Adelaide Film Festival: French language films

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On Monday we told you about films from France but not in French that are on at the Adelaide Film Festival from 10 to 21 October. This time, we tell you about French language films at the Adelaide Film Festival. We have also told you about short-films in Wednesday’s article. 



Funan is a Belgian, French and Luxembourger film in French. It’s an animated film which tells of the terrible trials of a family trying to survive the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. On 17 April 1974, the Pol Pot Army take Phnom Penh and order immediate evacuation of the city.

In the chaos, Chou and her husband are separated from their son Sovanh . They are sent to a slave labour camp and Sovanh is sent to a children’s camp to be indoctrinated and trained for military service. This couple’s quest to find their son is the heart, as strong as it is emotive, of a story that juxtaposes the Cambodian countryside with striking representations of life and death during the Khmer Rouge’s insane campaign to create an agrarian utopia.

Funan is a poignant monument to the millions who perished and a tribute to the strength of the human spirit and the power of love.



Girl is a Belgian-Dutch film in French which won several prizes at Cannes this year.  It is the story of Lara (played by Victor Polster) who wants only to be a ballerina. However her bodily frustrations come from the fact that she was born a boy. She embraces her transgender status with impatience, that of the person that she wants to be. For the most part, her father and her dancing colleagues are supportive. Writer Lukas Dhont concentrates not on the bullies in dance but on the idea that the most important conflicts in life are those which are internal.



Master of the French Nouveau Vague cinema, Jean Luc Godard, is now 87 years old but that hasn’t stopped him creating new films, such as The Image Book.

In this film, Godard is a collage artist and essayist who observed a world saturated with images.  He juxtaposes images and sounds with such ferocity that he creates a sense of a contemporary moment where we drown in images with uncertain connections. As he says “images and words. Like a bad dream written on a stormy night. Under Western eyes. Paradise lost. The war is here”.




This is an Australian, German and British film which is in Mandarin, Farsi, French and English. It’s a hybrid documentary about what happens on Christmas Island, where Australia’s high-security immigration detention centre is found and where asylum seekers end up. In that detention centre, there is a Chinese community whose burial rituals are based on the idea of spirits stuck between worlds.

But Christmas Island is not just about human immigration. It is a migration place for millions of red crabs, which means that authorities spend as much of their time facilitating this migration as they do imprisoning human migrants.

At the centre of all of this is Poh Lin Lee, a therapist who works with asylum seekers and tries to help them in their situations which is as intolerable as the result of their fleeing is uncertain. Taken together, these aspects of the island provide a new way of looking at the effects of politics on asylum seekers, which is completely new but also equally troubling.


KNIFE + HEART (Un couteau dans le Coeur)

A French, Swiss, Mexican production in French starring Vanessa Paradis in the role of Anne, based on a true person, who produced third-rate gay porno films in around 1979. She is passionate, alcoholic, flamboyant, romantic: clandestine heroine and uncontrollable bulldozer.

After her editor and lover Lois leaves her, Anne tries to win her back by filming her most ambitious film with her trusted, flaming side-kick Archibald. But when one of her actors is killed, Anne is drawn into the investigation. The case becomes bizarre and terrifying when it appears that a leather-masked psycho is targeting Anne’s actors and team.

Yann Gonzalez, an important figure in gay cinema, shows that nothing is as successful as excess, and that nothing fascinates as much as transgression.



A documentary in her own words.

A French documentary in French, Italian and English about Maria Callas, the great opera singer who passed away 40 years ago. Tom Volf spent 4 years looking for unknown footage, unseen photographs, private recordings, personal home movies and candid letters composed by the legendary diva. The documentary is guided by Maria Callas’ epistles (read aloud by French acting royalty Fanny Ardant) and is a stunning portrait of a woman whose magnificent voice was matched by her tempestuous marriage to Aristotle Onassis and scandal-plagued personal life.

As Maria’s story unfolds we catch rare glimpses of her in the company of major 20th century figures including Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Alain Delon, Yves Saint-Laurent, Winston Churchill, J.F.K., Luchino Visconti and Elizabeth Taylor.



Sofia is a film from France, Morocco and Qatar in both Arabic and French. Under Moroccan law, having sexual intercourse outside of marriage is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Despite that, 150 women give birth outside of marriage each day in Morocco. This film tells the story of Sofia, a woman who comes from a middle classed family from Casablanca. She denies even being pregnant. The hospital gives her 24 hours to provide papers that identify the father of the child or they will inform the relevant authorities.

What follows is in part a social thriller, in part social provocation. Sofia and her cousin Lena, try to reach an agreement that affects family, honour and most of all social status.

This film won Best Screenplay in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes.



This film also screened at the Sydney Film Festival. It’s a film from France and Germany in French, French sign language and German. Christian Petzold, a German filmmaker, has adapted Anna Segher’s novel in which the story takes place during the German invasion of France. However, in the film, the story takes place in modern-day Marseille, while the story remains that of German refugees during the Second World War.


What films are you going to see at the Adelaide Film Festival?

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