Social Justice Themes Guide French Film Festival

March 18, 2019

Winnie Mandela making the black power fist as a young woman in the 1960s and today.
Winnie Mandela

Like VCU as a whole, the French Film Festival is grounded on core values centered on inclusivity and social justice. The four themes guiding the selection of films this year are: human and civil rights; immigration; reconciliation; and environmental engagement. Some movies focus strongly on one specific theme while others deal with multiple issues.

On reconciliation and civil rights, “The State Against Mandela and the Others” uses recently recovered sound archives from the hearings against those who fought against South Africa’s apartheid. Although Nelson Mandela is the person most strongly associated with this trial, eight others were tried for their role in this historic struggle for equality.

The documentary also features interviews with the accused or their  surviving family members such as Winnie Mandela. Directors Gilles Porte and Nicolas Champeaux will discuss how they created this powerful testimonial during their Master Classes at the ICA.  Cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn will also present a special screening of “A Dry White Season” which centers on racial discrimination and civil rights.

While those two movies deal with reconciliation at the societal level, “In a Thousand Pieces” tackles this theme on the individual level as seen from the perspective of the mother of a murdered child. Twenty-five years after the horrendous crime, she meets with the recently released perpetrator in an attempt to make sense of her loss. This is a stunning film tackling the issue of restorative justice which has a masterful performance by its two actors.

Immigration has recently been a political hot button issue in the United States and abroad. “To the Four Winds” and “Leur Jeunesse” go beyond headlines to tackle the humanity at the root of this theme. While “Leur Jeunesse” is a short centered on a Romani camp, “To the Four Winds” is a documentary about a farmer in southern France who dedicates his life to helping migrants find asylum once crossing over the Franco-Italian border

Although “My See-Thru Heart” is a thriller, it uses a personal narrative to explore environmental engagement. Its protagonist copes with the death of his wife only to discover how deeply he “take[s] ecology at heart.”

The aforementioned films represent only a handful of this year’s offerings, all of which deal with the core themes of human rights, reconciliation, immigration and environmental engagement. Please visit the French Film Festival website for a complete schedule and program.  Do not miss meeting and conversing with all the actors and filmmakers, many of whom are offering free Master Classes at the ICA on campus.