French culture brought to NSU via film festival

A coalition of Northwestern State faculty have brought the Tournées French and Francophone Film Festival to campus for the spring semester. With the help of the French Embassy and other grant services, the festival, which will run throughout March, highlights both contemporary and classic French cinema.

Dr. Allison Rittmayer, assistant professor of English and film, found out about the grant, which is similar to the grant received last year for the Spanish film festival, through her involvement with the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

“It’s a fairly low-pressure grant, as far as grants are concerned,” she said. “Everything after [receiving the grant] is the hard part.”

Rittmayer was ultimately inspired to plan the festival at NSU to increase exposure to international films. It also reminded her of the French film festival she attended when she was an undergraduate student at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

“I’m glad to be able to give the experience to students here that I had as an undergrad,” she said.

The films chosen follow a theme of the bildungsroman – the coming of age story – and range from the animated film “April and the Extraordinary World” to the drama and romance of “Being 17.”

“We didn’t pick a film we didn’t want to watch,” Rittmayer said. “Part of the reason we pick films we haven’t seen is because we … would like to see them on a big screen.”

“We don’t get French films coming to Natchitoches or even to Shreveport very often,” she said.

The film enthusiast explained that although the Tournées festival is widespread, thanks to the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation, it is interesting to see the ties between the French films and the French influence on culture in Louisiana.

The spring semester proved to be perfect timing for the festival in relation to French culture in Louisiana. February 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, a state government organization that promotes francophone culture and the French language.

One of the six film selections, “Theo’s Choice” was written by former University of Louisiana-Lafayette Assistant Professor Thomas Cauvin. The documentary follows French teacher Theo Brode and the “rebirth” of the French language in Louisiana.

“Theo is fighting to uncover his identity and transmit this heritage to his students,” Cauvin said in a 2017 interview with France-Amérique. “He’s a standard-bearer for this young generation of Louisiana teachers and activists who want to preserve the French language in their state and make it useful.”

Rittmayer emphasized the unique qualities of French immersion schools in Louisiana and the importance of teachers, which is why they reached out to the college of education at a school most famously known for the teachers it produces.

Overall, she said she enjoys bringing unique experiences to NSU students and Natchitoches.

“Film has always been a way of traveling without leaving home,” she said. “It’s experiencing something different.”

Each film will have multiple screenings in Room 206 of the CAPA Annex on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout March’s entirety. English subtitles will be used.

Admission is free to the public, and Rittmayer encourages not only students, but families to attend the screenings.

The full schedule can be viewed at Rittmayer’s website, arittmayer.com/events/

Jordan Reich

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