Every year, Carytown becomes awash in the blue, white, and red stripes of the French flag. Every shop in town has the posters proclaiming that the French are coming, and many shops are concocting plans to tie in promotions to the venerated and celebrated VCU French Film Festival. This year will mark the 16th consecutive year of the largest French film festival in North America*, held each year in our very-own "landmark movie palace", the Byrd Theatre. (*note: the History portion of the VCU FFF website indicates that the French government has officially recognized the Festival as the largest in the United States, but word-of-mouth that I always have heard is that it is the largest in North America)
This year the Festival will be held the last weekend in March, from March 28-30 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). Francophiles from all over North America will travel to Richmond for the celebrated festival, and French will be heard across the city as these visitors spend their money here. In fact, in 2007 the headcount was more than 20,000 over the course of the 24 films that were shown.
The Festival has far-reaching effects, and you only have to hear one or two of the French directors and actors that are brought over to present their films to realize how much they appreciate the opportunity to participate. Here is a blurb from the VCU FFF website that speaks about the French delegation:
The French directors and actors that come each year are the key
to the Festival’s success. Even in France, there’s not another venue where the public can meet the stars. For the guests, it is an opportunity to observe first-hand the crowd’s reaction to their films and to hear an unadulterated vision of their work. Indeed, as opposed to other festivals that are generally meant for cinéphiles, this one is aimed at the “curiosity of an unspecialized audience” (Claude Miller, director). Many comment that the experience is beneficial professionally for them, and they are delighted to discover the enthusiasm, interest, and the artistic and cultural affinities of their newfound American following.
It’s a wonderful opportunity for Richmond to be recognized on a global stage, and a wonderful opportunity for Richmonders themselves to be exposed to a cosmopolitan experience. I suggest that you take the opportunity to take in a show or two, or to bypass the lines by buying a full pass to all of the movies (complete ticket info can be found by clicking here). If nothing else, just take a stroll through Carytown that weekend and keep an ear open for French accents!