hundred to several thousand attendees, she said.

“The French Film Festival celebrates French language and culture and its influence on New Orleans,” Young said. “New Orleans is also a city without great access to foreign language cinema in theaters.”

In the 22 years that the festival has been recurring, Young said that the film selections have broadened from typically just narrative features from France to French documentaries, short films and narratives from French speaking countries from around the world.

Clint Bowie, the artistic director of the New Orleans Film Society, is one of the members of the curator team behind the film choices for the festival.

“For the past couple of years, we’ve really been .looking to broaden the idea of what constitutes a ‘French film,’” Bowie said. “We’ve shown more films from the global francophone film industry, including films from French-speaking Africa, the Caribbean and Canada.”

Additionally, Bowie said that the festival has begun to include French-language music and the attendance of more French filmmakers, elevating the audience’s experience so that they’re able to engage with filmmakers through Q & A sessions.

“Cinema really has such incredible power to engage and transform audiences, and that’s at the core of all that we do as an organization,” Bowie said.

Young also recognizes the importance of audience interaction, discussion and immersion into French culture.

“As with all festivals, the opportunity to convene and experience a film together, as it was meant to be shown, on the big screen, is something special–– especially as we begin to consume more and more content on smaller screens, such as on our phones,” Young said. “The connection between audience members and the conversation after the collective experience of a film screening in a theater are how we build community through cinema, and part of how we enjoy and better understand this art.”