Josiane Balasko Among Stars Celebrating Richmond’s French Film Festival

More than 21,000 to attend nation’s largest French film festival

Josiane Balasko, one of the biggest stars of French film, headlines a cast of more than 40 actors and directors who will present their latest works at the 21st annual French Film Festival on March 21-24 at Richmond’s historic Byrd Theatre.

The event features nearly 30 feature and short films and is the nation’s largest festival dedicated to French film with more than 21,000 admissions. Sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond, the festival attracts attendees from as far away as Australia, Hawaii and California and transforms Richmond’s Carytown shopping district into a proverbial Paris.

Among the films is the North American premiere and performance of “Phono-Cinéma-Théatre,” a restoration of the 1900 film created for the Universal Exposition in Paris. The Cinémathèque Française and French Film Festival have partnered to bring this cinematic feat from film-making’s infancy to life, complete with live music performances and sound from the actual film.  

“Some of the biggest names in French cinema have participated in the French Film Festival, and we’re grateful to have another wonderful group of actors and directors showcasing their films this year,” said Françoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick, festival co-director and a professor of French and film studies at the University of Richmond.

Added festival co-director Peter Kirkpatrick, professor of French in VCU’s School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences: “Attendees not only have the chance to see and celebrate incredible French films, but they also can interact with the people who bring these films to life in an intimate setting.”

The French Film Festival has connections to the Cannes Film Festival – the same technical team from Cannes outfits the Byrd Theatre with the best sound and visual technology to enhance the experience. In addition, Kirkpatrick and Ravaux-Kirkpatrick have served as previous Cannes members and president for the jury for the Prix Vulcain (for independent film) at the Cannes Film Festival. Both also received the prestigious distinction, the Beaumarchais Medal, from the French Writers Guild for their creative ways of promoting French cinema.

Balasko, an actor, writer and director, is a three-time best-actress nominee for the César Awards (the French equivalent of the Academy Awards) and won as a writer of “Gazon maudit” (“French Twist”) in 1996. She and director Eric Besnard will present “Mes héros” (“My Heroes”), a story about a couple who fights constantly but adores each other. She also will join director Patricia Mazuy to present “Sport de filles” (“Of Women and Horses”). Both films will be shown March 23.    

Other films, which are subtitled in English, at the festival include:

  • “Le Prénom” (“What’s in a name?”): Adapted from a hugely successful stage production, the comedy stays true to its story as a man in his 40s is about to become a father for the first time and causes a commotion within his family when he discusses a name for his future son. Guillaume de Tonquedec won the César for best supporting actor, and Valérie Benguigui won for best supporting actress. Directors Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patelliere will present and discuss the film on March 24 at 2:10 p.m.

  • “Renoir”: Celebrated impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir is in his twilight years when he meets a young girl who will become his last model and spark a remarkable rejuvenation. The film is slated for U.S. distribution. The film will be shown March 21 at 10:10 p.m.

  • “Nos plus belles vacances” (“My Best Holidays”): Set in July 1976, Claude and Isabelle vacation with their two sons, Isabelle’s mother and two couples who are dear friends in what will become a memorable experience. Actress Julie Gayet will present and discuss the film March 23 at 2:40 p.m.

  • “Thérèse Desqueyroux”: The last film from director Claude Miller, who passed away in April and was the festival’s longtime honorary president, stars Audrey Tautou (“Amélie,” “The Da Vinci Code”) and depicts a woman who tries to free herself from an arranged marriage. It was the closing film at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Annie Miller, wife of director Claude Miller, will present and discuss the film March 24 at 4:40 p.m.

Passes can be purchased at Individual tickets can be purchased for $15 (if available) at the Byrd Theatre before each film. Visit for the complete 2013 French Film Festival schedule and synopses of each film.

Master Classes

The festival also features two Master Classes that are free and open to the public:

  • “’Round Bertrand Tavernier,” March 21, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., UR’s Ukrop Auditorium A roundtable discussion on unique and innovative film scenes led by French director Bertrand Tavernier and close collaborators cinematographer Pierre-William Glen, director Jean Achache and editor Ariane Boeglin.  

  • “Cinema and the State: France and the United States,” March 22, 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., VCU Grace Street Theatre – Marc Nicolas, general director of La Fémis, the world’s leading film school, will explore and compare cultural, social and political impacts on the U.S. and French film industries.

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"Sport de filles" ("Of Women and Horses")
"Sport de filles" ("Of Women and Horses")
"Mes Heros" ("My Heroes")
"Mes Heros" ("My Heroes")