Friday, November 6, 2009

Film feature: Florida festival brings best films of La Belle France

Milan Mauger and Marianne Basler in Sans Rancune!


By Hap Erstein

Fortunately, Patrick Giminez lives in Boca Raton.

As a result, Palm Beach County residents do not have to travel to Miami this weekend to feast on French films. Of course they could, because the French cineaste who has been distributing films for the past 25 years is kicking off his fifth annual France Cinema Floride at the Tower Theatre in Miami. But those same 11 films -- nearly all of which are American premieres -- will be screened next weekend, Nov. 13-15, at Sunrise Cinemas in Boca’s Mizner Park.

Asked what the focus of the dual-site festivals are, Giminez laughs ruefully.

“I’m just doing it for fun, because the movie industry is doing very badly,” he says. “I lost money and it’s a lot of trouble, so the festival is just for fun.”

The 11 films in the festival were each released in France about eight months ago, and have not yet acquired distribution in the United States. Giminez has access to the films because of personal relationships with the filmmakers over the years. He says he has been contacted by the Palm Beach International Film Festival, miffed that he has succeeded at getting these films instead of the larger, more established event.

“They come to me and say, ‘We have more money than you, but we try to get movies that you have and are told we cannot have them. Why?’ Why? Because I’m French and I grew up with the guys who have these films. We have a history together, you don’t,” says Giminez.

Even in a rough economy, France Cinema Floride has attracted moviegoers. Last fall, the two festivals drew over 6,000 people -- 3,800 in Miami and 2,500 in Boca.

If these movies did return to commercial theaters here, they would surely to relegated to small art houses, but Giminez notes that they are considered mainstream films in France.

“You could call them art movies, but we look at films differently,” he says. “Many of the movies I bring sold more than 1 million admissions in France. Even though that would be nothing in America, in France it is huge.

“They are not just art movies, they are really good movies.”

Asked to choose three of his favorites in this year’s festival, Giminez selects:

* Blame It On Mum (Quelque Chose a Te Dire), Friday, 11/13, 7 p.m. -- A dysfunctional family ensemble drama. “It’s a good movie because it’s about the differences in the generations. And the screenwriter (Jerome Soubeyrand) and one of the actors (Marina Tomé) will be here with the film.”

* Coco, Saturday, 11/14, 7:15 p.m. -- The tale of a self-made man making preparations for his son’s bar mitzvah, the “national event of the year.” Giminez calls it “a huge comedy. The director is known for excess. You will either love it or not.”

* No Hard Feelings (Sans Rancune!), Saturday, 11/14, 4:15 p.m. A drama about a boarding school student who believes that his French teacher could be his father, who disappeared during a raid in World War II. “It’s a great, great film, but serious, so I put it in the middle of the festival, not the opening.”

The entire festival schedule can be found at www.francecinemafloride.com, where tickets can be purchased in advance. Tickets are $10 ($12 for the opening and closing films), with discounts for seniors and students. An all-access pass is $100, $65 for students.

Pascal Elbé, Marina Tomé, Patrick Chesnais, Mathilde Seigner,
Sophie Cattani and Charlotte Rampling
in Blame It on Mum (Quelque Chose a Te Dire).

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