French Film Festival in Havana: Empty Movie Theaters

From the film Someone, somewhere, 2019 by Cedric Klapisch

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – The French film festival in Havana has just come to an end. The event took place at the Proyecto 23, Yara, Riviera, 23 and 12, Chaplin, La Rampa, Acapulco and Multicine Infanta movie theaters.

Audiences were poor, I miss the lines and packed-out movie theaters of yesteryear. Movie theaters were practically empty, sometimes with less than 20 people even.

There are reasons people didn’t go, whether that’s because of post-pandemic trauma (fear of infection), problems traveling, packed out buses, where people are crammed in like sardines in a tin, as well as new taxi fares.

On the other hand, a lot of people are used to the Weekly Package and having access to films without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Plus a fundamental issue: people being worn out and tired after waiting in km-long lines, where they lose a significant part of their day. Then, they don’t feel like going out.

There are a lots of pros and cons, movie theaters are only open from Wednesday to Sunday, with a single screening session, at 5 and 6 PM. Due to electricity savings…

The program was quite attractive, but I felt it lacked the directors I admire, such as Mia Hansen-Love, Jacques Audiard, Arnaud Desplechin, Francois Ozon, and actor and director Mathieu Amalric.

The festival kicked off with a retrospective of director Costa-Gavras’s work, and the films The Sleeping Car Murders, Z, The Confession, Shock Troops and Capital.

There were fiction, animated and documentary films. There were movies about history, social protest, gastronomic, homosexuality in sports, adoption, personal growth, intimate and family relationships, school, and lastly, movies based on true stories.

The following were shown: Fly me Away (Christophe Barratier), An impossible love (Catherine Corsini), De Gaulle (Gabriel Le Bomin), Aline (Valerie Lemercier), The Shiny Shrimps (Cédric Le Gallo and Maxime Govare), At War (Stephane Brize), In Safe Hands (Pupille, Jeanne Henry), School Life (Mehdi Idir and Grand Corps Malade), The Specials (Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano). Poets of the Sky (Doc. Emilio Maille), The State Against Mandela and the Others (Doc. Nicolas Campeaux and Gilles Porte), Terra WILLY: Astro Kid (Animated feature movie. Eric Tosti), Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants (Animated feature movie. Thomas Zsabo and Helene Giraud), The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily (Animated feature movie. Lorenzo Mattoti).

Let me tell you about four films I really liked.

Delicious, 2021 (Eric Besnard), isn’t really a movie about the art of gastronomy (although it is featured), but rather about a chef that is kicked out by his aristocratic boss for revamping a dish. His son, a philosophy student, encourages him to set up his own restaurant in the middle of the 18th century (before the French Revolution), and dealing with all of the problems this implies. It shows the class conflict, in a serious and entertaining way.

It’s a refreshing, charming movie, with beautiful landscapes and settings, with magnificent art direction, that is emphasized in wardrobe design, photography, music and performances. According to its director, that researched the theme, it is based on the start-up phase of restaurants, that began in Paris in reality, although here it focuses on a restaurant in the provinces. It was nominated for a Cesar for best production design and best wardrobe.

Someone, somewhere, 2019 (Cedric Klapisch), talks about isolation in modern-day society, in the Internet era. Looking for a partner on dating apps and absolute failure. It’s about two young people who live in the same society, in adjoining buildings, but they don’t know each other. Under all of this, there is childhood trauma, that turns them into vulnerable individuals who isolate themselves in their own little worlds.

Amanda, 2018 (Mikael Hers), is a simple, intimate film, without any melodrama. It’s a tragic story about a 24-year-old young man who has to become a niece’s guardian. It also shows the consequences of terrorism within the family unit. Hers has been labeled a filmmaker of nice movies. I’d call him a filmmaker of hope. Vincent Lacoste, the leading actor, was nominated for a Cesar.

Bye bye Morons, 2020 (Albert Dupontel) is about three characters: a sick woman, a man who has been laid off from his job and a blind man, who are outcasts in society at some point of their lives. Nevertheless, life turns on its head and forces them to come together for a shared cause on a daring adventure. A very funny dark comedy. You can’t cry at the end. It won many Cesar Awards.

I admit I’m a fan of French cinema, I enjoy the Nouvelle Vague, which is like life itself. It’s a movie collection that allows us to explore other lives, past or nearby, get to know them, reflect, agree, or disagree.

It’s good to get out of the comfort of the home and feel the magic of the silver screen again.

Read more from diary of Irina Pino here.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.