Interview: Antonin Baudry, French Embassy
This Summer, Zady is proud to sponsor the annual “Films on the Green” French films screened (free!) in New York City parks, presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, FACE and the City of New York Parks & Recreation.
The French have the longest tradition of film-making of any nation in the world, so arguably, they know how to do it best. We sat down with Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy to the US, who spear-headed “Films on the Green” to learn how the festival began and why the French are so cinema-crazed.
Full Definition: - a : motion picture —usually used attributively - b : a motion-picture theater - c : movies; especially : the film industry - d : the art or technique of making motion pictures
First known use: 1909
Zady: Tell us about the festival - how did it get started?
Antonin Baudry It all started with the desire to bring French Cinema to a diverse and young American audience! The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the FACE Foundation have been terrific partners and since its inception in 2008, Films on the Green has expanded the reach of French film and brought classic and contemporary movies to local communities in New York.
Z: Was there a theme to the selection process?
AB: Yes, every year we have a theme. We have done musical, literary adaptations, summer vacations among others. This year, we all came with different suggestions: love stories, French films remade by Americans… Finally we all liked the focus on French actors. It seems like it was a good theme for our demographic and we had lots of actors and films to choose from. And we all had our personal favorites to include!
Z: How did you select the films for this year’s festival?
AB:It is a combination of actors we really like. We couldn’t exclude Gabin, Depardieu, Delon or Belmondo. We looked at their filmography and tried to choose one of their iconic performances or one of the most representative of their careers. We were also conscious that we needed to add actors of the younger generation to represent different decades in French cinema. It was heartbreaking to exclude idols like Yves Montand, Patrick Dewaere, Tahar Rahim or Louis Garrel but we only have 10 films during the summer! We also have things to consider like nudity, sex scenes (obviously not allowed!) and running times. This makes the selection even more difficult!
Z: What is the cultural significance of showing the films outside?
AB: Enjoying a film in the open air of a park is a favorite summertime tradition! In just seven years, Films on the Green, has expanded from an event in community gardens to a staple summer festival at 6 different parks in the city, from Central Park to Washington square and Transmitter Park in Brooklyn.
Z: Which actors, actresses and directors from France are making big waves in the United States?
AB: From the silent film era, the poetic realism of the 30’s – Renoir-, the Nouvelle Vague – Godard, Truffaut -, the 70’s Crime Film, to the cinema d’auteur of the 90’s, French cinema has a history of making waves in the U.S. It continues to make an impact through innovative new approaches to film and with the emergence of so many brilliant filmmakers and actors each year, such as directors Gilles Bourdos whose superb film Renoir had the highest French box office gross in the USA last year, Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake), Abdelatif Kechiche (Blue is the Warmest Color) who received critical acclaim in the US for their recent films. Actresses such as Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Bérénice Béjo, Marion Cotillard - whose performance in James Gray’s The Immigrant is exceptional- and actors such as Mathieu Amalric, Romain Duris, Jean Dujardin or Vincent Cassel, to name a few, all well-known names. Keep an eye out for the up-and-coming director Sébastien Betbeder. We are screening his feature film, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters this summer. His talent and originality are destined to great acclaim!
Z: Are the French as cinema-crazed as Americans?
AB: Absolutely! Even more! We did invent cinema after all!
Z: What is the core difference between a ‘French’ film and an ‘American’ film?
AB: It’s hard to generalize especially since both countries have and still do produce masterpieces. It’s commonly said that French films are more character driven and American films more plot driven. That’s sound a little bit like a cliché but French cinema is part of our culture while in America it’s more entertainment and business related.
Z: Who is YOUR favorite French Director, Actor, Actress and why?
AB: They are so many! I can’t name them all but I’ll name two exceptional contemporary directors, Claire Denis with films like Beau travail, White Material, I can’t Sleep or Bastards and Jacques Audiard with Read my Lips or A Prophet. But why stay within French borders? As commonly said, cinema is an international language. I am a big fan of very diverse directors like Jim Jarmusch, Judd Appatow, Abel Ferrara, John Woo, Tsui Hark, and Johnny To.
Z: Tell us what’s coming up next for the festival?
AB: Films on the Green has become a not-to-miss free summer event amid the vibrant New York cultural offerings. Last year, over 4,000 people came to the free outdoor screenings. This year we’re hoping for more! … and for sunny weather!
Z: How can francophiles become more involved with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the coming months?
AB: Celebrate the Fete de la Musique with us -a French tradition of free music that made its way to the US. This year, we are presenting two free concert June 21st at Central Park Summerstage, with two original French singers: M and Emilie Simon. We are also very excited about our upcoming opening of the only French bookshop in New York City this Fall. Generally speaking, the French Cultural Services offer a variety of events all year long, such as Dance and Art festivals, readings, film retrospectives, concerts, all to broaden American access to French culture.
May 30 - Central Park: Purple Noon by René Clément
June 6 - Washington Square Park: Les Tontons Flingueurs by George Lautner
June 13 - Washington Square Park: Buffet Froid by Bertrand Blier
June 20 - Tompkins Square Park: The Women on the 6th Floor by Philippe Le Guay
June 27 - Tompkins Square Park: La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz
July 11 - Riverside Park, Pier I: The Moustache by Emmanuel Carrère
July 18 - Riverside Park, Pier I: Grand Illusion by Jean Renoir
July 25 - Transmitter Park (Greenpoint, Brooklyn): Le Magnifique by Philippe de Broca
August 1 - Transmitter Park (Greenpoint, Brooklyn): 2 Autumns, 3 Winters by Sébastien Betbeder
September 4 - Columbia University (at 116th St): The French Minister by Bertrand Tavernier
For more information on the lineup of films this year, visit FrenchCulture.org