“Ten in America”, the next generation of French-speaking cinema films America

Joël Akafou, Alice Diop, Hassen Ferhani, Yann Gonzalez… The very recent Villa Albertine, a cultural institute representing France in the United States, has asked young but already recognized filmmakers to set out to meet America.

A young cousin of the Villa Medici in Rome, the Casa de Velázquez in Madrid and the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto, the Villa Albertine, inaugurated last fall by the French government, has the mission of promoting artistic and cultural activity of our country in the United States. But, unlike its Italian, Hispanic and Japanese elders, the Villa Albertine does not welcome its residents in a single place; it dispatches them between the ten major American cities where the cultural services of the French Embassy are located. Artists and intellectuals even have the freedom to work outside of these, depending on what their project requires. This applies in particular to the ten filmmakers invited to shoot ten short films in the four corners of the country, to pose their “in a territory that continues to fascinate”as explained by Valérie Mouroux, audiovisual attaché at the French Embassy in New York.

Ten French, or rather French-speaking, directors, as evidenced by the more than tricolor list drawn up by programmer Catherine Bizern, called with producer Michel Klein (Les Films Hatari) to lead this project entitled “Ten in America”. – after being called “USA seen by”, a title that reminded a little too much of another.

Promote the variety of scripts

In the mid-1960s, the young Barbet Schroeder, who had just founded Les Films du Losange, offered six boys of his generation the opportunity to devote a 16 mm short film to a district of the capital and thus contribute to Paris seen by… (1965), film with sketches as it happened then a lot. These young directors were named Claude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Éric Rohmer and Jean Rouch. Six others succeeded them in the mid-1980s, including Chantal Akerman, Philippe Garrel and Frédéric Mitterrand, co-authors of Paris seen by… twenty years later (1984). Sign of the times? If fiction predominated in these two sketch films − as in the eighteen shorts of Paris I love youmade in 2008 by Bruno Podalydès, Gus Van Sant or the Coen brothers −, it is under the sign of the documentary that “Ten in America” ​​was committed.

However, Catherine Bizern intends to promote the variety of writings, without giving in to any dogmatism or prohibiting hybridizations. And it is with this idea in mind that she chose the filmmakers of “Ten in America”, drawing in particular from those whose first films she had discovered and presented at the Entrevues de Belfort, an event she directed between 2006 and 2012. . “Most of them in their forties, who have toured the big festivals, are recognized without being completely established, and constitute a kind of family while having a relationship to reality and extremely different styles. – csome are even more familiar with fiction than documentary. I chose the cities where they would shoot taking into account what I know about them and their cinema. The idea being to report on what the United States is, at the same time as a generation of filmmakers today. »

A singular format and exercise

Ivorian Joel Akafou (To cross) will leave for Chicago, in search of Michael Jordan, hero of his youth. Patrick Chiha (If it was love) will meet the homosexual community of Boston. Inspired by the novel by Édouard Glissant Faulkner MississippiAlice Diop (We) will question the slave past of Louisiana under the southern folklore that tourists come to seek there. Algerian Hassen Ferhani (143 Desert Street) will follow in the footsteps of a fictional director on location scouting in a town in Miami County. The Haitian Gessica Geneus (Freda) will recount the New York destiny of an uncle who made a fortune, before experiencing ruin. Yann González (A knife in the heart) will want to be surprised by San Francisco, which resonates for him with the history of homosexuality and that of underground cinema.

Sophie Letourneur (Huge) will discuss masculinity in Houston, “multiplying meetings at the marabout-de-ficelle”. Valerie Massadian (Nana) will circulate between the new city of Atlanta and its popular neighborhoods. Bojina Panayotova (I see red) will evoke, in Washington, an anti-nuclear demonstration which gathered two thousand women in front of the Pentagon, the day after the election of Ronald Reagan. As for Virgil Vernier (Sophia Antipolis) he will borrow from fiction a story of bed bugs invading a villa in Calabasas, a luxurious Californian fortress city popular with Hollywood stars.

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All responded enthusiastically to the proposal to embark on an exercise which, for some, more familiar with fiction than documentary, will certainly not go without saying. “The imbalance they will face may allow them to reach a kind of state of grace, considers producer Michel Klein. In our time where everything is premeditated, where we must constantly pledge, where convincing financiers involves compiling files, the carte blanche that we offer them is an unusual opportunity to work with great freedom. »

Not without constraints, however: everyone will have a maximum of three months to make their film. Shot between this year and next year, the ten shorts of this “american quilt” will travel to festivals and be broadcast on television. But that is another story, which we will have the opportunity to talk about again.

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