Language is a tricky thing. Here in Canada, and particularly in Ottawa, we’re keenly aware of the complexities that can arise when languages, and cultures, come together. Language simultaneously unites communities who share it and alienates those who do not. Language is a way of exploring the differences between us: that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. The language we use alters our approach to looking at the world and fundamentally defines how we can express what we find.
Film itself is a language, but one whose lexicon and grammatical rules are unique in the mouth of each filmmaker doing the talking. Which is perhaps why a film festival based not around a shared nationality, but a shared language is so intriguing to me.
Le 12e Festival de films Diverciné: les écrans de la francophonie du monde is an international film festival which “highlights the cultures of the French-speaking world in all their diversity”. Boasting films from France, Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Romania, Cambodia, Haïti and Switzerland, Diverciné is a unique opportunity to see how the tradition of French language (and culture) influences a national cinema. With such a mixture of nations contributing to the festival: some of whom have always been French, some for whom French language and culture was inserted during colonial rule, it’s exciting to think what each film might reveal about how French and Film as languages become unique according to which nation is speaking.
Diverciné runs from Friday March 7th to Sunday March 16th and screenings are all taking place at the marvelous Bytowne Cinema. In addition, a special panel discussion Cinema: A Mirror of our Society? will precede the 6:30pm screening on March 8th.
View the official festival trailer below:
Rock the Casbah Dir. Laïla Marrakchi (Morocco: Arabic, French, and English with French sub-titles)
Set in an opulent villa in Tangiers in summertime, the film unfolds over the three days of the rites of mourning dictated by Muslim custom, following the death of a prominent magnate and family patriarch. The solemnity of the occasion is disrupted by the unexpected return of Sofia, the rebellious youngest daughter who left Morocco, against her father’s wishes, seeking an acting career in the USA. Her sisters, Kenza and Miriam, rattled by her unsettling antics, come to reconsider their life choices in moments of emotional reckoning.
Des Étoiles Dir. Dyana Gaye (Senegal: French, English, and Wolof with English sub-titles)
Under the skies of three cities — Turin, New York, and Dakar — filmmaker Dyana Gaye charts the accidental intersections of characters in transit. “Accentuating the shadowy world of undocumented travel, the film unravels like a cinematic scroll of the mysterious grand design that draws people together, in empathy and antipathy, as they fight to shape their lives and pursue their aspirations…a gorgeously orchestrated meditation on being out of one’s element and negotiating a place for oneself in this world, knowing that life is itself merely a passage.” Rasha Salti (Toronto International Film Festival)
Millefeuille (Hidden Beauties) Dir. Nouri Bouzid (Tunisia: Arabic with French sub-titles)
Two women. A revolution. The ‘Arab Spring.’ Hidden Beauties is the poignant tale of two young Tunisian women striving to achieve the same level of emancipation enjoyed by the male population of their country as the old political order topples. As one woman resists putting on the veil and another resists taking it off, the two friends stand together in their fight.
Twa Timoun (Three Kids) Dir. Jonas d’Adesky (Haiti, Creole with French sub-titles)
Vitaleme, Pierre and Mikenson are twelve years old and live in a home in Port-au-Prince. They are friends and do everything together. Vitaleme is haunted by his memories as a child servant and obsessed by the idea of freedom. When the city is devastated by a massive earthquake, all three of them find themselves on the street. Three Kids is an unflinching, compassionate portrait of childhood’s end as well as the extraordinary resilience of these young Haitians facing overwhelming poverty, destruction, and loss.
Le Démantèlement (The Dismantling) Dir. Sébastien Pilote (Québec: French with English sub-titles)
Aging farmer Gaby Gagnon is a man of few words. He tends to a farm that has afforded him just three days’ vacation in the past four decades. His only visitor is his accountant, who urges Gaby to modernize. The only companionship Gaby wants is that of his two daughters, who have abandoned this rural lifestyle in favour of big-city Montreal. An elegiac film about the decline of rural Quebec, Pilote’s work is a moving study of human dignity, and Arcand’s performance is a tour-de-force.
Domestic Dir. Adrian Sitaru (Romania: Romanian with French sub-titles)
Domestic is an offbeat slice of everyday surrealism that revolves around the arrival of different animals — dog, chicken, rabbit, pigeon and cat —into the lives of several neighbours, arrivals that ignite arguments, negotiations, recriminations and reconciliations. Exploring the peculiar family dynamics of three interconnected families, Domestic is a bittersweet comedy that examines the often odd relationships we have with our pets, with the animals we eat, and with each other.
La Fée (The Fairy) Dir. Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy (Belgium: French with English sub-titles)
Set in the port city of Le Havre, The Fairy revolves around a hotel night clerk, Dom, whose pleasant evening in front of the TV is interrupted with the arrival of an attractive, shoeless woman, Fiona, who claims she’s a fairy and grants Dom three wishes. What follows is a series of skillfully executed gags and inventive sequences as Dom and the fairy try to reunite. Along the way are encounters with African immigrants trying to hop a ferry to England, a psychiatric hospital, and other narrative twists and turns.
9 mois ferme (9 Month Stretch) Dir. Albert Dupontel (France: French with English sub-titles)
Ariane Felder is an uptight, ambitious, defiantly single court judge, who unwillingly gets dragged to a New Year’s party. Several days later Ariane discovers, to her shock, that she’s pregnant! But what is even more surprising is that, according to the paternity test, the father of the child is none other than Bob, a criminal being prosecuted for a violent crime! Dupontel’s film combines raucous satirical humour with visual kinetics reminiscent of Amelie, and boasts a superb cast bolstered by unforgettable cameo appearances.
Frédéric Back : Grandeur Nature (The Nature of Frédéric Back) Dir. Phil Comeau ( (Quebec, New Brunswick)
Phil Comeau’s documentary is portrait of an artist-activist extraordinaire: Frédéric Back. The film follows Back’s exceptional path, from his early childhood growing up in Alsace, Paris and Brittany, to the beginning of his career and the love and life he found in Québec. An animation legend, he was a prolific illustrator and graphic artist in addition to being a filmmaker and animator.
** Followed by several short films from young and talented French Canadian filmmakers.
L’Image manquante (The Missing Image) Dir. Rithy Panh (Cambodia: French with English sub-titles)
The story of one man’s family’s experience of the Pol Pot dictatorship in Cambodia, the film is a brilliantly original evocation (with archival footage and clay models) of that which is gone, that which is absent. Says director Rithy Panh, “On its own, of course, an image cannot prove mass murder, but it gives us cause for thought, prompts us to meditate, to record History. I searched for it vainly in the archives, in old papers, in the country villages of Cambodia. Today I know: this image must be missing. I was not really looking for it; would it not be obscene and insignificant? So I created it. What I give you today is neither the picture nor the search for a unique image, but the picture of a quest: the quest that cinema allows.”
La Légende de Sarila (The Legend of Sarila) Dir. Nancy Florence Savard (Québec: French with English sub-titles)
**Animated feature, ages 6 and older
Set in the early twentieth century, the story concerns an Inuit tribe increasingly threatened by a famine inflicted by an evil goddess. Croolik, the resident shaman, is unable to solve the problem, but an elderly wise woman advises the tribe that plentiful food can be found in the far-off land of Sarila, a place where only “the pure of heart” can enter. Brimming with exciting adventures involving thin ice, menacing bears, and other dangers; The Legend of Sarila is an action-packed animated feature.
Les Grandes ondes (à l’ouest) (Longwave) Dir. Lionel Baier (Switzerland: French and Portuguese with French sub-titles)
Longwave is a winning comedy about a Swiss Radio crew who find themselves caught up in Portugal’s 1974 Carnation Revolution. When two unlikely radio personalities are assigned to travel to Portugal to report on Swiss investment in that country, sparks of many colours begin to fly. Uncovering evidence that the Swiss investment program in Portugal has been rather unsuccessful, they decide to head home, only to be suddenly swept up in the events of the April 1974 revolution. Caught up in the heady atmosphere of political and sexual liberation, they are energized and begin to shed their rather Swiss rigidity.
Le 12e Festival de films Diverciné: les écrans de la francophonie du monde runs from Friday March 7th – Sunday March 16th 2014 at Bytowne Cinema (325 Rideau Street). Tickets can be purchased at the box office: open half an hour before screening time. Cost/screening is $10.00 for non-members; $7.00 for Seniors, and Bytowne or CFI Members; $4.00 for full-time students. Festival passes are also available in packages of 5 or 12 films for a discounted deal! Please note: cash only.
For more details you can visit the CFI website.