FrancoFilm Festival returns in March, opening with award-winning French film 'Red Soil'

The festival will present nine French-language feature films

Zita Hanrot, left, and Sami Bouajila in 'Red Soil'. IMDb
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A film festival that celebrates French language through cinema is coming to Dubai in March, thanks to a collaboration between Cinema Akil, Dubai’s independent cinema house, and the embassies of France, Switzerland, Canada, Luxembourg and Belgium in the United Arab Emirates.

Running in its 11th edition, the FrancoFilm Festival will feature regional premieres across genres, opening with the award-winning film Red Soil (Rouge) by Farid Bentoumi, which was part of the Cannes film selection last year.

Taking place from March 5 to 11, the selected films revolve around the theme of sustainability and all non-English movies will have English, Arabic or French subtitles.

Here is a look at the films featured as part of the festival:

'Red Soil' by Farid Bentoumi

This powerful thriller follows the story of Nour, a young nurse, who has just been hired at her dad's chemical factory. Taking care of the infirmary, she uncovers long hidden secrets and arrangements between the syndicates, politicians, and industry leaders. With lies about polluting waste, employees being sick, and work accidents, Nour has to choose between her father or becoming a whistleblower. Red Soil stars award-winning actor Sami Bouajila.

This film is co-presented by the Embassy of France in the UAE and the Embassy of Belgium in the UAE.

'Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary' by Remi Chaye

This animated feature film is set in 1863 and follows the story of Martha Jane Cannary, who decides to learn how to take care of horses to drive the family wagon. Martha Jane ends up wearing trousers and cutting her hair, causing a scandal.

This film is presented by the Embassy of France in the UAE.

'The Specials' by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

This heartfelt comic drama from the directing duo behind The Intouchables targets structural neglect in the French medical system. Bruno (Vincent Cassel) runs a shelter for autistic young people turned away by hospitals, while his friend Malik (Reda Kateb) mentors underprivileged youths seeking employment. Both men, based on real-life people, are constantly frustrated by the lack of consistent funding and institutional support—which eventually leads them to confront the government head-on. With help from a spirited ensemble, The Specials—the 2019 Cannes Film Festival's closing night selection—crackles with fiery commitment as Bruno and Malik advocate for those living on the margins.

This film is presented by the Embassy of France in the UAE.

'The Salt of Tears' by Philippe Garrel

This black-and-white romance drama tells the story of Luc, a young man who dreams of becoming a carpenter. As Luc pursues his dream, he also falls in love with three women. The film screened at the Berlin International Film Festival last year.

This film is presented by the Embassy of France in the UAE and the Embassy of Switzerland in the UAE.

'Woman' by Anastasia Mikova and Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Woman offers an intimate portrait of women who are subjected to injustices all over the world. The film deals with topics such as motherhood, education, marriage and financial independence, as well as menstruation and sexuality.

This film is presented by the Embassy of France in the UAE in celebration of International Women’s Day.

'Looking for the Man with the Camera' by Boutheyna Bouslama

Looking for the Man with the Camera is a documentary that takes the narrator on a journey from Geneva to the Syrian border, relentlessly looking for her childhood friend, a missing Syrian media activist. During the three years of search, we witness different stages of hope, fear and despair, where the search for a loved one transcends the political and military chaos. Through the narrator's and her friend's involvement in filmmaking, it is a self reflective questioning of war image and its role as a witness against war crimes.

This film is presented by the Embassy of Switzerland in the UAE.

'Madly in Life' by Ann Sirot and Raphael Balboni

Alex and Noemie, a couple in their thirties, want a child. But their plans are paused when Alex’s mother, Suzanne, starts acting rather bizarrely. It is due to her suffering from “semantic dementia,” a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that influences her behavior. She spends money recklessly, visits her neighbours in the middle of the night to eat slices of bread, and cobbles together a fake driver’s license for herself with scissors and glue. This drama lays bare the complexity of living with someone suffering from dementia.

This film is presented by the Embassy of Belgium in the UAE.

'Antigone' by Sophie Deraspe

Antigone is an adaptation of the ancient Greek play Antigone by Sophocles, but the story in the film is told through that of a modern day refugee family in Montreal. Following the murder of their parents, Antigone, her sister Ismene, her brothers Eteocle and Polynice, and their grandmother Menecee find refuge in Montreal. Tragedy strikes when Eteocle is wrongfully gunned down by police during the arrest of Polynice, a small-time drug dealer. Motivated by her sense of duty towards her family and fuelled by the memory she cherishes of her dead parents, Antigone decides to jeopardise her own future to preserve that of her family. The film won the Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2020.

This film is presented by the Embassy of Canada in the UAE.

'The Swallows of Kabul' by Zabou Breitman, Elea Gobbe-Mevellec

This animated war drama is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Yasmina Khadra. Set in the summer of 1998, a time when Kabul is in ruins and is occupied by the Taliban, the film follows the story of Mohsen and Zunaira who believe in a better future. But a senseless act by Mohsen changes their lives forever. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

This film is presented by the Embassy of Luxembourg in the UAE and the Embassy of Belgium in the UAE.

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