19 multilingual films including French to see at SFF 2021

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Last week we told you about films in French at the Sydney Film Festival (SFF 2021). Today, we invite you to discover the multilingual films including French at SFF 2021, in our article below. You’ll find films from Algeria, Belgium, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Mali, Netherlands, Senegal  and the UK among the multilingual films including French at SFF 2021.

Words 19 multilingual films in French to see at SFF 2021 with an image of popcorn

A Black Jesus

10 & 13 November
Directed by Luca Lucchesi
92 minutes
All ages
LANGUAGES: In French, German, Italian and Wolof with English subtitles

An impressive debut from Palermo-born director Luca Lucchesi, whose father came from Siculiana, the town in which the film is set, and co-produced by Wim Wenders. Tensions rise in an ancient Sicilian town when an African refugee asks to carry a prized statue in the annual religious procession.


SFF 2021 - After LoveAfter Love

4, 5 & 6 November
Directed by Aleem Khan
89 minutes
LANGUAGES: In English, Arabic, French and Urdu with English subtitles

Aleem Khan’s riveting feature debut stars Joanna Scanlan (No Offence, The Thick of It) as Mary, a widow who discovers her husband’s secret double life only days after his death.

Appearances, impressions and serendipity take Mary on a path she could never have imagined. Best known for her comic roles, Scanlan is superb as a woman whose emotional pain is exceeded only by her determination to find answers. The dialogue is sparse: Mary’s face and piercing eyes say more than words ever could.


A Tale of Love and Desire (Une histoire d’amour et de désir)


6, 12, and 13 November
Directed by Leyla Bouzid
103 minutes
LANGUAGES: In French and Arabic with English subtitles

Direct from Cannes Critics’ Week, this modern, sensual, Paris-set romance finds Ahmed (Sami Outalbali, Sex Education), an 18 year old university student of Algerian descent, torn between his desire for a fellow student, the beautiful Farah (Zbeida Belhajamor), a vibrant Tunisian student who has just arrived in France, and his ideas of cultural propriety.


Intelligently and subtly engaging with themes of religion, disparity and gender expectations, Leyla Bouzid has made a provocative French romance with a difference.


Erna at WarErna at War

3 & 6 November
Directed by Henrik Ruben Genz
106 minutes
Unclassified 15+
LANGUAGES: Danish, French and German with English subtitles

Two of Denmark’s finest actors, Trine Dyrholm (Queen of Hearts, SFF 2019) and Ulrich Thomsen (Festen), star in this tense, unconventional WWI drama about a mother who poses as a soldier to follow and protect her 17 year old son.


The Danes have no allegiance to Germany – and so director Henrik Ruben Genz opts to focus on his characters’ internal battles and scars. Dyrholm’s performance is complemented by the talented ensemble cast, and she brings unexpected warmth to the cold trenches.


Honey Cigar (Cigare au miel)Cigare au miel SFF 2021

3 & 10 November
Directed by Kamir Anouz
France, Algeria, Belgium
100 minutes
Unclassified 18+
LANGUAGES: French and Arabic with English subtitles

Cultural history and sexual awakening are potently drawn together in the story of Selma, a 17-year-old French-Algerian student in 1990s France in this semi-autobiographical debut feature by Franco-Algerian filmmaker Kamir Aïnouz.


Zoé Adjani (niece of acting royalty Isabelle Adjani) is outstanding as Selma, a first-year university student with a burning desire to experience everything adult life has to offer, including sex. Her secular, upper-middle-class Algerian parents claim they don’t believe in arranged marriages yet continually introduce Selma to potential future husbands. As background news about Algeria’s 1993-94 civil violence becomes louder, Aïnouz guides this study in female desire and personal freedom to a conclusion that is powerful and poetic.


Lingui, The Sacred Bonds (Lingui, les liens sacrés)

7, 11 & 14 November
Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
87 minutes
Unclassified 15+
LANGUAGE: In Arabic and French with English subtitles

Acclaimed Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Cannes Competition contender tells the story of a single mother whose world collapses when she discovers her teenage daughter is pregnant. Set in N’Djamena, Chad, the women’s lives become even more precarious in this conservative, religious community but despite the desperate situation, the film is an uplifting tale of independence and empowerment.


Haroun has created some of the most profound, humane films to emerge from the African continent such as Abouna (SFF 2003), Dry Season (SFF 2007), A Screaming Man (2010) and Grigris (SFF 2013).



7 November
Directed by Ousmane Sembène
91 minutes
Unclassified 15+
LANGUAGES: In Wolof and French with English subtitles

The ‘father of African cinema’ Ousmane Sembène’s scathing social satire about the effect of post-colonialism on Senegalese living is given new life in this meticulous restoration. A 4K restoration of the first feature film in an African language, Mandabi which was a major step towards authentic cinema from the region.


Mandabi tells the story of unemployed Ibrahima Dieng who receives a money order from his nephew in France which leads him to navigate a complex bureaucratic system to cash it – it requires an ID which he doesn’t have but getting one isn’t easy either and he needs to grease the palms of bureaucrats along their way. A study of corruption, greed and poverty.


Mariner of the Mountains

7 & 9 November
Directed by Karim Aïnouz
Brazil, France, Germany
98 minutes
All Ages
LANGUAGES: In Portuguese, Arabic, Tamazight and French with English subtitles

Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz (The Invisible Life of Euridíce Gusmão, SFF 2019) traces his Algerian family’s recent past in this evocative documentary.


Through Aïnouz’s journey from Marseille to Algiers by ferry, up to the Atlas Mountains where his father that he didn’t meet until he was an adult, was born, his family’s story is revealed. Filled with dreamlike and colourful images both past and present and accompanied by his poignant narration, Mariner of the Mountains is an evocative and magical blend of the personal and political.


Memory Box

6 & 11 November
Directed by Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige
102 minutes
Unclassified 15+
LANGUAGES: English, French and Arabic with English subtitles

A mysterious package from France arrives on Maia and her teenaged daughter Alex’s doorstep in Montreal. Its contents: diaries, photos and cassettes detailing every aspect of Maia’s teenage life during the Lebanese Civil War connect three generations of women from 1980s Beirut to modern-day Montreal in this stylish meditation on history and memory. In Competition, Berlinale 2021.


The past is too painful for Maia to revisit, but daughter Alex secretly goes through the contents, which come to life in beautifully crafted flashbacks. Loosely based on Hadjithomas’s teenage letters and diaries, the film illuminates the role memory plays in shaping our lives.


Memory Box is the first narrative feature in nine years by award-winning team Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (A Perfect Day, SFF 2006) and the first Lebanese contender in the Berlinale Competition in four decades.


Never Gonna Snow Again

6, 7 and 9 November & SFF on Demand 12 November
Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska, Michał Englert|
Poland, Germany
113 minutes
Unclassified 18+
LANGUAGES: In Polish, Russian, French and Vietnamese with English subtitles.

After Cold War and Corpus Christi, Polish cinema’s renaissance continues with this intriguing and stunningly-shot drama about a mysterious Ukrainian masseur Zenia (Stranger Things’ Alec Utgoff) who infiltrates a gated community.


When charismatic applies for residency in Poland, a stern government official says, “I feel quite strange around you.” What happens next sets the tone for a tantalising drama of appearances by Malgorzata Szumowska (Mug, SFF 2018) and frequent collaborator Michal Englert.


Everyone in a cluster of soulless McMansions on the city outskirts agrees that Zenia is a miracle worker with a magic touch for physical and mental rejuvenation. But is there more to the newcomer than meets the longing gaze of so many women behind those bland brick frontages? Middle-class ennui and repressed desire have rarely been manipulated with such skilful and slyly satirical hands; the film was deservedly Poland’s 2021 Oscars submission for Best International Feature.


Passion simple

5 & 9 November
Directed by Danielle Arbid
France, Belgium
99 minutes
Unclassified 18+
LANGUAGES: In English and French with English subtitles

A divorcee embarks on an obsessive affair with a Russian diplomat in this erotic drama by French-Lebanese filmmaker Danielle Arbid.


Adapted from Annie Ernaux’s 1991 autofiction novel, Passion Simple fixes an intense gaze on single mother Hélène (French-Swiss Laetitia Dosch Montparnasse Bienvenue, 2017), as her dreamy rushes of excitement and infatuation gradually metamorphose into debilitating obsession with younger married man Alexandre (ballet star Sergei Polunin, profiled in 2016’s Dancer).


Dosch is superb in this compelling examination of physical ecstasy and romantic agony.


SFF 2021 - Radiograph of a familyRadiograph of a Family

4, 14 November & SFF on demand from 12 November
Directed by Firouzeh Khosrovani
81 minutes
All Ages
LANGUAGES: In Farsi and French with English subtitles

The tense relationship of a filmmaker’s parents mirrors Iran’s turbulent recent history in this stylish, inventive documentary from Iranian director Firouzeh Khosrovani.


Khosrovani starts her film by telling us that her mother Tayi married her father Hossein’s photograph. Tayi in Tehran, Hossein studying in Switzerland, Tayi struggles with the conflict between her religious beliefs and 60s Geneva’s freedoms and her partner’s liberal and secular beliefs. Returning to Iran, Tayi becomes a devout religious activist.


Using evocative found footage, haunting images and love letters, and recreated images of the family home, Firouzeh tells the story of her parents’ lives – a metaphor for Iran’s recent history.


The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite (L’aventure des Marguerite)

7 & 14 November & SFF on demand: from Friday 12 November
Directed by Pierre Coré
89 minutes
All Ages
LANGUAGES: English, French and German with English subtitles

Direct from New York International Children’s Film Festival, this is a time-travelling comedy-mystery about two 12-year-olds with similar troubles living in different eras who time-travel to live each other’s lives via a mysterious chest hidden in an attic.

One lives in 1942 occupied France, the other in 2020. Both have missing fathers. Across the two parallel narratives spanning 80 years, they grapple with the complexities of the time in a funny and spirited tale of two girls learning about trust, love, courage and their place in the world.

Suitable for ages 10 and up. NOTE: The film contains some strong language and brief drug references


The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation

3 & 7 November & SFF on Demand from 12 November 2021
Directed by Avi Mograbi
110 minutes
Unclassified 15+
LANGUAGES: In English, French, German and Hebrew with English subtitles

This documentary is a step-by-step guide to colonial occupation from director Avi Mograbi, using Israel’s 54-year occupation of the Palestinian territories as a case study.


It is told in the form of an ironic lecture about how colonial occupation works, in which Mograbi addresses the camera between segments of testimonies of 38 former Israeli army recruits who have served in the occupied territories since 1967. Their testimonies were part of the ‘Breaking the Silence’ project and reveal Israel’s methods to permanently appropriate the land.


The French Dispatch

Closing Night Film

Directed by Wes Anderson
UK, France, Germany
107 minutes
LANGAUGE: English and French with English subtitles

Wes Anderson’s stylish, visually rich and very funny new film is a loving tribute to journalism and The New Yorker. With an all-star cast including Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Elisabeth Moss, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, and Jeffrey Wright.


When its beloved editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Murray) dies, the staff of The French Dispatch, a widely circulated American magazine based in the French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, convenes to write his obituary.


Memories of Howitzer flow into the creation of four stories. There’s a travelogue of the seediest sections of the city from The Cycling Reporter (Wilson). “The Concrete Masterpiece” is about a criminally insane painter (Benicio del Toro) and his guard and muse (Léa Seydoux). “Revisions to a Manifesto” is a chronicle of love and death on the barricades at the height of student revolt. And “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” is a suspenseful tale of drugs, kidnapping and fine dining.


The French Dispatch is Sydney Film Festival’s Closing Night film. Enjoy an evening to appreciate and applaud all the wonderful talent that Sydney Film Festival has seen.


The Last Shelter (Le dernier refuge)

Directed by Ousmane Zoromé Samassékou
86 minutes
All Ages
LANGUAGES: In French, Bambara and Moré with English subtitles

A refuge for African travellers about to embark on a perilous desert crossing is the melancholic setting for Malian filmmaker Ousmane Zoromé Samassékou’s prize-winning, beautiful and humane documentary film.


Sub-Saharan exiles rest in The House of Migrants in the Malian city of Gao, at the edge of the Sahel desert, before following their dreams north to Europe. Most are escaping persecution or poverty – all are looking for a better life. A handful are making the journey south, having failed in their attempt. Each new arrival is asked for an emergency contact in case they are never heard from again.


Two young women shrug off reports of the dangers they are sure to face. Samassékou’s attentive camera captures the migrants’ stories as they sit in limbo, waiting for the next stage of their journey.


The Rumba Kings

6,9, 14 November & SFF on demand 12 November
Directed by Alan Brain
Peru, USA
94 minutes
All Ages
LANGUAGES: In French and Lingala with English subtitles

The stirring history of the Congolese rumba, a fusion of African rhythms and Afro-Cuban music that created an electrifying beat and inspired a nation to independence.


The evocative archive footage in Alan Brain’s compelling film showcases the amazingly gifted musicians, such as Franco Luambo and the OK Jazz Orchestra, Le Grand Kallé, and Dr. Nico and the African Jazz Orchestra as well as the era’s cool style. In 1960, rumba musicians wowed Europe and influenced the establishment, and the ‘Indépendance Cha Cha’ became the soundtrack to Congo’s historic declaration of independence.


The Story of My Wife

10 & 11 November
Directed by Ildikó Enyedi
169 minutes
Unclassified 18+
LANGUAGES: In English, Dutch, French, German and Italian with English subtitles

A seasoned Dutch sea captain Jakob Störr (Gijs Naber) makes a bet to marry the first woman who enters a café in this twisted romance by Ildikó Enyedi (2017 Sydney Film Prize On Body and Soul). Cannes Competition 2021.


Then enters the beautiful Lizzy (Léa Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Inglourious Basterds, Spectre), and Captain Störr’s life will be altered in ways he could never have imagined.


What follows is an epic story filled with jealousy, paranoia and unbridled eroticism, as Störr becomes increasingly convinced of his wife’s infidelity (without evidence). The constant presence of the dashing and rich Frenchman Dedin (Louis Garrel, The Dreamers, Little Women) does little to calm Störr’s burgeoning suspicions.


White Cube

5 & 13 November
Directed by Renzo Martens
79 minutes
All Ages
LANGUAGES: In English, Lingala and French with English subtitles

Artist Renzo Martens’s plans to build an arts centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo expose controversial, longstanding ties between capitalism, colonialism and the art world.


Long interested in the relationship between art and capitalism, Martens heads to the DRC to discuss with plantation managers and labourers how art can assist with development. That doesn’t go well, and Martens is ruefully forced to depart. Re-energised, he returns with plans to encourage disfranchised workers to create sculptures. Martens’s goal is to sell their work overseas so they can buy back their confiscated, now soil-depleted land and change their future.


WHAT: Sydney Film Festival 2021 (SFF 2021)

WHERE: Various locations across Sydney and some films on demand

WHEN: 3-21 November 2021

HOW: Purchase your tickets via the Sydney Film Festival website: www.sff.org.au


SFF 2021 Individual ticket prices are as follows (exclusive of the booking fee):

  • Adult $21
  • Concession* $18
  • Youth (17 and under) $14
  • Group 10+ $18.50
  • Casula sessions $17.50/14.50/11.50
  • Seniors** $12.50


SFF 2021 Pass prices are as follows (exclusive of the booking fee):

  • Flexipass 10 $165 ($16.50 per film)
  • Flexipass 20 $310 ($15.50 per film)
  • Flexipass 30 $435 ($14.50 per film)
  • Youth Pass (15-24 year olds) $75 for 6 films ($12.50 per film)


To see which films are on at SFF 2021 that are only in French, read our article here.


Also, for French films on streaming, take a look at these articles:

11 French movies from the 2019 Alliance Française French Film Festival to watch on SBS on Demand

Feel like you’ve watched all of Netflix? Ritz cinemas has 134 French films available for stream rental

Alliance Française 2020 French Film Festival films to stream/rent online

Melbourne, you don’t have to miss out on the AFFFF 2020 films!


Which films are you planning to see at SFF 2021?


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SFF 2021 - Popcorn movie board words Mult,ingual films in French to see at SFF 2021

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