It is a real challenge to put all the relevant information about French independent cinema into one article. The French cinema in general has always been an opposition to the mainstream Hollywood.
Let’s start from the beginning, literally. The French Lumière brothers, or to be more precise Louis Lumière is credited for being the inventor of cinema. He invented a machine called a camera, in 1895. It was a first motion picture camera, a film processing unit and projector named “Le cinematographe”. This was put in question, since there were others who patented a similar device before M. Lumière, but in spite of that, the invention of the cinematographe marks the beginning of the motion picture era.
From that moment cinema industry continued to develop in the United States, and turned into what we today call Hollywood, but all along away taking great inspiration from France, and especially Paris creating a romantic image of Paris we all know today.
While Hollywood was creating a French fairy tale, real Paris was an experiencing revolution of its own. Nouvelle Vague is a movement which was an inspiration for the most of the most the important directors of today, whether they were independent or mainstream.
It was created by the end of the 1950’s, and their most famous representatives are Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Louis Malle, Alain Resnais, Agnes Varda, and Jacques Demy. It was a new cinematic style, characterized mainly by the new approach to storytelling and new breakthrough techniques in filming. But the most importantly for us at ECU is that they filmed without any help from mainstream studios. They filmed on their own terms and created a notion of Cinéma d’auteur. This new concept turned into a genre which is best defined as being the directors very own film, from the screenplay to the final cut, a true artistic expression and it differed from the Cinéma de genre which followed certain proscribed guidelines. So these films are not in any way a commercial product but a piece of art, which is something all independent films today strive to. In every sense, they were the true founders of modern independent film. If you are not familiar with Nouvelle Vague you should definetly check out some of these films with stars like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Brigitte Bardot : Jules et Jim (dir. Francois Truffaut), Le Mépris (dir.Jean-Luc Godard), Pierrot le Fou (dir. Jean-Luc Godard), Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (dir. Jacques Demy) etc.
Today the situation has changed. It has become very hard to express yourself without the help of big movie companies, and in that case it can hardly be called an artistic expression after your movie has been chopped to pieces in order to please the audience
The greatest problem for independent films is distribution. Even the blockbusters stay in cinemas for a very short time, television is only interested in ratings. Where and how is the independent filmmaker supposed to show his movies?
In France a organization called ACID-Agence de cinéma indépendant pour sa diffusion (Agency for distribution of independent cinema) is trying to provide the solution. Every year, ACID supports 20 to 30 feature films, documentary and fiction. Before the release of the film, the directors of the association write promoting texts. ACID then promotes the film among 200 independent movie theaters, mostly in small or medium towns. In Paris, ACID and the ECRANS DE PARIS organize every week the The Encounters of Independent cinema at the Majestic Bastille, the Escurial and the Chaplin. Amongst other things, ACID has a partnership with the film festival in Cannes and every year they show 9 French independent films in the festival, most of which don’t have a distributor. For more information about ACID visit http://www.lacid.org/
In ECU’s final selection you can find these French films: Moving Gracefully Towards the Exit a Franco-American documentary about last day of a man dying from Lou Gehrig disease (dir. Jean-Bernard Andro, Patrice Regnier); two European experimental films, Kore (dir. Eric Dinkian) and Pianoworks 13 (dir.Julien Martorell); and finally a comedy WHITE NIGHT (dir.Fabrice Sebille).
We hope to see you at ECU, where we will discover if the French independent filmmakers are following the footsteps of their great predecessors.