Films, food, and fun at the French Film Festival

Alisha Lee Arts & Entertainment Editor [email protected]

This year UNA celebrates its third annual Tournées Film Festival hosted by the Department of Foreign Languages. During the Tournées Film Festival, UNA students, faculty and Shoals community members are welcome to attend several French language movies. Each movie will be accompanied by English subtitles. 

This year’s festival began on Feb. 3 and will conclude on Feb. 19. Two films are shown each week over the course of three weeks. Immediately following each film, attendees can stay for a brief discussion of the film.

Opening night began with refreshments provided by a group of UNA culinary arts students and Professor Einar Gudmundsson of the Culinary Arts department. These students prepared Moroccan dishes like Lamb Tagine in honor of the first film being set in Morocco and France.

“We actually broke our record from what we had set last year,” said UNA French Professor Stephanie Coker regarding the first night of the festival. “So on the opening night, we’ve already had more people attend than those who had come the last year.” Coker added that she is hopeful the festival will continue to grow each year.

The first film, “Tazzeka,” takes place in the fictional town of Tazzeka, Morocco and follows the life of Elias, a boy who dreams of being a famous chef in Paris. A common theme throughout the film is Elias searching for his sense of belonging and working constantly to reach his dreams.

“Tazzeka” exposed viewers to the French and Arabic languages as well as a glimpse into a small part of Moroccan culture through food and certain family dynamics of the principal characters.

“I thought the movie was great,” said Christina Brown, UNA junior and vice president of French Club. “It talked a lot about issues that we don’t think about here in this country, a lot of things that we take for granted. So I think it was really good that [those] things had been brought to light.”

While “Tazzeka” falls more into the genre of a drama, the following film in the festival lineup was a comedy called “Le Retour du Héros,” or in English, “The Return of the Hero.” This film is set in Burgundy, France and features Jean Dujardin who starred in “The Artist,” which gained numerous accolades including multiple Academy and Golden Globe awards. The film also features Mélanie Laurent, who currently stars in the Netflix Original movie “6 Underground.”

In short, Dujardin’s character, Captain Charles Neuville, must leave for war immediately after asking for a woman’s hand in marriage. He fails to keep his promise to send her letters, so the woman’s sister Elisabeth, played by Laurent, poses as Neuville, forging letters to protect her sister from heartbreak. 

In this film, the pair of actors endure a series of schemes in an effort to conceal the lies they have created and lived by from Elisabeth’s family. Throughout the movie, viewers were frequently met with quick punchlines, witty humor and ironic twists. A discussion topic following the film was whether there was notable evidence of any character development from the two scammers. 

“It’s such a delicious performance from both of these actors,” Professor Brenna Wardell of the English department said in a response to the film during the discussion. Wardell also commented on how she feels the film was influenced by works of the late English novelist Jane Austen. Wardell pointed out the classic novel “Pride and Prejudice” in particular because of the similarities between the novel and “The Return of the Hero,” in which the characters use letters to stay connected.

The film shown on the third night of the festival was an animated, adventure film called “April and the Extraordinary World,” which is also available on Netflix for any subscribers who would like to watch it but were unable to attend the festival. The young protagonist, April, must solve the mystery of finding her parents who have gone missing. 

On the fourth night of the festival, attendees will experience the classic French film, “L’Atalante,” a classic, black and white film set in 1930s Paris. 

The final two nights of the festival are Monday, Feb. 17 and Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. Monday night’s film will be “I Am Not Your Negro,” a documentary highlighting the writings of the late American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin. In collaboration with the UNA History department, Professor Ansley Quiros will be leading the discussion after the movie. 

The final night’s showing will be “May Allah Bless France.” Coker describes it as a look at the hip-hop culture in contemporary France. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion Andrea Hunt will be leading the discussion and sharing some information from her research on hip-hop culture.