Luxembourg in the spotlight at Angoulême
by Guilhem Caillard
- The Grand Duchy, whose film sector has been booming for the past 20 years at least, has been chosen as the country in focus at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival
It is the signature of the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival (20-25 August): the event founded in 2008 focuses on a different national film industry each year. It's a beautiful way of highlighting the plurality of the francophone world, and the richness of this space which extolls the indispensable dialogue between cultures. After Quebec, Burkina Faso, Wallonia and the Ivory Coast, Luxembourg now gets the honour. Famed for its strategic position in the heart of Europe, of which it is a political vector, this small country notably plays a key role in the co-production of films in the French language, a characteristic underlined by the 12th edition of the festival.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is very attached to cinema and to new technologies (especially virtual reality), has already announced his participation in the opening ceremony in Angoulême. Cherry on the cake: the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess are also expected! A visit which cannot not be ignored, since it will be the first time that the festival will count “royal blood” among its prestigious guests.
It is in this favourable context that the duo of festival founders, Marie-France Brière and Dominique Besnehard, have gathered a selection of nine films recounting Luxembourg’s film history. As an introduction, the festival will screen Il est un petit pays, a rare documentary in which René Leclère travelled the region in 1937 at the government’s request. The film was shown at the International Exposition in Paris, serving as touristic promotion.
This focus on Luxembourg is also the occasion of underlining the legacy of filmmaker Pol Cruchten, whose recent passing shook the world of cinema (he was only 55 years old). Two works will be shown: Wedding Night – End of the Song, the first film from Luxembourg to be selected in Cannes, in 1992; as well as Black Dju, co-produced with France in 1996 and starring Philippe Léotard in one of his last roles on the big screen. Cruchten, who was also the author of a moving tale about the survivors of the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl (Voices from Chernobyl [+see also:
film profile], 2016), was about to direct his ninth film, Visage(s) d’Afrique, in September, in Mauritania.
Among the other films not to be missed at the festival, viewers will be able to (re)discover Prejudice [+see also:
interview: Antoine Cuypers
film profile] (2015), a Belgian-Dutch-Luxembourgish thriller directed by Antoine Cuypers and starring Nathalie Baye; and Barrage [+see also:
interview: Laura Schroeder
film profile] (2017) by Laura Schroeder. This intimate drama reuniting Isabelle Huppert and her daughter Lolita Chammah, mostly shot at the Upper Sûre Lake, represented Luxembourg in the Oscar race in 2018.
The festival will certainly not forget to highlight Luxembourg’s internationally recognised expertise in the world of animation. An impulse which goes back to 1990, the year when the animation BTS at the Lycée des Arts et Métiers was created. Alexandre Espigares, a former student of this course, has co-directed with Laurent Witz, Mr Hublot, which won the Best Animated Short Film Oscar in 2014. This short, also programmed at the festival, presents an absurd world where human beings and animals are crossed with machines: at the heart of this strange universe, a maniacal old man welcomes under his roof a robot-dog that will prove difficult to handle… Financed with the help of France, this little formal gem nevertheless remains a purely “local” product, since it was entirely created by the studio Zeilt Productions in Luxembourg.
Two other animated films have also been selected: White Fang [+see also:
film profile] by Alexandre Espigares, celebrated in 2017 at the Sundance and Annecy festivals, and The Swallows of Kabul [+see also:
interview: Zabou Breitman, Eléa Gobbe-…
film profile] directed by Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, which premiered in Cannes this year. This drama, set in Taliban-run Afghanistan in 1998, is among the ten features competing at the festival for the Valois d’Or. Overall, the festival has thus put together a rather appetising selection of films from Luxembourg, which constitutes a rare occasion for the French public to discover the undeniable talent of the country in terms of cinema.
(Translated from French)
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