After a spot of cruising on the Croisette, how about a charming stroll down the Champs-Elysees? Nothing could be more agreeable now that “the most beautiful avenue in the world” has its very own film festival.Launched by Sophie Dulac, a Paris-based producer and distributor, the inaugural Champs-Elysees Film Festival runs June 6-12. In an already crowded calendar, the fest’s focus is on promoting independent American cinema and encouraging the distribution of pics by emerging U.S. filmmakers in France and Europe. Unlike domestic and some European pics, there is no CNC aid for French shingles distributing American pics. Dulac, who does not see this changing any time soon, is using the fest to launch U.S. in Progress, which will introduce Stateside indies in post-production to prospective Euro buyers. The program is a joint initiative of the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, the Champs-Elysees fest and Black Rabbit Film, which has bases in Paris and New York. Four films will be screened: Jocelyn Towne’s unconventional love story “I Am I”; Travis Gutierrez Senger’s “Desert Cathedral,” about a private investigator; Michael Barlett’s horror pic “House of Last Things”; and Hannah Fidell’s “The Teacher.” “We think it’s important to get these films out there so that European distributors can get a chance to see them,” says Dulac. “Afterwards they’ll be able to make up their own minds.” The maiden fest pays tribute to Donald Sutherland and Harvey Weinstein, both of whom will be in attendance. There will be a special screening of Alan J. Pakula’s “Klute,” which starred Sutherland and Jane Fonda, and a retro of some of the most famous pics Weinstein backed.A gala dinner will be given in Weinstein’s honor June 6 and the next day he will host a roundtable about ways to develop French/U.S. co-productions at a time when there is no formal agreement in place. Dulac hopes the festival will provide “a bridge between independent French and U.S. cinema” and underlines Weinstein’s role in making “The Artist’s” Jean Dujardin a name in America. Two presidents of honor have been named: thesps Michael Madsen for the U.S. and Lambert Wilson for France. But unlike the similarly U.S.-friendly Deauville fest, there will be not be a celebrity jury. Instead the fest’s two competitions — one for American independent features, the other for French shorts — will be judged by the paying public. The 10-strong Official Selection of American Independent Films includes Richard Linklater’s “Bernie,” Richard Lee’s “Jesus Henry Christ” and Bruce Beresford’s “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding.” It also includes docus by Errol Morris (“Tabloid”) and Matthew Akers (“Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present”). Every night the fest will host screenings of new French films in seven cinemas located either on the Champs-Elysees or just off it. Pics include Alain Resnais’ Cannes competition entry “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” Bruno Polyades’ “Adieu Berthe,” Quentin Dupieux’s “Wrong” and husband-and-wife team Claudine Nougaret and Raymond Depardon’s docu “Journal de France.” There will also be screenings of all last year’s Oscar nominees for foreign-language film, as well as French premieres of Wes Craven’s 3D “My Soul to Take”; Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s “After.Life,” starring Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci; and Gabe Torres’ “Brake,” starring Stephen Dorff. After two years of carefully planning this inaugural edition, which has the patronage of the French culture ministry, Dulac, who started as an expert in the study of hand-writing, is looking ahead. “There’s no way we want this to be just a one-off,” she says. “We are looking five or six years down the line. We want to build things up and make this a key event.”
June 6. Tribute to Harvey Weinstein, Miramax co-founder and Weinstein Co. chair. A selection of films backed by Weinstein will be shown during the fest, including Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” John Madden’s “Shakespeare in Love,” Gus Van Sant’s “Good Will Hunting,” James Gray’s “The Yards,” “Chicago” (Rob Marshall) and “The English Patient” (Anthony Minghella). SUTHERLAND HONOR
June 9. Special Evening Donald Sutherland. Fest pays tribute to the veteran of more than 150 film and TV roles, who will host a screening of 1971′s “Klute,” followed by a conversation with the actor. Frederic Mitterrand will bestow the medal of Commander of Arts and Letters on Sutherland. ‘LORAX’ DEBUT
June 10. French premiere of the animated 3D pic “Dr. Suess’ The Lorax,” directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda. ‘SNOW WHITE’
June 11. French premiere of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” directed by Rupert Sanders and starring Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth.