European film aims for dizzy heights at French Alps festival

Screening at Les Arcs film festival 2015.
Screening at Les Arcs film festival 2015. © Antoine Monié

More people crowd into the cinema hall in the small French Alps town of Bourg St Maurice than on the ski slopes of Les Arcs at this time of year, even if the snow is thick at 1,600 metres and above.The Les Arcs European Film Festival is in its seventh year with an almost 100 per cent European selection of about 80 films.


The film festival, an initiative of two local men, Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin et Guillaume Calop, has the place buzzing for eight days.The main pulls are stars like stage and screen actor Niels Arestrup who is present this year.

Frédéric Boyer, known for his work with the Tribeca film Festival in New York, is the festival’s artistic director. He believes its popularity also relies on festival-goers' faith in his selection.

"They know it’s going to be an adventure, they know they are going to meet film directors, like at all festivals," he says. "Our role is to show them films they wouldn’t even think of going to see or watching on VOD."

The festival plays a role as an industry hub, with different industry events every day. A roundtable on interactive film development and experiments was held with virtual-reality goggles available to try out.

The headgear is cumbersome and prevents a total immersion experience. It’s certainly curious to be standing in a carpeted room and to look down and see the ocean floor or look up and see a layer of ice on the water above you, but the image is ill-defined and so in spite of the aquatic environment one is still aware of looking at an image.

Later in the week a five-day meeting takes place, creating a rare opportunity for distributors and cinema owners from around France to get together and even gripe. With a mountain-size lack of modesty, this event is called the Summit.

The festival, like others in France and in Europe, gives a boost to its region as it appeals to local people of all ages with a wide range of films from animation to horror and all genres in between, some of them premières in France.

Besides special focus sections, the festival has its awards and 10 films are in competition this year, several from France, but also coproductions from Ireland or Belgium, as well as entries from Poland and Iceland. To be announced before the closing ceremony on 18 December.

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