Cinefile October-November 2019 French releases
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In this October-November 2019 Cinefile podcast, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams talks to Little Joe's leading actress Emily Beecham, and looks at For Samaa, Alice et le Maire (Alice and the Mayor). Also, Roman Polanski's An Officer and a Soldier (J'accuse) and Costa-Gavras Adults in the Room, and more.
The title of the Franco-Algerian film Papicha, which won hearts at Cannes in the Un certain regard section means pretty girl. In this film it applies in the plural, and makes the subject all the more biting.
Why hide beauty, when as the poet John Keats wrote, "A thing of beauty, is a joy forever"?
Mounia Meddour sets her film in a particular period of acute repression in Algeria in the 1990s. Since then the cries for women's rights have become louder. But progress in most quarters is patchy.
Here's a film which flies in the face of curtailment of rights and freedoms seen through 20-year-old Nedjma's experiences and encounters.
Her journalist sister assassinated, her student friends traumatised and prevented by machismo from making the most private and personal choices about their own lives, Nedjma decides to organise a fashion show with revealing clothes made out of a cloth, a haïk, traditionally used to cover women like a hijab.
Papicha is young and full of energy. The fast-moving action flows from one chapter to the other. With the action revolving around Nedjma's all-female university residence, Meddour's characters span a range of male and female situations.
For example, one male shop owner is sympathetic to the girls, another puts on a front for the religious fundamentalists, another delights in the cloistering of the girls, exploits them and would even rape them.
Females and males are equally part of the clampdown on freedom for women, but women fight the hardest against it.
Meddour's film avoids pitfalls and endows Papicha with appeal beyond the 15-35 female age group.
Click on the "play" button above to hear Emily Beecham talking about "Little Joe" and about the rest of this films in this edition of our Cinefile podcast.
Fahim, the little chess prince
Gérard Dépardieu (as grumpy chess coach Xavier Parmentier) reigns supreme in this French film for all ages, which just fails to bring tears to the eyes. Fahim, the Little Chess Prince is based on the true-life story of a Bangladeshi wunderkind, son of an asylum seeker who's determined his misfortune will transfomed into 8 year-old Fahim's triumph.