French Film Festival continues cinematic tradition


The French Film Festival has returned to Calvin for its 15th year in a row. 

The Festival takes place over the course of one month, showing four films total. The films have subtitles in English, so viewers don’t need to speak French to follow along. After the film, an optional discussion is often held in the lobby, where moviegoers can share their reactions to the film with one another. 

In its first three years on campus, the Festival was funded by the Tournéss grant from the French American Cultural Exchange Foundation. This grant provides funding to colleges and universities to pay for viewing rights to show French films on campus. Professor Vicki De Vries, one of the three French professors who help to put on the festival, recalls the beginnings of the festival: “The first three years were sponsored by the Tournéss, but we had such a positive response from people on campus and from the community that we decided to keep it going on our own.”

De Vries, along with professors Otto Selles and Jolene Vos-Camy, work together to decide which films will be shown. “We keep our eyes open for films that look interesting, and professor Selles does a fair amount of research as well,” she says. “We look at films that have won awards at other film festivals, or that have won the César,” which is a French award similar to an Oscar. The professors then spend the summer watching the films, deciding which will be shown at the festival. 

The film festival attracts Calvin students, students from other colleges in the area, high school students, and many members of the community, such as Gilmar Gouéva, who has been attending the festival for seven years. Gilmar, originally from Brazil, learned French during his time as a high school student. 

“The festival helps me because I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder, depression that occurs at the same time every year) says Gouéva. “This [the festival], has helped me a lot — meeting people, talking to them and keeping the mind busy.”

De Vries also emphasized the importance of watching films as a community. 

“Just last night I had a couple come up to me after the film, and they were so excited to have the opportunity to see recent French films in a theatre setting,” De Vries said, adding that nowadays it is more common to simply watch movies at home, alone, via streaming service. “An important part of the experience is watching a film with other people.”

The French Film Festival will continue through September 26, concluding with “Paris La Blanche” at 7:30 p.m. in the Bytwerk theatre.