For the month of October, over forty French films will grace the big screen in theaters throughout Colombia as part of the 12th edition of the French Film Festival. Viewers in Bogotá, Medellín, and other major cities can enjoy a variety of offerings at commercial and university theaters, including 1960s gangster movies, animated pictures for children, and contemporary film festival selections.

The festival’s organizers hope these films will offer a unique cultural experience that takes viewers beyond the limits of Hollywood flicks and other globally commercialized motion pictures. Their goal is to bring moviegoers on an “exploration of singular worlds born from the imagination and the talent” of both new and established French directors.

Of the 47 films playing in Colombia, eight will compete for the Colombian Critics’ Award. These movies include the sumptuous ‘Renoir,’ which depicts the French painter’s final years, and ‘Elles,’ which follows a journalist played by Juliette Binoche as she struggles to comprehend the lives of two young prostitutes she interviews for a magazine article. Another critically acclaimed film, ‘Les Adieux à la Reine’ (Farewell, My Queen), portrays the final days of the French Revolution through the eyes of one of Marie Antoinette’s loyal servants.

Not all of the movies are as dark and turbulent, however. Some, like ‘Portugal Mon Amour,’ deal with lighter subject matter. In this film, by first-time director Ruben Alves, an entire Parisian neighbourhood bands together to keep a beloved Portuguese immigrant couple from returning to their homeland. ‘Elle s’en va’ (On My Way) is also filled with humour and warmth and follows a down- on-her-luck older woman who leaves home to run some errands and ends up on a cross-country road trip.

The winning film, chosen by Sofía Gómez, a Colombian film critic, Marianne Ponsford, the director of the cultural magazine Arcadia, and Fernando Gaitán, a screenwriter best known for the television show “Ugly Betty,” will receive a television and print advertising cam- paign to kick start its commercial launch in Colombia. Moviegoers will also have the opportunity to vote on their favourite film for a separate award.

For aficionados of vintage films, the festival offers a ‘Queridos Bandidos’ (Beloved Bandits) series featuring five classic gangster movies produced between 1937 and 1970. Fans of independent films can enjoy sixteen unedited movies that have never been shown in Colombia, and families with children have seven colorful animated flicks to choose from.

The idea behind the film festival, organized by the French Embassy, is not only to offer different cultural activities for Colombians, but also to encourage collaboration between directors, actors, and producers from both countries.

In Bogotá, the festival began on September 27th and runs through October 14th at the Avenida Chile shopping mall, Cinemanía near the Parque 93, Cinemateca Distrital in La Candelaria, Babilla Cine Movieplex in Chía and Cinema Paraíso in Usaquén. A complete listing of films, participating cities, and theaters can be found at:

www.cinefrancesencolombia.com