return of the hero
“The Return of the Hero” is just one of many films that will play at Cordier Auditorium from February 13 to March 12.
Photo Provided by Manchester University

MU Wins Grant to Host French Film Festival

Erin Hickle

The French students were delighted when their professor, Dr. Tara Smithson, came into class with her face gleaming as she announced to the class that Manchester University was approved to be the grant recipient and host of the institution of the Tournées French Film Festival.

The festival, founded in 1995, has partnered with over 650 universities, reaching an audience of over half a million students and community members across the United States. The goals of the festival are to use francophone cinema as a lens to engage students with issues of global concerns and issues, cultivate interdisciplinary connects through the use of collaborations across various departments, colleges, and campuses and to share in a cultural experience with a broader community. The festival provides a way of reflection on the diversity and richness of French cinema through various genres. The festival offers a greater opportunity for Smithson and her students to help spread their passion for the language and culture to students and community members throughout February and March.

To choose which films should be shown during the festival’s time at MU, Smithson showed her class an array of different trailers. The class watched them all, each student picking their favorites. The class then had to decide which films appealed to them most. Eventually, six films were selected for the community to enjoy.

The first film, a romantic comedy, was screened on Feb. 13 in Cordier Auditorium. The evening began at 6:15 p.m. with pre-show activities that included multilingual Valentine craft-making stations, a red-carpet selfie stand for photos with a cardboard cutout of the French prime minister, Emmanuel Macron, and French-themed treats. Students, children, and members of the community enjoyed the fun French-themed activities in the lobby before gathering in the auditorium for the film at 7:00.

The film titled “Le Retour de Héros” (The Return of the Hero) was released in France in 2018 and directed by Laurent Tirard. The film takes place in 1809 France where Captain Neuville is called to battle, forcing him to leave his future bride Pauline. He promises to write to her every day; however, he has not written once. After watching her sister suffer from heartbreak, Elisabeth, Pauline’s elder sister, begins to write to her disguised as Captain Neuville. Elisabeth creates elaborate— and fake—stories of bravery and heroism, consuming Pauline and the town. After the time has passed, Pauline marries and has children. It all begins to unravel once Captain Neuville returns and has to live up to the heroic persona Elisabeth has created for him.

Following the film, a panel of professors made their way to the stage to discuss love and relationships. Michelle Calka, associate professor of Communication Studies, said that “communication is important to how we create relationships and maintain relationships.” Tim Brauch, associate professor of Mathematics, spoke on how math can be seen in love and how mathematicians tend to view love, using Hall’s Stable Marriage Theorem as an example. Katharine Ings, professor and chair of English spoke on women writers in literature who conceal their identities in order to create male characters—like J.K. Rowling ot S. E. Hinton. She said women writers have composed very popular, heroic male characters, much like Elisabeth in the film, but do not reveal their identities as women authors. Justin Lasser, associate professor of Religion, spoke on the pure irrationality of love and how we tend to imagine love and the importance of proximity—to know someone on an everyday basis can help love grow.

On Friday, Feb. 14, the festival continued in ACEN 101, where, at 5:30 p.m., students were able to go and enjoy fresh crepes provided by Student Involvement. From 6:00-6:15, there was “all things French” trivia with the French Club. Then the film “L’Atalante,” which was released in 1934 and directed by Jean Vigo, was screened. The film is about how a newly married couple, Juliette and a ship captain names Jean, face the struggles of marriage while living on the boat of the title. The couple must face these struggles as they navigate the river Seine accompanied by the captain’s first mate. After the film, Dr. Smithson answered questions and created a conversation with those in attendance.

Wendy (Dee) Mushenye, a sophomore MU student, involved with the festival and French Club, is looking forward to the film “Kinshasa Makambo” that will be shown on March 12. Being from Kenya, Dee feels a sense of pride and joy being able to see Africa forward. The film follows three activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo working to remove President Joseph Kabila from power using nonviolent means. “‘Kinshasa Makambo’ daringly depicts the resistance as a fractured assemblage of discordant voices,” she said. “It presents the real price and the real consequences of demanding one’s freedom. It calls for a revolution. And I’m here for it!”

The festival will show four more films. The films will be shown on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 6:30, Sunday, March 1 at 1:00, Tuesday March 3 at 3:30, and Thursday March 12 at 7:00. All the films are also VIA credits.