Fullerton serves French films du jour

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV
Courtesy of Jack Mierop
Courtesy of Jack Mierop

A quirky tale of a young Parisian girl opened up Fullerton College’s fourth annual French Film Festival on Saturday.

About 200 people attended the festival’s premiere, held at college’s Wilshire Auditorium, of the artistic coming-of-age tale Le Herissen, or The Hedgehog in English.

The film follows Paloma, an 11-year-old girl living in an upper-class dysfunctional Paris home. She decides to commit suicide on her 12th birthday, but not before creating her masterpiece: a documentary film.

Paloma observes the vanity of her rich parents’ lives, using her naivete to illuminate what’s wrong in our society, much like Oskar in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

She ambles around her apartment complex filming—her neighbors, her mother talking to plants, and her sister’s goldfish, which Paloma sees as a metaphor for life: You live in a fishbowl, then you die.

Then she befriends her building’s concierge, Mrs. Michele, and both discover what love means.

“In The Hedgehog, we see how life persists in the world only by fleeting moments that can change you forever,” said Roger Perez, an English professor at Fullerton College.

Violete Vornicel-Guthmann, Ph.D., a French professor at Fullerton College and the festival’s coordinator, said the film is her favorite among the four movies being shown at the festival this year and will soon be considered a cult movie like Amelie.

“I prefer The Hedgehog because it is irreverent and lyrical. It teaches you how to appreciate honesty, great books and music, and unconventionality,” said Vornicel-Guthmann.

The festival is meant to highlight French cultural for American audiences.

“It wants to familiarize the American public with contemporary new cinema (and) aims to make our students more aware of the culture of France and other French-speaking countries,” Vornicel-Guthmann said.

The festival continues this weekend with three more films.

Le Havre, about an African refugee who meets a French bohemian in the port town of Le Havre, France, will be shown on Thursday. Les Femmes Du 6eme Etage, or The Woman on the 6th Floor, a satire about what counts in life set in Paris in the ‘60s, will be shown on Friday.  And Les Amotifs Anonymes, or Romantics Anonymous, about two shy chocolate salesmen who fall in love, will be shown on Saturday.

The films, all critically-acclaimed, were chosen to appeal to college students as well as the community, Vornicel-Guthmann said. They tackle serious issues while sprinkling in humor.

Vornicel-Guthmann has helped plan the French Film Festival each of the past four years. The idea for the festival began, she said, when the college’s Humanities dean, Dan Willoughby, pushed the idea for a film festival since French studies were losing ground at the school.

The college received a grant from the French Embassy’s French-American Cultural Exchange program, but the festival lost the funding this year. Instead, the school’s Humanities Division created a committee to plan this year’s event, which Vornicel-Guthman chaired.

“(Vornicel-Guthmann’s) leadership and dedication have been the driving force behind this festival for the past four years,” said Willoughby.

Vornicel-Guthman said the festival has helped French language at the school, and plans are being made to create an international film festival next year.

“According to some unofficial statistics, since the inception of the festival four years ago, the enrollment in French classes has greatly risen,” Vornicel-Guthmann said.

The remaining three films will be shown Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Wilshire Auditorium. Admission is $6.50 per film and tickets can be purchased at the auditorium’s box office the night of the event.

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