Hints of French influence are all around Baton Rouge, from Cajun heritage roots to the La Madeleine restaurant, but French culture will take the big screen during the Tournées Festival at the University.
Throughout the month of October, Tournées Festival will screen a different French film every week. The movies range from the story of a young Holocaust survivor to the aristocracy during the French Wars of Religion, from a brothel at the turn of the 20th century to a widow janitor in modern-day Paris.
Jean Brager, coordinator of French business and media arts and co-organizer of Tournées Festival, said the five films showing at the festival reflect some of the best of the current French film scene.
“All these movies are definitely and resolutely contemporary French movies,” Brager said. “Tournées Festival is aimed at showing more contemporary productions, more independently produced movies and definitely off-the-beaten-path productions.”
Tournées Festival focuses this year on stories of women throughout history. Brager said he believes the selection of films is emblematic of a wide variety of representations of women.
“Sometimes women are used in movies just as a prop or a background noise in history,” Brager said. “Here in these movies, it seems like women are writing their own ‘her-story.’”
Made possible through a grant from the French Embassy to director of the Department Film and Media Arts Jim Catano, the festival has been a collaborative effort between several departments including History, Jewish Studies, Women and Gender Studies and French Studies. This should help the Tournées Festival appeal to a broad range of people, Brager said.
“I think it’s very important that everyone pitches in so that we understand that cinema is a cross-disciplinary art,” Brager said.
Each screening will be followed by a discussion of the film with a panel of professors and industry professionals, which Brager said is the true heart of the festival.
“This is the difference between a film series and a festival,” Brager said. “A festival’s main goal is to bring about a conversation.”
Brager said the experience may be valuable to many students, even those with no knowledge of French language or culture. An actor and director himself, Brager said the Tournées Festival offers important insight on cinema.
“This should be a no-brainer for people who are movie buffs because with the booming industry in Louisiana, I think we definitely can make a difference when we are training,” Brager said. “What the program in film and media arts at LSU is doing right now is really exposing students to not only the film theory but also the production.”
In addition to bringing light to an increasingly local industry, Tournées Festival hopes to show francophones, francophiles and film fans alike what sets French cinema apart.
“I think French cinema has this to offer to the world: It doesn’t want to answer questions. It really just wants to pose them,” Brager said. “This is an alternative to blockbusters.”