Rendez-Vous French Film Festival celebrates 20 years

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By: Tessa Perkins

First published in The Peak.

It’s hard to believe that the Rendez-Vous French Film Festival has just celebrated its 20th year. This little known festival, presented by Visions Ouest Productions, features 10 days of French film from all over the world, including many impressive Quebecois films. Since its launch, the Rendez-Vous French Film Festival has presented over 1,000 French films and given Vancouver’s francophones and francophiles alike the chance to see them.


Out of the almost 50 short and feature-length films presented at various venues during the festival, I was able to enjoy seven diverse films that gave me a taste of the world of francophone cinema today.

The festival’s offerings included fiction, documentaries, and animated shorts. Post-festival, the programming continues with a special event to mark Black History Month at a French immersion high school in Surrey, a screening in Tofino, and the Salon du Cinema at Studio 16.

Featured on the cover of the festival program, Le Demantèlement is a melancholic drama about sheep farmer Gaby Gagnon (Gabriel Arcand) whose way of life is lost when he decides to sell his farm in order help his daughter financially.

Awash in the golden glow of the rolling hills of the Gagnon farm, this film is beautiful and bittersweet. Gaby’s two brothers want nothing to do with the farm their father left behind, his two daughters move to Montreal, and his wife leaves him — all he has left is his dog and his farm. It is heart wrenching to watch as Gaby decides to dismantle the farm and auction off his life’s work.

Sophie Desmarais, who plays Gaby Gagnon’s daughter in Le Demantèlement, also stars as Sarah Lepage in Sarah préfère la course. The title translates to “Sarah prefers to run,” and it couldn’t be more true.

Awash in the golden glow of the rolling hills of the Gagnon farm, Le Demantèlement is beautiful and bittersweet.

When she is invited to join the track and field team at McGill University, she tells her mother, who is unsupportive of her plan, that she will be moving to Montreal without her help.

Antoine Breton (Jean-Sébastien Courchesne), a friend of Sarah’s, says he also wants to move to Montreal and will help her with expenses if they become roommates. On the drive to Montreal, Antoine proposes that they get married in order to take advantage of government bursaries for young married students. As it turns out, Antoine is actually in love with Sarah, but unfortunately for him she just prefers to run.

With little plot and a mixture of fiction and documentary elements, Gare du Nord is a film from France about Ismaël (Reda Kateb), a PhD student doing his field work at Paris’ main train station, Gare du Nord. His thesis is that the station is a global village square and he surveys travellers as they pass through. He studies the station’s activities, vendors, culture, and while he’s at it, ends up falling in love with Mathilde (Nicole Garcia), an academic who believes in his work.

The closing night film, Triptyque by Robert Lepage and Pedro Pires, is described as a “contemporary urban saga.” It’s the story of Michelle (Lise Castonguay), a schizophrenic bookseller, her sister Marie (Frédérike Bédard), and Thomas (Hans Piesbergen), her German neurosurgeon. Marie and Thomas end up falling in love, and Michelle returns to work in the bookstore after being released from a mental institution.

Split into three sections, the film focuses on each of the main characters as they go through a major event in their lives. As the cinematic adaptation of the play Lipsynch (also directed by Robert Lepage), Triptyque retains the themes of speech, communication, and the human voice as indicators of identity and emotion. Through poetry and emotionally poetic scenes, these three characters figure out how to express themselves.

The Rendez-Vous French Film Festival has so much to offer with a wide variety of films in many genres, and it deserves more exposure in the future so that more people can experience this valuable cultural event.

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