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    Professor Matthieu Dalle, founder and director of University of Louisville's 2016 French Film Festival (which begins February 4 and runs through March 11 at the University of Louisville) believes that French film, like French people, is misunderstood.

    "[French Film] has been cornered into a small definition of what it is thought to be," said Professor Dalle.  He believes French films (like French people) are stereotyped as too artsy, too abstract, too pretentious, or too distant for American enjoyment. Dalle thinks this stereotype has truly stifled the potential for American enjoyment of French film, and thus French culture. Even in a city named for Louis XVI, French culture is misunderstood: perhaps because many of use grew up with "FREEDOM FRIES" and jokes about surrender.

    Dalle was born and grew up in a small suburb just outside of Paris. After pursuing a Master’s in Journalism, he moved to the U.S. at 22 to continue his education, and eventually to teach at UofL. Dalle fell in love with Louisville, but he couldn't ignore how misunderstood his native countrymen and women were in his new home. The casual xenophobia and superiority complex prevalent in the American South has perhaps infected us a little, even in Louisville: you can take the Louisvillian out of Kentucky, but you can't take the Kentucky out of a Louisvillian. Dalle wanted to share his passion for French culture and film with his new community because "the more you're exposed to the language and culture, the better you'll become at understanding the lives of [French speaking] individuals, and the more you'll see that they aren't at all that different from you." 

    Any idea, topic, or belief in this world can be subject to question and debate.  One would be hard-pressed to find anything absolute beyond material facts. But there are some things in this world that are widely agreed upon: like the universal impact of good storytelling. Good storytelling in any medium, but especially a visual one like film, transcends language and culture barriers. 

    But resources to really immerse yourself in the films and storytelling of another country are limited: even in this Internet age. Finding French films on the Internet is a piece of cake, finding correct and educated commentary and explanation of the nuances of the language and culture is not. Without a working knowledge of the hallmarks of good French storytelling it’s can be difficult to appreciate the nuance of a well-made French film. With that in mind, in 2008, Professor Dalle wrote a grant proposal to the French Cultural Ministry to help fund a film experience that immersed all attendees to learn more about French culture - through French cinéma. After his proposal was accepted, UofL's French film festival began in 2009. For the past eight years Dalle, along with the Student Activities Board and other generous sponsors, has entertained and enlightened UofL students and the Louisville community through these events. 

    Part of what makes this festival so special and purposeful is that a different expert on French-speaking cultures and film studies introduces the first screening of each movie. This expert moderates a post-film discussion where any and every question is welcome; these activities make the experience interactive.

    The 2016 UofL French Film Festival starts on February 4th and runs until March 11th at the Floyd Theater of the Swain Student Activities Center. The events are free and open to the public. View the full schedule here. 

    Image: Flickr

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