Founded three years ago, the Champs-Elysees Film Festival takes place in Paris in the middle of June, a period that would seem a less than ideal time to try and entice international film execs to France: just a few weeks after many of them have returned from Cannes.
But Champs-Elysees takes a different approach to its internationalism, focusing on American fare that might fall out of European festival consideration. With a smattering of major studio product, short student films and everything in between, the fest will unspool more than 60 films for its third iteration, which runs June 11-17.
“Since the fest was founded three years ago, public expectations have been building. Distributors who early on just gave us films to make us happy now consider us a significant venue for their product,” says French film producer and distributor Sophie Dulac, who founded the festival. “This year we’re making further progress.”
Presided over by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier and actress Jacqueline Bisset, the fest’s lineup doesn’t exactly reflect what a Stateside Francophile would imagine a festival on Paris’ most iconic thoroughfare might look like, which is precisely the point. Seth Rogen starrer “Neighbors” and Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West” will unspool, while Keanu Reeves will conduct a master class and present his directorial debut, “Man of Tai Chi.”
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Yet the programming is hardly confined to the multiplex, and the competition and premiere entries encompass an interesting cross section of American indie fare, ranging from festival favorite “Obvious Child” to “Sun Belt Express,” “1982,” “Ping Pong Summer” and “The Magic City.” Whit Stillman and Agnes Varda will both be present to field questions at screenings, while a TCM Cinema Essentials sidebar fills out the program with films from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
In its mix of populist fare, little-seen indies and classics, the fest could be compared to a culturally inverted version of Los Angeles’ City of Lights, City of Angels French cinema festival, though Dulac proffers a simpler programming philosophy.
“Of course, I must like them,” she says. “I also want to help the French public discover American indie films they don’t have the chance to see in French cinemas. This year I’ve decided to focus on African-American independent films, and also on shorts.”
Perhaps the year’s most significant addition is the development and financing forum dubbed the Paris Coproduction Village. Organized by Les Arcs Film Festival capo Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin, the two-day market sideshow will showcase 12 international films, selected from more than 200 entries, which represent four continents and boast budgets ranging from less than half a million euros to €10 million ($679,000-$13 million).
“If it all works out, we’ll develop it further next year,” says Dulac of the co-production event.