- Associated Press - Saturday, September 6, 2014

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) - At the turn of the century, as the language of film was first being created, French artists staked their claim as prime creators in the medium. From the Lumiere brothers’ early documentary work and Georges Melies optical-effects-laden fantasy work to the hugely influential French New Wave - including directors Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy and Francois Truffaut - France has long been home to innovators in the realm of film.

Celebrating that history, as well as introducing the community to the new crop of French-speaking artists, McDaniel College is hosting the French Film Series, with four free screenings of modern French-language films.

Each screening will be followed by a discussion led by McDaniel College faculty, digging into both the filmmaking process and the themes addressed in each film. The series, programmed by McDaniel French professor Martine Motard-Noar and assistant professor Silvia Baage, features four French-language films from across the world, “Approved for Adoption,” ”Elza,” ”The Auction,” and “A Bottle in the Gaza Sea.”

“We’ve got films that cover different themes and topics, and they encompass different genres, including animation and dramas,” Motard-Noar said. “We did not emerge with a specific topic for the series, because we want to appeal to a wide audience of community members and colleagues and students. We’re not trying to create a unity in profile, we’re varying the interest.”

The series first began eight years ago with a grant from the French American Cultural Exchange Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the establishment of French film festivals on campuses nationwide. The money supported the often pricey theatrical exhibition fees for the films acquired through various film distributors. Motard-Noar said that because the films are so new, the programmers often don’t have a chance to view the entire piece before selecting it for the series.



This year, the films tackle topics including cross-cultural adoption, violence in the Gaza Strip and the agricultural lifestyle. Despite the challenges in selecting the films to bring to Westminster, Motard-Noar said they provide an important cultural discussion point for the community.

“There’s a value for the larger community to see movies from other places, to see what is out there and how other people view the world differently,” Motard-Noar said. “Big movie theaters seem to show the same movies irrelevant of where you are. If you’re lucky enough to be downtown, you may have a chance to see something that’s not massively produced, but this is another chance to see another way of making art, or bring art to people who wouldn’t normally be able to see it.”

Richard Brett, associate professor of cinema, was to host a discussion following “Approved for Adoption” Sept. 3, along with sociology professor Debra Lemke. Brett said he’s been participating in the series since he started with the college five years ago.

“Right before I started, I got this greeting-slash-invitation to do a presentation that asked ‘Would you mind doing this your second week here?’” Brett said. “The fun part is watching the film two or three times, doing a little bit of research and walking in like you’re an expert. Usually, there’s a number of details from your discipline that come into play. That’s part of the liberal arts environment, constantly learning and evolving.”

The film “Approved for Adoption” is a mixed-media work that combines found footage and animation to tell the story of filmmaker Jung Henin’s adoption from Korea into a European family. Brett will discuss the film’s unique filmmaking process, while Lemke will discuss cross-cultural adoptions.

“It’s interesting, because the film is a hybrid of personal memoir with home movies, archival footage and animation created specifically for this film,” Brett said. “In this, animation is the most direct link to truth, which is one of the ironies. The dualities in the style mirror the dualities of citizenship.”

Brett said inviting the community often leads the conversation to interesting places.

“When you get community members, you wonder if they’re just going to clam up and say nothing, so you lead off with a few things and then open up for discussion,” Brett said. “I’ve found the discussions generally very inspiring or invigorating for someone to participate in. The audience seems to appreciate the talks. These are foreign films that are not exactly in the Hollywood model.”

Initially, Motard-Noar said the series began small, but as the years have gone by, the program has picked up steam.

“People have stopped asking if we’re going to have a French Film Series next year, and instead they’re asking what movies we will have this fall,” Motard-Noar said. “We’ve been so lucky to get help from our colleagues who volunteer and show their expertise, not just in film studies, but across the board, from sociology, and political science and the study of aging and more.”

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If you go:

The French Film Series is at McDaniel College, Lewis Hall of Science, 2 College Hill, Decker Auditorium in Westminster, Maryland. “Approved for Adoption” was to be shown Sept. 3, “Elza” will be shown Sept. 9, “The Auction” on Sept. 15 and “A Bottle in the Gaza Sea” on Sept. 24. Each screening begins at 5 p.m.

Admission cost: Free.

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Online:

https://www.mcdaniel.edu

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Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., https://www.carrollcounty.com/

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