If you, like me, have francophile tendencies when it comes to movies then Chicago’s the place to be. Sure they have an amazing movie culture in Paris – you can see films at all hours of the day in some amazing theatres.
And the Franco-American movie alliance (putting aside that whole freedom fries episode) is alive and well – most recently we have Martin Scorsese to thank for putting early French cinema back in theatres with Hugo, his homage to French film pioneer George Méliès.
But Chicago represents in its signature big shoulders style - the city has a surprising number of festivals dedicated to French cinema.
There are long-standing series, like Facet Cinematheque’s Festival of New French Cinema. The Music Box Theatre entered the local French fest scene with last year’s Chicago French Film Festival. This winter the Gene Siskel Film Center is doing a great series on Robert Bresson. And the Alliance Française has its Ciné-Club which includes a lot of family-friendly movies aimed at children and teenagers.
Most involve collaboration with either the local Consular General or other cross-cultural organizations, including The Tournees Festival of New French Cinema. That series is currently underway at the University of Chicago’s Film Studies Center – it runs through February 3rd.
Jerome McDonnell and I talked about A Screaming Man, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s 2010 take on the strains of civil war and global capital on modern day Chad.The film follows the travails of Adam, an amazing portrait by Haroun regular Youssouf Djaoro. Adam not only loses his post as a pool attendant at a posh resort, he's replaced by his son Abdel. The deal with the devil Adam makes to win back his job - and his wounded manhood - has deep repercussions for his family.
Haroun's film points to the political and spiritual reckoning Chad must undertake in response to its endless and complicated war. But in limiting his view to the life of an ordinary, work-a-day family he raises questions that resonate well beyond the film's specific context.