We chat to Karine Mauris, Artistic Director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024

Karine Mauris, Artistic Director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024
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Karine Mauris, Artistic Director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024 and Cultural Attaché to the French Embassy in Australia, has just programmed her last festival. We talk to her about the films she chose for this festival, the ones she didn’t and why, her years in the role, and her time in Australia. A must read!

Karine Mauris, Artistic Director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024

So Karine, it’s the last Alliance Française French Film Festival that you’re programming?

It’s my last festival, yes.


And so that makes 4 Alliance Française French Film Festivals now with this one.

Yes, I arrived in October 2020, so I arrived, immediately finished the line-up and presented the line-up, so for ’21.


Because you arrived during COVID

Yes, I was supposed to arrive much earlier. I was supposed to arrive at the end of the summer. But what was nice was that I’d been to a French film festival in December, which gave me a chance to prepare well and see a lot of films. I saw 25 films in four or five days.


It was Angoulême, if I remember correctly.

Yes, that’s right, which is really good allows you to see 25 films in five days. And all the latest [films], I base a lot of my selection on those films, on the Angoulême choices. I like what they do.


You’ve also been to Cannes?

I was at Cannes this year. It was a beautiful Cannes. It was a great festival, with lots and lots of quality French films. Lots of films in period costumes too. I have seven films that were at Cannes in my festival.


Yes, there are also several films nominated for the Césars on the programme of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024

12 for the Césars.


All that’s missing from the most nominated films is The Goldman Case.

Yes, but it was released beforehand. In fact, it was the distributor who released it before the festival. They took it for the Jewish [International Film] Festival, so they didn’t want to give it to us. They wanted to keep it for their own festival. It’s a real shame because for me it was one of the most beautiful films.


I thought maybe it was because Australian audiences didn’t know the story.

No, I think it’s true that it probably isn’t easy to present in Australia because there’s so much. It’s a trial, a killer. And it’s true that I’ve only seen some of them. So I don’t know how it works with Justine Tiret[‘s film [Anatomy of a Fall] which is just an absolute masterpiece.


But it’s very, very good, except that it’s very psychological, there’s a lot to read and when there’s a lot, a lot to read, it’s very difficult, after a while it gets tiring. And I had a bit of a problem with some of the films I’d seen where there was a real voiceover. When there’s a voiceover, it’s very difficult for Australians because it’s constant, even if it tells what you’re seeing, they don’t have the time to see and read.


So it’s better to avoid it, and I don’t know how it’s going to work, but it’s a very, very fine film. The Goldman Case is one of the two films I don’t have. Justine Triet’s film [Anatomy of a Fall] has already been released. Madman wanted to launch it at the same time as the Oscars because we were sure it would be up there. So they wanted to take advantage of the announcement at the same time and that’s great, but it’s better that they released it then than during our festival, so that’s great.


And then there is Four Daughters, which will be released separately?

We kind of missed it. The problem is that it’s not in French at all. It’s 90% in Arabic. So since we’re the festival that values language, unfortunately it couldn’t fit in, because I’d not been able to get round that. The previous film she’d made, The Man Who Sold His Skin, took place in Belgium half the time, so it was 50% in Syrian and 50% in French, a little more, maybe 60%, but it was so exceptional, I was so smitten when I saw it that I couldn’t resist buying it. And I’m very, very, very, very in love with this director. So I was sad not to have Four Daughters. What’s more, they bought it very late, in December, and I finished my line-up in November.


I was wondering when is the deadline for choosing films for the Alliance Française French Film Festival?

Around 1ᵉʳ November, 15 November, the line-up is finished because then we have to fit over 5,200 screenings into an Excel in 14 cities and then we have to incorporate it etc. So we have to have the timing, etcetera, which is clean, etcetera, and then we have to choose the films for the Alliance Française French Film Festival. So we need to have the timing, etc., cleaned up, etc., and we need to know whether they’re for mature audiences or not. Unfortunately, between November and March, there’s something called the holidays, when there’s no-one around. Between 15 December and 15 January, there’s nobody left, and even the printers close.


So you have to have that time, because if you want to print 100,000 copies of the catalogue, it has to be finished, so even if we could finish in mid-October, that would be even better. But unfortunately, we’ve got a lot of festivals coming up and we haven’t got all the films yet, because we’ve got the Toronto Festival, we’ve got the Berlin Biennale…


Do you go to all the festivals?

No, but the distributors do. We generally work with them.


Travelling and watching films isn’t a bad job.

That would be great. No, I’ve been very lucky to have already been able to go to Cannes.


And you’re going to stay in Australia? I believe you have an Australian boyfriend.

My boyfriend is Australian. And I think you could say that “my heart belongs to Australia”. My daughter is going to textile and fashion school in Sydney and she really wants to stay here. So I’m trying to position myself between France and Australia, to see how I can continue to build bridges between the two countries, either in production or on tour. I’ll see.


I’ve got lots of projects, I’m going to stop, I’m going to take a three-month holiday which I haven’t taken in four years. So now I’m going to settle down for a bit and refocus. Catch my breath so I can get going again.


So now let’s talk about the films you’ve chosen for the Alliance Française French Film Festival, because we’ve just talked a bit about the films you would have liked. There are 41 films, 39 of which are new because there’s The Children of Paradise and The Intouchables which are old.

Then there are some films that have already been shown at certain festivals, of course, like The Taste of Things, which was shown at the Perth Festival, and another film that was also shown at a festival.


So there are the big titles, The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan, The Three Musketeers: Milady, and Jeanne du Barry, which are, I imagine, compulsory without even thinking about it.

Yes, I saw it [Jeanne du Barry] at Cannes, I saw it at the opening and I thought it was very good. And she’s an interesting director. I really liked Polisse, which she made with this hand-held camera and improvisation. With this one, you can feel that it’s much more controlled, that she’s really worked on her sets, her angles and her point of view.


It’s a sort of Pretty Woman story in period costumes, with the real challenge being not to overplay the character played by the king and played by Johnny Depp by making him speak too much in his English accent. I was very worried that he wouldn’t be believable and in fact he’s really very believable. What’s more, the King didn’t speak much at the time because every word he said could be interpreted and could cause collateral damage. So it’s quite practical for Johnny Depp because he has a lot of expression, a lot of presence, a lot of sensuality and at the same time, very little text, very short sentences and, as a result, you don’t hear his accent.


Johnny Depp dans Jeanne du Barry
Johnny Depp in Jeanne du Barry

And having been with Vanessa Paradis for several years, I think he must speak a bit of French. He must be used to French. So that’s it, it’s not that shocking. On the other hand, it’s really very well directed.


But with all the films, when I’ve made my selection, I’m always trying to find something – at the end of the selection, I say to myself, what’s the common denominator? What is the umbrella of the festival?


So, is there a theme?

That’s it, and I think there were two values that are very important to me and that we really need at the moment, after two years of COVID, with this whole very individual period, and that’s the values of diversity and humanity and of rediscovering, reconnecting with humanity because we’ve been really badly treated in recent years where the other was an enemy. Fear was present.


And so when I watch all the films, they all have this very human aspect, whether it’s All your faces, which for me is the absolute collective film, one of my great favourites. Really, I could watch it four or five times, because the stories are so intertwined and the acting is so, so strong.


And it’s about the victims of crime talking to the criminals?

It’s something else. It’s interesting because restorative justice was introduced in Australia in 2001 and in France in 2014. So we came much later. And restorative justice is about recreating dialogue and understanding of others, both by the victims and by those who have done the crime. So there you have it, a very, very fine film. All the actors were nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the César Awards.


Yes, I’d seen that and yes, that’s the one they’re all nominated for – so it’s almost a done deal for the film, they’re going to win a prize at least !

So that’s it. So there are a lot of films like that that deal with humanity, whether it’s L’Abbé Pierre: A Century of Devotion, who is obviously a very important figure, who created this appeal in the winter of ’54.


So you don’t have to be religious to enjoy this film?

No, not at all. It’s got nothing to do with religion. On the contrary, it’s really about one man’s destiny.


I have to admit that when I saw Abbé in the film titles, I saw that and I didn’t know if it would have been for me.

He was really a rebel. He was really someone who worked for the poor and there’s no preaching in it. He rarely talks about God. What’s more, he talks more about us humans. It’s really a cry for humanity. So that’s what it was.

©Jérôme Prébois

But of my two axes: diversity and humanity. And humanity can also be dark, the dark side of humanity. And we have films like Catherine Breillat’s Last Summer and A silence that are quite dark.


I was going to say. There are also secrets in A silence and also the post-war film in which the couple have secrets.

I love this film, it’s a real favourite. I fought to get Along Came Love acquired. It’s a really, really, really beautiful story. This one is worth talking about because it’s extraordinary, it’s touching. It’s also about a post-war period that was pretty dark and not very beautiful. It starts off very strong and it’s a very beautiful love story, completely out of the ordinary.


And there’s a lot in the festival that talks about other people’s opinions, whether it’s the film Rosalie, which was one of the shock films of the Cannes Festival.


And The Animal Kingdom.

And The Animal Kingdom. Absolutely. These two films really moved me. I think Rosalie has a very Jane Campion feel to it, and The Animal Kingdom, for me, is the most beautiful story, the most beautiful father-son relationship I’ve seen in a long time. I think Romain Duris plays it extremely well, as does the young boy we saw last year in The Winter Boy, Paul Kircher, who is truly extraordinary.


And I’m someone who hates anticipation films, even scary ones. I’m a real baby,


Yes, I remember because I’m like you and you told us that when you programmed the film Final Cut

It was very funny, but the start was unbearable.


I don’t know, [with The Animal Kingdom], I was a bit afraid to go there and in the end, it’s extremely poetic. It’s extremely political but also poetic. And we see the evolution of this young boy who is affected by adolescence and who is in the process of becoming a man and who is confronted with things bigger than himself.


With his mother?

With his mother, and with the people around him who change the way they accept others. The difference is real.


And we have something of the same thing with The Snow Must Go On. I think it is also an important film that I wanted to include, which is a little film that we bought. It’s a film for teenagers about ecology with its school classes, and they are a bit like the losers at school who aren’t any good at school. And the people in the class aren’t not very good-looking, they’re not very cool, they’re not the favourites, so they’re a bit left out.


Then a teacher arrives and says, “Hang on, I’m going to take you to the Alps, I’m going to take you to the glacier“. And that’s when they realise that the glacier is melting and that they have to save it. And so the fact that there’s a cause, something bigger than them, makes them bigger in fact, it brings them out of their rebellion. It was very important to include this film, which is a good example. My daughter is 20, but she’s seen it, she’s taken all the plastic out of the house and they’re right. We have to be active.

Les tètes givrées

It makes you think and reflect.

Think and act. And that’s important. And I have quite a few films like that, like Divertimento. A lot of films are true stories, biopics. So Divertimento, for example, is about this conductor.


And the cellist

And the cellist is her sister. In fact, it’s a true story. By the way, the conductor is coming to Australia, [she won’t be coming to Adelaide because you’ll have the festival later. So it’s not on the right dates].


What have you learnt in the four years you’ve been programming the Alliance Française French Film Festival?

What have I learnt? There are films that I didn’t necessarily think would do well, that did very, very well and I was really pleasantly surprised. In fact, you have to get out of the French mindset and say to yourself that there are things that don’t work here, like very, very French humour that doesn’t work, films that are a bit too weird, a bit too tense, don’t necessarily work.


Yes, I really liked the Quentin Dupieux films. You haven’t programmed his film from last year this year?

No, because it’s a private room where people talk all the time. There’s too much dialogue and it’s very hard to translate Quentin Dupieux, so it’s likely to fall flat. I saw the subtitled version with my boyfriend and he didn’t like it at all, so I thought, he’s Australian, he doesn’t get the humour, it’s not going to work.


So he’s a bit of a touchstone for Australian audiences.

Yes. But on the other hand, I’m quite proud because I’ve always managed to present two or three films that weren’t necessarily very successful, but the people who saw them thanked me. And I was very happy to present them. There’s a film like that that I really love, and I hope people will go and see Rosalie. And I hope people will go and see Àma Gloria.

Rosale (c) Trésor Films - Gaumont /Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024
Rosalie (c) Trésor Films – Gaumont

I’ve been waiting for Àma Gloria because I’d seen it on a few festival programs.

And that’s it. And it’s such a tender, beautiful film, which touched me so much and moved me so much. I wanted to bring the director over, but unfortunately she had a new baby and couldn’t travel. And I think this film is a great success. I think it’s really magnificent. And it also uses animation. Yes, so it’s really nice, really well done.


You also programmed The Skies of Lebanon a few years ago, which also featured animation.

It’s another of the films I presented. I was disappointed this year that I couldn’t find a great Arab film to present.


Because there was also Arab Blues a few years ago…

I also bought Arab Blues, The Skies of Lebanon and Memory Box. I loved Memory Box. These were all films I really, really enjoyed. This year, I couldn’t find any because they were all in Arabic and that blocked everything.


But that’s good, because it means that these countries are also starting to produce films of their own, in their own language. And I had a film about Algeria that I thought was a bit rough and too violent.


I’ve heard that The Three Musketeers is much more violent than the original.

In fact, there have been many versions of The Three Musketeers, many cloak-and-dagger versions. The best known are the ones from the 70s and 80s, so this really is a film for our time. I think [today’s] blockbusters are much more violent, if you want to reach an audience, young people and so on, you have to blow their minds. And there’s a pretty dark side to this film.


All the actors are extraordinary. It’s France’s biggest budget, at 72 million, 36 million per film, and 27 weeks of shooting. So that means they did it all in one go. It’s a completely crazy cast. It was truly epic. The characters are very endearing. From the very first one, I think the actor who plays d’Artagnan is completely believable. I think Eva Green is magnificent, she bursts onto the screen as she knows how, and Cassel is dark, Pio Marmaï is luminous, and Romain Duris is chic and a bit crazy, crazy, what have you. I think it works very well. The king is played by Louis Garrel. He’s magnificent. I love the king.


It’s well done because the second film, Milady, you can have the second without seeing the first, you can’t see the first without seeing the second. You have to. It’s really a sequel, you’re really hooked. So we organised double screenings, I had double screenings organised and I like the double screenings. It reminds me of my childhood when I used to go and see two films in a row. I’ve always loved that and that’s why this year, as it’s my last edition, I wanted to do it.


I also wanted to give something back because Australia has given me so much, so I wanted to share something with the country. So I suggested we screen The Children of Paradise, which for me is a master film, a film I saw when I was 20. I was living in Denmark and missing France, and it was playing in a small art house cinema. I really got a kick out of it and not long ago I was talking to Ruth Mackenzie, who is the director of the Adelaide Film Festival, and Matt, who is the director of the Adelaide Film Festival, and they were telling me that it was also their favourite film.


Les enfants du Paradis Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024

And it’s interesting because Ruth was babysitting in France when she saw it and she had really never seen anything as beautiful or as powerful. She wrote me a message about it and said “When I left school I went to Paris to work as a fille au pair and I studied at la Sorbonne, I stumbled upon Lesenfants du Paradis and it enchanted and obsessed me. It was a first time I had encountered the poétique realism, my first taste of the magic world of theatre beyond the scene, my first opportunity to see black and white silence movie”, and she said I could not forget this movie.


And Hugo Weaving told me the same thing. I’d asked him to be the film’s patron, but unfortunately he’ll be in London during the film. He’s coming back in April, so he was kind enough to send me a little message, but also Matt from Adelaide. So that’s a nice gift. Masterpiece A film of absolute elegance, very fine, funny and tender. Dramatic too.


And why see it on the big screen at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024?

Because it’s magical. Because for me, going to the cinema means experiencing intense emotion with people. And above all, you can’t move, you’re locked in, you’re in the film and you need to be in the film for that film. We ourselves become the children of paradise, the spectators who don’t have much money and who are at the top of the theatres. Those in the top seats are the best spectators. They’re the ones who cry when it’s sad and laugh out loud when it’s funny. So if heaven reacts, the play is good. Then all the others are there to show off in their dresses and so on.


So it’s really got that heart. And so we too are children of paradise when we come to the cinema, we participate, we see things and react and feel the room buzz. And it’s really magical, because you’re cut off from the world and when you come out you have the impression that the world is still in black and white. And I love that feeling of losing your bearings and losing yourself in time. And I think this film stays with you for a long time. For once, we’re not on the phone, we’re not doing the dishes or getting a snack. There’s a break between the two films, they’re only an hour and a half each, so there’s a break in between. So you can have a drink in between.


Because there are two parts? So there’s an interval.

And that’s it. We also have three world premieres in the program.


Yes I saw that: Sidonie in Japan, King of my castle as well as Out of season are world premieres at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024

King of my castle, is quite funny and I think that it will please. It’s a bit Truman Show mixed with Les Visiteurs.


It reminds me of the one you programmed two or three years ago for the Alliance Française French Film Festival with a guy a bit like that, Fly me away.

Oh yes, exactly. That’s brilliant. That film with Victor Belmondo was my closing.


Yes, that one. Do you have any advice for the next director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival?

See as many films as possible, and know how to listen too. Because I have these directors, these alliances, so everyone has their own opinion on the films. Working very closely with distributors, choosing the best films with them, guiding them because sometimes they buy films, it’s complicated, it’s double work. For example, here I had a film about classical music. I had another film about classical music, so that made two. Sometimes, there are films that have more or less the same themes, like this year we have Wilderness Therapy and last year we had men’s therapy in Men on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was more or less the same theme, so we couldn’t put them both together.


So there you have it. Working well with them, doing research, being curious and then and there’s always a marketing side to it, but I’m not interested in marketing, it’s really the creative side. Taking people where they never thought they could go. And I know that there are a lot of films coming up next year that I’m really excited about and that I wasn’t able to get this year. So I think it’s going to be a great edition. And what’s more, we’re ending on a funny note with Dupontel’s film [Second Round]. It did very well.


I loved Bye bye Morons / Adieu les cons

Well, it’s exactly the same concept, with another trio, but much more ecological and politically committed. Yeah, but I loved Bye bye Morons… Well, the end, we don’t really know how it ended, it was a bit sad, but it was so funny with that blind man.

We’d like to thank Karine Mauris for this interview and look forward to seeing all the films from the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024!



WHAT: Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024


Adelaide: 21 March – 16 April
Venues: Palace Nova Prospect Cinemas, Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas

Bendigo 19 April -21 April

Brisbane: 5 March – 2 April
Venues: Palace James Street, Palace Barracks

Bunbury : 18 April – 21 April

Byron Bay: 7 March – 27 March
Venue: Palace Byron Bay

Canberra: 7 March – 2 April
Venue: Palace Electric Cinema

Gold Coast: 3 April – 16 April
Venues: Dendy Cinemas Southport

Hobart: 4 April – 14 April

Melbourne: 6 March – 2 April
Venues: Palace Cinema Como, The Kino, Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Westgarth, Pentridge Cinema, Palace Penny Lane (new in 2024), The Astor Theatre

Mount Gambier: 17 April to 21 April

Parramatta: 11 April to 14 April

Perth: 6 March – 2 April
Venues: Palace Raine Square, Luna on SX, Luna Leederville, Windsor Cinema

Renmark: 22 March – 6 April

Sydney:  5 March – 9 April
Venues: Palace Central, Palace Norton Street, Chauvel Cinema, Palace Moore Park (new in 2024), Hayden Orpheum Cremorne and Roseville Cinemas

Victor Harbor: 4 April to 10 April

HOW: View the program and the schedule for your city via the festival’s website

HOW MUCH: Ticket prices vary but there are discounts for Palace cinema and Alliance Française members. There are also 5, 10 and 20 film passes which give good discounts.


Which films are you planning to see at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024?



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