Francophiles and movie fans, rejoice: Richmond’s French Film Festival returns to the historic Byrd Theatre March 27–30 with more than 30 feature and short films.

Celebrating its 22nd year, the festival includes appearances from several well-known film stars, including Jacques Perrin, a two-time Oscar-winning producer for best foreign film, Josiane Balasko and Luciano Tovoli. All films have English subtitles and are presented by their actors and directors.

Sponsored by the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, the festival has more than 21,000 admissions every year and attracts attendees from across the United States and beyond.

“The festival is such a unique opportunity for American viewers, and it is right here in Richmond,” said Françoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick, a professor of French and film studies at the University of Richmond and festival co-director. “We’re excited to bring new French movies, as well as renowned actors and directors to the Byrd Theatre to celebrate French cinema.”

Added Peter Kirkpatrick, professor of French and film studies at VCU and festival co-director: “We’re proud the festival has become the event it is, one that not only attracts cutting-edge and blockbuster names in French film, but also the lovers of French film who make this the largest festival of its kind in the country.”

Among the films this year is the American premiere of “Le Promeneur d’oiseau” (The Nightingale), the second co-production between France and China. Director Philippe Muyl chronicles the story of a grandfather and granddaughter on their journey across the Chinese countryside (the film premieres in France on May 4). Muyl will be on hand to discuss the movie with attendees.

Perrin will present “Le Désert des Tartares,” a psychological drama released in 1976 and the last film made by Valerio Zurlini, with Tovoli, the film’s cinematographer. Perrin, the original producer as well as actor of the film, initiated the recent remastering of the masterpiece that was presented and highly acclaimed at the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival. An actor in more than 120 films, Perrin also is the producer of Oscar-winning films “Z” (1969) and “Black and White in Color” (1976). He is the producer of Winged Migration” (1999) and director of Océans”(2009), both of which earned César Awards (the French equivalent of the Academy Awards). Tovoli is an Italian cinematographer of such American movies as “Reversal of Fortune” and “Single White Female.” Tovoli will present Ettore Scola’s “Che strano chiamarsi Federico” (How Strange to Be Named Federico), a unique tribute to legendary Italian director Federico Fellini, who directed four Oscar-winning foreign films.

Balasko, an actor, writer and director who is a three-time best-actress nominee for the César Awards and won as a writer of “Gazon maudit” (French Twist) in 1996, will present her 2013 film “Demi-Soeur.”

The rich schedule also reflects the diversity of French cinema and genres — with films to be presented by their directors.

Viewers will enjoy documentaries such as “Cinéast(e)s,” which raises the question “Is there a gendered cinema?” “Il est minuit, Paris s’éveille” revisits the Paris Left Bank cabarets and their music stars of the 1950s and 1960s, and “Faire quelque chose,” which captures the energy and stories of World War II Resistance fighters as they convey to today’s youth the importance of standing up for justice. “Pour une femme,” a semi-fictional drama, covers the same historical period.

Several comedies are part of the festival. Cycling enthusiasts are in for a humoristic spin with “La Grande Boucle,” a fun family story inside the Tour de France. Others include “Attila Marcel,” the latest film by Sylvain Chomet (“Triplettes de Belleville”), and the beautifully crafted and humorous “Alceste à bicyclette” (Biking with Molière). 

Social dramas delve into pressures faced by an upcoming pro soccer player with“Les Petits Princes;” the disappearance of a family member in La Piece manquante;” finding one’s place in the 21st century with “Une place sur terre;” and breaking loose from societal constraints with “Lulu Femme nue.” “Jean & Béatrice” offers a new twist social dating.

The French Film Festival has connections to the Cannes Film Festival – the same technical team from Cannes outfits the Byrd Theatre with the best sound and visual technology to enhance the experience. In addition, Kirkpatrick and Ravaux-Kirkpatrick have served as previous Cannes members and president for the jury for the Prix Vulcain, an organization that recognizes the best artist-technician of a film in competition, at the Cannes Film Festival. Both also received the prestigious distinction, the Beaumarchais Medal, from the French Writers Guild for their creative ways in promoting French cinema.

Passes can be purchased at http://frenchfilmfestival.us/buy-vip-passes. Individual tickets $15 at the Byrd Theatre before each film. Visit http://frenchfilmfestival.us/ for the complete 2014 French Film Festival schedule and synopses of each film.

Master Class

The festival also features a Master Class that is free and open to the public:

“Artistic Creative Stages of Filmmaking: The Example of Micha Mouse,” Thursday, March 27, 12–2 p.m., Adams Auditorium (Media Resource Center) at the University of Richmond’s Boatwright Library (Free and open to the public) — Actor and director Mathieu Busson will discuss the various creative steps of filmmaking, from vision to production. He’ll use his film “Micha Mouse” to demonstrate, and producer Christie Molia also will talk about the phases of the film’s production.

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