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French-Language International Festival Is A Growth Platform For N.B. Filmmakers

Rene and Dominique Leger. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

MONCTON – Greater Moncton’s French-language international film festival, FICFA, is back for the 33rd year. This time, around 80 per cent of the films feature English subtitles.

“Every year we try to get more English-subtitled films because we do realize that while our mandate is to cater to the Francophone community because we don’t have enough French films here in Moncton, a lot of cinephiles are Anglophone,” said Dominique Léger, who is in charge of programming for the festival which runs from Nov. 14 – 22.

The festival includes films from all over the world – France, Belgium, Lebanon, Morocco, Romania, Greece and Senegal. Of course, there’s a strong showing from Quebec and Acadian filmmakers as well.

In fact, the opening film is a feature by New Brunswick filmmakers Denise Bouchard and Gilles Doiron called “Pour Mieux T’Aimer” (To Better Love You).

“It doesn’t happen very often that we have feature fiction films, so we’re super excited about that this year,” Léger said.

In addition, there’s a segment specifically for Acadian shortfilms, most of them directed by Acadian filmmakers, while some are by Quebec directors focusing on the Acadian diaspora in Louisiana.

Another one on this year’s program is “La Force Du Rire” (The Strength of Laughter) by New Brunswick producer  René Savoie, through his company Productions du Milieu.

The documentary follows three men, each dealing with blindness, multiple sclerosis and Tourette syndrome, who want to make a stand-up comedy show. It was produced for Accessible Media Inc., a Canadian television company aimed at blind or partially-sighted people. The film plays on the afternoon of Nov. 16.

“It was different to make. You don’t make subtitles. You kind of express everything through the narration. The first time you send the movie to the broadcaster, they’ll close their eyes to listen to it. It’s more sound based but after that we need to have good images as well for everybody else,” Savoie explains. “I think it’s the first time FICFA is showing a movie with this particularity.”

Savoie, who has been in the film industry for decades, said he had his film screened at FICFA for the first time 10 years ago. Since then, he’s had his work shown at the festival three or four more times.

He says FICFA is a good place for Fracophone directors, producers, actors and actresses, directors, writers and others to network.

“Everybody is here. As well, we have people from Montreal and from Quebec [City] coming in, sometimes we have broadcasters coming in, which for me is interesting,” he said. “Plus we can always submit our films [for prizes]. That’s very good. Because if you get a prize, it’s nice to put in your CV.”

Léger says the festival not only attracts the culturally aware public locally, but from across the province and out-of-province as well, including “van loads from Quebec,” generating tourism dollars for the local economy.

“We have a very culturally aware public here…But we also invite a lot of professionals from Quebec and France, so there is a strong professional presence as well. So for local filmmakers, it’s also a showcase so that people from elsewhere and from other festivals can see their work,” Léger said. “We see that a lot – we see films that were premiered here from Acadian filmmakers that then get picked up by programmers in other festivals. It’s not just for the public here in Moncton, it’s broadcasted to a larger network of people.”

For local filmmakers and those aspiring to be one, the festival also offers educational programming. Each year, it includes a program that allows local filmmakers to register, make a movie in a few days with a low-budget, which are then screened at the end of the festival. FICFA also offers master classes and workshops in partnership with professional associations.

“Because here in New Brunswick and Moncton, in French, we don’t have a lot of institutions for education in film, we don’t have a film program, we don’t have anything like that here, so we take the opportunity that we have. There are good changes that are coming, but we try to do that,” Léger said.

However, Savoie said, for local filmmakers to prosper, provincial investment in the industry must increase and grant programs must be adapted to allow large investments from outside.