Bringing some je ne sais quoi to the Palouse

The Palouse French Film Festival brings French art and culture to the Kenworthy for the eighth year


KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen

Patrons enjoy light refreshments and wine before the screening of “Cézanne et Moi,” the first film of the Palouse French Film Festival in the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre. They will be every Tuesday until Oct. 24.

MORGAN LESTER, Evergreen reporter

The Palouse French Film Festival opened with a quiet wine and cheese reception as patrons of French film gathered at Kenworthy Performing Arts Center to view the Festival’s opening film, “Cézanne et Moi (Cézanne and I).” The film follows the lifelong, and often strained, friendship of two renowned 19th Century French artists — painter Paul Cézanne and writer Emile Zola — as they each find their way through the world in this historical drama.

“It’s about their friendship and about the tension of rivalry,” said Sarah Nelson, a French professor at University of Idaho, and one of the festival’s coordinators, “and there’s a lot that you can learn through the movie about the major artistic movements of the second half of the 19th century, and also the political and social events that were huge.”

KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen
Sarah Nelson, a French professor at the University of Idaho, welcomes people to the opening reception of the Palouse French Film Festival Tuesday night at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre.

Nelson, alongside Sabine Davis, a French Professor at WSU, have organized this festival for the past eight years, bringing popular French films to the Palouse for the public to enjoy.

“There’s not a lot of French film that makes it to the Palouse, and we wanted to promote French films in the area,” Davis said, “and [Nelson] became aware of funding through the French Embassy, and she organized all that eight years ago, and we had the first film festival.”

Funded originally by the French-American Cultural Exchange Council, the festival has built up enough rapport to operate consistently each year, with both students from UI and WSU, and the general public coming out to support it. French instructors in both universities also promote the festival to their students as a learning experience.

“Language is a social thing,” said Jacob Barrows, a French instructor at WSU. “You can’t learn it in isolation. If you go to class and do your homework and then you go home, you’re limiting yourself.”

Barrows said he was at the festival to bring more of his students in, and help them develop the social aspects of their learning, and get them to exercise their practice in the classroom.

Learning was not all of the story, as the uniqueness of French cinema attracted plenty of the crowd as well, as Davis highlighted.

“[There is] less action, it’s more in the story and the actual acting of the actors,” she said, “and it’s more of an art form.”

She was echoed by Nelson, who said, “I really enjoy the human character of a lot of French cinema as opposed to Hollywood cinema. Hollywood films often are very action-centered and unreal … the characters on the screen are often not as real as the French ones are.”

The Palouse French Film Festival will continue to run every Tuesday until their closing film on Oct. 24. The next three films are: “La Tête Haute (Standing Tall),” which follows a troubled teen named Malony, who navigates a painful path through the French Judicial System, and a path to redemption; “Elle,” which follows Michéle as she tracks down and stalks the man who raped her, while remaining unaffected by this event; and “Microbe et Gasoil (Microbe and Gasoline),” where two teenagers strike up a friendship, build something like a house on wheels, and travel across country roads in a coming-of-age story.

Tickets for films can be bought for $5 a showing, $10 for a festival pass, or for free if you are a student at either WSU or UI. Each film starts at 7 p.m., with a closing reception before “Microbe et Gasoil” starting at 6:30 p.m., with showings located at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center in downtown Moscow.