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Cinema Francais At The Tribeca Film Festival

New York City has had a love affair with French film for more than 75 years. From the silent film era to today’s Gallic gems, French films are consistently the highest audience attractions and the non-English cinema most represented in the Big Apple. The Tribeca Film Festival, which began its first day of screenings today, adds to this “Francophile” tendency with the premiere of several films a la francais.

Five dramatic features dot the Festival’s various film strands. In the World Narrative Feature Competition, there is the enigmatic 57,000 Kilometers Between Us by debut director Delphine Kreuter. In this provocative yet charming take on digital communication, the follows a teen caught between her stepdad (who records the family's supposedly perfect life online), her real father (now a transsexual), and the refuge of her online life as she searches for meaningful connections. The film, which has been a modest box office hit in its native France, is produced by Les Films du Poisson and is up for a prize in the Tribeca Film Festival competition.

Two French films are being showcased in Feature Narrative non-competitive section. The most celebrated is The Secret of The Grain, the surprise winner for Best Film and Best Director at this year’s Cesar Awards (the French Oscar). Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, the film is a remarkable depiction of a family of North African immigrants in a decaying port town in southern France. The film features a terrific ensemble cast who become as endearing as members of one’s own family. The film also won the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival and it young actress Hafsia Herzi has been singled out for her performance, winning a Cesar, Lumiere and Marcello Mastroianni Prize for her performance. Despite huge acclaim, the film was only recently been picked up for US distribution by IFC Films, which plans a very short theatrical release for the film later this summer.

Charly is a new coming-of-age drama from director Isild Le Besco. The film tells the tale of two teenagers, 14-year-old Nicolas, a young man tramping towards the sea, and Charly, a tough girl who takes him into her mobile home, where an unusual domestic arrangement evolves. The film, produced by television network Arte, had its world premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and makes its North American premiere at Tribeca later this week.

In the Encounter section of the Festival, a strand devoted to more experimental work, the documentary film Everywhere At Once is a definite stand-out. This poetic exercise brings together renowned photographer Peter Lindbergh, experimental filmmaker Holly Fisher and actress Jeanne Moreau, to weave a tapestry of images shaping one woman's deepest sense of selfhood. The film has its World Premiere at the Festival on Sunday.

The Tribeca Film Festival has become a major showcase for the short form, introducing audiences to the first works of wonderfully gifted film artists. Three short films will be shown: 20,000 Phantoms by Jean-Gabriel Periot, an expressionistic documentary on the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; The Milky Way, a short family drama by Luc Moullet; The Second Life Of The Sugar Bowl, an eye-opening domestic tale by Didier Canaux; and Supply And Demand, a satire on the life of a medical examiner, directed by Frédéric Farrucci.

And we’ve saved the best for last…..the Festival will offer a rare screening of a restored “lost” silent classic, Two Timid Souls (1929) from farceur René Clair. The restored film, which was the highlight of last fall’s Pordenone Silent Film Festival, is a near-forgotten gem which displays all the elegance, wit, and visual inventiveness that are hallmarks of its director. The film was restored by the Cinémathèque Française and will feature the world premiere of a new musical score played at the screenings by the New York University Chamber Orchestra. A true movie and music event to be savored…..

Sandy Mandelberger, Tribeca FF Dailies Editor
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