French Films at the BFI Film Festival in London

French Films at the BFI Film Festival in London

French director François Truffaut said:  “Film lovers are sick people.”

The film lovers were out in droves at this month’s BFI Film Festival in London (7-18 October), as the fans and those who create films were present for an incredible roster of showings. Three French-themed films stood out among the laundry list of features.


Director Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan was the winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and has been drumming up buzz ever since its festival debut in May in southern France. The film showed at the BFI Film Festival on Friday 16 October at the Picturehouse Central and later on 17 October at Odeon Leicester Square, one of the most coveted and widely attended venues. Both screenings sold out quickly, before the festival even began.

Dheepan tells the story of a group Sri Lankans who are trying to making in Paris. They are fighting simply for their livelihood. The group of immigrants must pose as a family in order to get through the hurdles of the French immigration system. Given the current refugee crisis in Western Europe, this film is an eye-opening and timely one.

The director, Audiard, was also a screenwriter on this film, along with Noé Debré and Thomas Bidegain.


Departure is just that: a departure in the loveliest sense.

Elliot, played by Alex Lawther, accompanies his mother Beatrice on a trip to their country house in the bucolic French country side, so they can prepare to unload it to a buyer. Elliot and his mother have a relationship which is a bit strained, though efforts are made to overcome that.

An awkward romantic who dabbles in poetry, Elliot is a prime candidate for a dose of lamour. Little does he know he’ll encounter an unexpected twist on the journey, one that always makes for a more interesting story in art and in life – romance.

Tricia Tuttle, BFI’s Deputy Head of Festivals, reports that the star of the film, Alex Lawther, who also appeared in the Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, shows an “elegantly crafted debut…impressing as a major British star in the making.”

Departure had showings at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema and Vue Cinema in Islington during the festival.


Here is a documentary film that will leave cinephiles rejoicing, and would likely find a fan in the late Roger Ebert, who loved documentary style and the art behind the film.

New Wave freewheeling director Truffaut was never interested in films that did not “pulse,” and this one certainly does. This film explores the styles of and working relationship between François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock.

Interviews with high-profile directors Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Royal Tenebaums), David Fincher (Fight Club, Gone Girl), Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Before Sunrise), and Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Goodfellas) pepper the film, adding their commentary on filmmaking craft and the two very different directors.

BFI film programmer Geoff Andrew said of the film via the BFI site: “Excellent, thought-provoking documentary about a game-changing film interview – and why Hitchcock remains so influential.”

Truffaut was enamored with Hitchcock’s artistry; so much so, that the Frenchman even wrote a book called Hitchcock. And in Truffaut’s 1975 book, The Films in My Life, he wrote of Hitchcock: “All his life he has worked to make his own tastes coincide with the public, emphasizing humor in his English period and suspense in his American period. This dosage of humor and suspense has made Hitchcock one of the most commercial directors in the world (his films regularly bring in four times what they cost). It is the strict demands he makes on himself and on his art that have made him a great director.”

Hitchock/Truffaut showed at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema and Cine Lumiere.

Anne McCarthy is a member of the Soho Theatre Writers Lab in London, the author of Big Macs in Paris, and is a contributing writer to the Second City Network, Bonjour Paris, France Today, and the Wells Street Journal . She lives in New York City, where she is writing her forthcoming London memoir.

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster.

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