Actress-director Noémie Lvovsky’s “Tomorrow And Thereafter,” a heartfelt homage to the director’s own mother, and Fabien Gorgeart’s “Diane Has the Right Shape,” about one woman’s surrogate motherhood, both won big at the 2019 UniFrance MyFrenchFilmFestival which skewed female in its winners and viewership, making particularly notable inroads into South East Asia and Latin America.
Opening Switzerland’s 2017 Locarno Festival to mixed reviews, “Tomorrow and Thereafter” came good at MyFFF, scoring on Tuesday both its best feature Lacoste Audience Award and International Press Award for the fantasy laced family tale of an increasingly not quite there mother and her precocious eight-year-old who is advised on how to cope with maman, whom she adores, by her talking pet owl.
The Directors Jury prize – adjudicated by Houda Benyamina (“Divines”), Coralie Fargeat (“Revenge”), Mikhael Hers (“Amanda”), Canada’s Kim Nguyen and Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael – went to “Diane Has the Right Shape,” from Belgium’s Fabien Gorgeart, a feature debut which largely flew below the international critics’ radar but established Gorgeart for French-language reviewers as a talent to track.
Of shorts, “Blue Dog,” Fanny Leotard and Jérémy Trouilh’s touching tale on cultural inclusion, and Emmanuel Blanchard’s assured “The Collection,” transferring Stefan Zweig’s classic novella to 1942 Nazi-occupied Paris, walked off Tuesday night with, respectively, the Intl. Press Award and the Lacoste Audience Award.
Unique in its reach – an online national film showcase offered in over 50 VOD platforms – MyFFF is also a telling reminder of some of the fundamentals driving French creation and audiences around the world. Here are 5 takeaways from its 9th edition, where 10 features and 10 shorts competed for the main prizes.
1.SOUTH EAST ASIA RAMPS UP VIEWERSHIP
Total viewership was down from 12 million in 2018 to just nearly 10 million. But strip out the one-off effect last year of 6 million viewers on Chinese platform Jia Screen, launched by Jia Zhangke, now defunct, and 2019 MyFFF is about 49% up on 2017’s audience of 6.7 million. Some of that growth comes from South East Asia, led by a new SVOD platform partner, Malaysia’s Iflix, accessible in 22 countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, which punched 350,000 views this year. Korea’s Home Choice contributed 250,000.
2.MOTHERHOOD, CHILDREN, AND A DOG
“Diane Has the Right Shape” stars Clotilde Hesme (“Regular Lovers”) in an increasingly less cooky performance as a feckless woman who sobers up to the essentials of life – a longterm relationship, child birth . after agreeing, seemingly without a second thought, to become a surrogate mother for a gay friend.
Two of the most popular shorts on 2019’s MyFFF were the Sundance wining and now Academy Award nominated “Fauve,” from Canada’s Jeremy Comte, about two kids game of dare at an old surface mine which prompts a horrifying, life haunting experience; and “There’s No Love Stronger Than Ours,” from France’s Laure Bourdon Zarader, where two tweens swear eternal love as one is about to move back to Paris. “MyFFF title aims to demonstrate the diversity of French cinema,” said MyFFF co-manager Simon Helloco. That said many of the winning or more popular films turned on “childhood and womanhood,” he added.
3.SKEWING FEMALE 15-30, AND LATIN AMERICAN
That may simply reflect MyFFF’s core audience. One demographic which gets stronger every year is female viewers, which repped 60% of audience on FaceBook, where MFFF’s shorts played free for the first time for the whole of the month, garnering 2 million views, said Quentin Deleau-Lat0urnerie, MyFFF co-manager. In Latin America, 15-30s figured strongly among Facebook viewers, added Helloco. The five biggest markets for MyFrenchFilmFestivals’ own website – but not necessarily for all platforms – were Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Argentina and Russia, bastions of family entertainment. Skewing young and focusing on new talent – 7 out of its 11 first-run features were first or second features – MyFFF fulfills its original remit. “Digital is a true opportunity for French cinema to reach new and younger audiences,” said Giordano. “My main satisfaction with the success of this edition is that there is an obvious curiosity and desire to discover the new voices of French cinema.”
4.AUDIENCES LESS TURNED OFF BY FOREIGN-LANGUAGE?
“The Collection,” starring the great Jean-Claude Carrière, Luis Buñuel’s young co-scribe, as a now aged and blind arts collector who still talks lovingly about the magnificent collection hanging on his apartment’s wall, scored among the best marks for any short in MyFFF. As did “Blue Dog,” where a son dyes his white dog blue, to calm his father, who only feels safe in an apartment painted in blue, that can be put down to their quality of course. It may well also mark a larger enthusiasm by audiences worldwide for foreign-language fiction. Films are shown subtitled in 11 languages, but never dubbed.
5.BUILDING ON THE 2019 EDITION
MFFF is a one-month-long festival. It’s also “a great B2C event, connecting millions, a great B2B tool to better understand the audience for French film on VOD platforms and also develop partnerships and promote French cinema all year long,” said Deleau Latournerie. At the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris last month, UniFrance announced to Variety a slate of measures designed to more fully support French productions on VOD platforms in 2019. These include new financial incentives; a yearlong marketing campaign; and offering members extensive data and analysis. UniFrance still seeks theatrical openings for its films: a selection of the MyFFF shorts were shown on an open-air screen in Brazil’s Porto Alegre, for example. When it comes to French films VOD presence, MyFFF may be just a beginning.