This Year’s French Film Festival Celebrates Its Founder
John Desplas was a wisp of a man with wire-rimmed glasses and the intense look of a learned scholar. During my years working at the Contemporary Arts Center, our paths would often pass. More often, I’d see him at his “office” at a table in True Brew Coffee House (now Fair Grinds Coffeehouse) on Esplanade. He sat in the middle of the room, sometimes reading or writing, but it was far more typical to find him surrounded by people who eagerly hung on to his every word about one subject —movies.
Early in his career, Desplas wrote movie reviews for Figaro, an alternative newspaper. Then, in 1989, he helped launch the New Orleans Film Festival, where he served as artistic director for 26 years.
He built the festival into a well-respected event that draws tens of thousands of movie devotees every year to New Orleans and attracts such names as Francis Ford Coppola, Steve McQueen, Todd Solondz and Richard Linklater, who come to promote their films.
Among his many endeavors for the organization, he also created the French Film Festival, a program of the now-named New Orleans Film Society.
This year, the 24th French Film Festival will honor his memory. John Desplas died last year of cancer.
“A lover of French cinema, he was instrumental in bringing about the first French Film Festival 24 years ago and was involved until his death last year,” states the organization’s website.
In 1995, Desplas was honored with the title of “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the Ministry of Culture of the French Government in recognition of his efforts to widen the domestic audience for films from throughout the world.
This year, the festival — one of the longest-running foreign language festivals in the country — will showcase excellence in contemporary and classic francophone Cinema between March 23 and 31.
The 2021 lineup consists of 23 films — 13 feature-length films, and 10 short films. Individual tickets will be available on March 5th for members and festival passholders, and for the public on March 12th.
All films will be available at its Virtual Cinema throughout the festival (available globally unless geo-restrictions noted). The society will also present in-person screenings at The Broadside every night of the festival. All screenings will include English subtitles.
This year’s selections include such titles as “Antigone,” which is about a woman who helps her brother escape from prison. She confronts the authorities: the police, the judicial and penal systems, and the father of her friend, Haemon. It is directed by Sophie Deraspe.
There’s also “A Chef’s Journey,” which follows Chef David Kinch and his team’s journey on a one-of-a-kind “four hands” collaboration with three legendary chefs at their iconic restaurants in Paris, Provence and Marseille. It is directed by Rémi Anfosso, Jason Matzner and Glenn Viel.
At the Broadside there will be Adirondack chairs on-site arranged to accommodate one, two or three-plus member groups, with designated 6-foot physical distancing.
There will also be picnic tables that seat up to six people. The staff requests that you don’t bring any seating of your own. All events will feature a cash bar and food truck on site.
For more information, call (504) 309-6633 or visit NOFS | Home of Cinema in NOLA (neworleansfilmsociety.org)