Unifrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival (MFFF) is back this year, giving thousands of fans of French-speaking cinema from around the world an opportunity to see films reaching the end of their festival runs. This year’s competition received a late boost when Delphine Girard’s “A Sister,” one of the 10 shorts in competition, was nominated for the best live-action short Oscar on Monday.
This year’s MFFF competition has placed a special emphasis on genre films and animation.
In the case of the former, Axel Scoffier and Antoine Cordier, coordinators of the selection, explained in a joint statement that “this is the result of a growing taste among contemporary French filmmakers for blurring lines of genres and playing with fantasy codes. We wanted this selection to reflect that.”
“From the very beginning of the festival, one of the goals has been to highlight animation as a very rich and creative part of the French production,” they added. “We wanted online audiences to discover that animation can be both very adult and very cartoonish. Our figures are proving that both adult and child animation do please our public, so we will definitely try to add more in the future.”
An exciting competition featuring nine French films and one Belgian, coming from both veteran filmmakers and newcomers alike, the festival often proves a launchpoint for filmmakers poised to break out.
Typically, MFFF represents the end of a film’s festival journey, and a chance for the public at large to have access to films which have until now only screened at other festivals. Variety will profile five of the shorts in detail throughout the festival, but below looks briefly at all 10 selected for competition.
“A Sister,” Delphine Girard
Delphine Girard’s Oscar-nominated “A Sister” is the only short in competition from outside of France. Produced by Belgium’s Versus Production with L’agence Belge du Court Métrage handling sales, the film is an edge of your passenger seat thriller, the short turns on an emergency services call center worker who receives a seemingly accidental call before quickly realizing she’s speaking with a woman in trouble who can’t speak freely.
“The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin,” Benjamin Crotty
Produced by Les Films Du Bal, Crotty’s film takes a revisionist look at the probably fictional French character Nicolas Chauvin, from whom the word Chauvinist is derived, as he delivers an acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award. Recounting the story of his life through first-hand anecdotes, the working-class rural soldier of Napoleon’s First Army of the French Republic lets slip his opinions, controversial then as they certainly are now, to a rambunctious crowd. The short played in competition at Locarno – winning the Signs of Life section, Vienna, Gijon, Go Short and Curtas Vila do Conde and screened at London’s BFI.
“Diversion,” Mathieu Mégemont
Turning on Joël, a small-town journalist who covers a case in the French countryside only to find himself the subject of the stories he usually writes. Mégemont’s second directorial outing, produced by Paris-based Insolence Productions, has participated in competition at the Prague Short Film and Clermont-Ferrand festivals and screened out of competition at Locarno.
“The Night of the Plastic Bags,” Gabriel Harel
One of the year’s highest-profile animated shorts, “The Night of the Plastic Bags” participated in numerous festivals, including participation at Clermont-Ferrand and Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 2018. It follows Agathe, 39, intent on having a child. To that end she seeks out ex Marc-Antoine, now a techno DJ in Marseille. As she tries to talk him into getting back together, plastic bags come to life and attack the city. It’s one of a number of shorts at MFFF from the French side of L’agence du Court Métrage, who also work in French-speaking Belgium.
“By a Hair,” Lauriane Escaffre and Yvonnick Muller
Three days before Élodie takes the hair removal exam for her beautician diploma, her father, a butcher, wants her instead to help him at his butcher’s shop. Produced by L’agence du Court Métrage, the short won the Fernand Raynaud Award at Clermont-Ferrand.
“Magnetic Harvest,” Marine Levéel
Mickaël, a young farmer and one of France’s new rurals, moves through a pastoral world tracked through clever usage of a GPS device. While searching for a lost hog, he crosses paths with an old friend and sparks fly. Produced by Apaches Films and sold by Shortcuts, the film has participated at Clermont-Ferrand and a host of international festivals, winning the Audience Award at Angers.
“The Atomic Adventure,” Loïc Barché
A co-production between Punchline Cinéma and Leonis Productions, Barché’s film is set in 1961 Algeria. France has just detonated its fourth atomic bomb, and a group of seven soldiers is sent to the point of impact to take soil samples and measure the level of radioactivity. But the closer they get, the more their captain, a war veteran in his fifties, finds himself faced with the paradoxes of a changing world, a world obsessed with progress. Before MFFF, the short participated at Catalonia’s prestigious Sitges Intl. Film Festival for genre cinema.
“Due West,” Alice Douard
A co-production between Deuxième Ligne Films and The Living with L’agence du Court Métrage handling international sales, Douard’s short turns on Mathilde a 9-year-old enjoying the final day of summer vacation, when her father misinterprets one of their childhood games. A standout at both the Leeds Intl. Film festival and the French Film Festival of the Czech Republic.
“Ahmed’s Song,” Foued Mansour
From producers Offshore and sold internationally by Manifest, “Ahmed’s Song” kicks off when Ahmed, employed at a public bathhouse and nearing his retirement, crosses paths with Mike, an aimless teenager. A relationship develops between these two within the bathhouse walls. One of the most hyped shorts in this year’s competition, Mansour’s short played Clermont-Ferrand, Palm Springs, and a raft of other prominent festivals for shorts and features alike.
“Rain, Rain Run Away,” Clémentine Carrié
Another debut, Carrié’s “Rain, Rain Run Away” is a midsummer tale of seven-year-old Boubou, stuck in the boredom accompanying long days at her family’s campground. In the intense heat, while others rest, she takes her friend Dany to the scrublands nearby to play in a welcome storm. Key festival participation includes Clermont-Ferrand, Palm Springs and BFI London.