Some 28 French movies are now available to stream until February 13 as part of My French Film Festival. UniFrance, an organization in charge of promoting French cinema throughout the world, is the instigator of this event, and hopes to reach eight million viewers this year compared with six million in 2016. French director Jean-Paul Salome (Belphegor Phantom of the Louvre, Female Agents) is president of UniFrance, and talked to France-Amérique about the importance of the American market for French cinema.
France-Amérique: How did French cinema perform abroad in 2016?
Jean-Paul Salomé: French cinema is highly appreciated abroad thanks to its diversity, the gender and racial equality in its casts, and its talented actors. It offers audiences mainstream movies such as Luc Besson’s Lucy [463.4 million dollars at the Box Office], as well as art films such as Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color [19.5 million dollars at the Box Office]. The latter was also nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 2013 Golden Globes.
Even in an undeniably Francophile country such as the United States, French cinema makes up less than 2% of movies shown in theaters. Is French cinema losing steam abroad?
Things haven’t been easy for the last few years. Hollywood is everywhere. We have seen an omnipresence of American mainstream and blockbuster movies, which invest a lot of money in communication and publicity. These big productions leave little room for experimental and art films, which have smaller budgets. Unfortunately, there were no French blockbusters in 2016, such as Lucy (2014) or the Taken trilogy (2009, 2012, 2014), which together generated 1.3 billion dollars. The action films Taken 3 [326.4 million dollars at the Box Office] and The Transporter Refueled [72.6 million dollars at the Box Office] represented 90% of earnings for French cinema in 2015. But Isabelle Huppert’s award at the Golden Globes this year shows that French cinema still has a bright future ahead in the United States!
Why did you choose an exclusively online, “dematerialized” format for My French Film Festival?
In many countries — including the United States — French cinema is preferred by older audiences. Most young people either don’t yet have a taste for this type of cinema, or know little about it. Online distribution enables us to attract younger audiences to the festival, and give them a low-cost access to movies by young French directors. For example, this year’s selection includes Eva Husson’s Bang Gang, which promotes upcoming talents such as Finnegan Oldfield and Marilyn Lima, and addresses the theme of sexuality from a different angle.
Through its program and its distribution, My French Film Festival is an alternative to traditional movie theaters.
Our objective is to present unique, lesser-known movies that enjoy little or no visibility anywhere else. There would be absolutely no point in audiences taking part in My French Film Festival if they could see our movies wherever they liked. As it happens, French movies are less and less visible on the American market, and the number of theatres is dropping. Making films available to stream means we can tear down barriers between urban and rural areas. Someone living in New York can easily go and watch a French movie at their local cinema. Someone living in Broken Bow, Nebraska, probably won’t have the same opportunities. This fully-online edition of My French Festival gives everyone access to a high-quality selection of movies.
My French Film Festival
13 January through 13 February 2017
$1.99 per movie or $5.99 for every movie