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22nd French Film Festival Opens At Greenbelt

French director Olivier Assayas can’t seem to get enough of Kristen Stewart sullenly thumbing through her cellphone. His 2014 film, The Clouds of Sils Maria, featured the American actress as a young and moody personal assistant to an esteemed French actress played by Juliette Binoche. Their age and cultural gap was an opportunity for Stewart to shine in her post-Twilight career, frequently shown making appointments and mashing that phone. In Personal Shopper, the latest by Assayas, which opens this year’s 22nd French Film Festival on June 9, Stewart plays (you guessed it) a moody personal shopper for a stylish French icon, but she doubles as a medium: she can detect ghostly emanations, for instance, in her deceased brother’s mansion as well as through curious text messages from an unknown caller, and it is this otherworldly communication that drives the story.

Assayas loves to focus on strong women facing even stronger challenges, and while Personal Shopper somewhat uneasily juggles the demands of a spiritual inquiry with thriller conventions, horror movie tropes and, of course, dollops of French fashion (Stewart loves to try on her employer’s designer wardrobe on the sly, it easily fits into the director’s particular sphere of French cinema.

This is a special year for the local French Film Festival, not only because it’s the 70th year of French-Philippines diplomatic ties, but because this marks the 70th year of the Cannes Film Festival. At Greenbelt 3 Cinema, media heard from French Embassy Manila Chargé d’Affaires Laurent Legodec on the upcoming fest and continued partnership with Filipino directors, like Brillante Mendoza, who was recently chosen by the French cultural agency Institut Francais to be a mentor or “godfather” (parrain) to 10 young filmmakers and producers from around the world as part of La Fabrique Cinema, a film workshop held at Cannes. As we know, Mendoza won the Cannes Film Fest for Kinatay as well as bagging a best director trophy for 2014’s ‘Ma Rosa.

Also on hand at the media event were young Filipino directors Noel Escondo and Arvin Belarmino whose short film Nakaw was shown at this year’s Cannes fest. “As first timers, we were starstruck,” said Escondo. “If you’re a filmmaker, it’s your lifetime ambition to be there.” She and Belarmino soaked up the lessons and are now looking for funding and a production team for a feature film. They had no ambition to enter Cannes until someone who saw the film told them, “This is Cannes material,” and that they should enter. “So we did, and it got in,” says Escondo. “It was amazing to be representing the country.”

Legodec emphasized the strengthened ties between the Philippines and France — “two cultures that love film” — and looks forward to more co-productions with Filipinos through the local Film Development Council. Sponsors for this year’s fest include SSI Group Inc., represented by marketing communications head Michelle Suarez; and Peugeot Philippines president Glen Dasig. French Embassy Manila staff Martin Macalintal and Camille Conde were on hand to please (and feed) the press.

With a punning slogan this year (“PhilFrance: Feel French!”), Legodec played up the desire for many Filipinos to enjoy the best of Francophile culture: “This shows you are curious about French society, and we hope that this festival will make you feel, maybe, a little bit French.”

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This year’s festival includes:

(From left) director Noel Escondo, French Embassy Manila audiovisual attaché Martin Macalintal, SSI Group Inc. marketing communications head Michelle Suarez, French Embassy Manila Chargé d’Affaires Laurent Legodec, Peugeot Philippines president Glen Dasig and director Arvin Belarmino at French Film Festival press launch.

Les Malheurs de Sophie (Sophie’s Misfortunes) (2016, director Christophe Honoré); Nocturama (2016, director Bertrand Bonello); Un Château en Italie (A Castle in Italy) (2013, director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi); Je Suis un Soldat (I Am a Soldier) (2015, director Laurent Larivière); Tour de France (2016, director Rachid Djaïdani); Les Chevaliers Blancs (The White Knights) (2016, director Joachim Lafosse); 21 Nuits avec Pattie (21 Nights with Pattie) (2015, directors Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu); Jamais de la vie (The Night Watchman) (2014, director Pierre Jolivet); L’Ombre des Femmes (In the Shadow of Women) (2015, director Philippe Garrel); Le Dernier Diamant (The Last Diamond) (2014, director Eric Barbier); Géronimo (2014, director Tony Gatlif); Bastille Day (2016, director James Watkins); and Personal Shopper (2016, director Olivier Assayas).

The 22nd French Film Festival runs from June 9 to 17 at Ayala Malls Cinemas in Greenbelt 3 and the BHS Central Square Cinemas, as well as a free weekend screening (June 17 and 18) at The Circuit Makati.

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For festival lineup and screening schedule, visit and Share your French Film Festival story on social media using the hashtag #FrenchFilmFest22 and #PhilFrance70.

For more information on “PhilFrance: Feel French!” visit

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