From 26th October to the 3rd November, the south of France saw the return of Cinemed, the Mediterranean film festival held every year in France’s 8th largest city, Montpellier. The film festival, now in its 36th year, is dedicated to cinema from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. With a premiere almost every night, there was always a tangible anticipation in Corum, the conference centre which serves as the headquarters of the festival and the home of three of the five screens. The opening night saw the highly awaited arrival Le Capital, the new film from Costa-Gavras, the seasoned and revered Franco-Greek filmmaker, known for politically overt films such as his Z. The filmmaker was amongst the several of the “invités” at the festival, not only because it held the premiere of his new film, but because throughout the week the festival showcased a retrospective of Costa-Gavras’ work. With this energy surrounding the filmmaker, one would have thought Le Capital would have lived up to the excitement, however most were disappointed. In both English and French, this financial drama about a struggling head of the European investment bank was no-doubt gripping, but failed to meet the standard of some of Costa-Gavras’ previous works.
Other premieres at the festival included the biopic Renoir from Gilles Bourdos. Renoir looks at the closing days of the French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his work with his model, Andrée, who was played by France’s next big thing Christa Theret, also present at the film festival. Although beautifully shot, the film fails to capture the genius of the artist, choosing to partially ignore him from the second half in order to look at the relationship between Renoir’s war-injured son and Andrée. One thinks that the love-story would have been more poignant if Theret, who is practically nude throughout the entire film, was more convincing as a character.
However, it was the competitions of the film festival which allowed Cinemed to make up for the slightly disappointing let downs of the premieres. Of the long film competitions, those that shined through were the Georgian Keep Smiling and the Egyptian Winter of Discontent. Keep Smiling is a black comedy looking at ten mothers from different backgrounds taking part in a televised beauty pageant. Admitting at the festival that she intended to criticise the farce of Georgian media, Rusudan Chkonia struggled for 7 years to get funding for this film. Yet it seemed worth the wait, as this witty yet harrowing story got a positive feedback from the Montpellier jury and from the general public alike.
Despite a small demonstration from Palestinian protestors demanding the boycott of Israeli films on the final day, the festival ran smoothly, with the French “cinéphiles” providing a constant buzz and positive atmosphere. With a just tiny team of around 10 people working throughout the year, the efficiency of Cinemed was incredible and shows that when it comes to film, the French always succeed.
words: Jess White