arts, books and music festivals recognition

French Film Festival honors longtime Mid-City resident

By Jeanne D’Arcy, Mid-City Messenger

Tickets go on sale today (March 12) to the public for the 24th New Orleans French Film Festival, one of the longest-running foreign language festivals in the country.

This year’s festival is dedicated to the memory of the New Orleans Film Society’s late artistic director emeritus, John Desplas. This long-time Mid-City resident was instrumental in bringing about the first French Film Festival 24 years ago and was involved with the festival until his death last year at 75. 

John Desplas

According to the New Orleans Film Society, Desplas once said in an interview that the first French film I saw was François Truffaut’s “Les Quatre Cent Coups” (“The 400 Blows”).

“It was then that I fell in love with French movies,” he said.

In 1995, he was honored with the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of the French Government in recognition of his efforts to widen the domestic audience for films from throughout the world. 

Desplas also helped found the New Orleans Film Festival in 1989 and was the film critic for the former local weekly Figaro, according to his obituary. He made his living as an accountant and bookkeeper but is best known for his expansion, in-depth knowledge of cinema and his passion for sharing it with others and building a film culture in New Orleans.

The festival — which runs both safely outdoors at The Broadside, 600 N. Broad St., and virtually on the streaming platform — opens March 23 and closes March 31.  

It will showcase excellence in contemporary and classic francophone cinema, and all films will be screened with English subtitles. Live music will accompany a curated selection of French-language films and a program of short films. 

The festival opens on March 23 with the film “Two of Us” (“Deux”) directed by Filippo Meneghetti. France submitted this film for the “Best International Feature Film” category for the 2021 Academy Awards.

A performance by Sarah Quintana and Michael Doucet precedes the screening. 

Twenty-three films will be presented, spanning the Francophone world and even a film in the Wolof language from Sgeneal, “Mandabi” (“The Money Order”). The Canadian entry to the 2020 Academy Awards, “Antigone,” is based on the classic Greek tragedy of the same name. There is also a film, “17 Year Locust,” about a Haitian immigrant who comes to Louisiana.

These are just a few examples of the diverse and unique films one can see at this socially distanced festival, or virtually. See here for a complete lineup. 

Individual tickets went on sale March 5 for New Orleans Film Society members and festival passholders, and became available to the public on March 12. The public can receive immediate member benefits by joining any time, including opening day of the festival. 

Members and the public can purchase tickets for individual screenings, all-access passes, virtual passes, household virtual passes, and student and teacher passes. See here for more information.

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