Screening across 12 cities over two months, the Alliance Française French Film Festival celebrates its tenth year in 2016, bringing the very best of French cinema to New Zealand. We caught up with festival director Sébastien Donnadieu in the midst of opening week.
Where are you right now?
I’m sitting at my desk listening to some music and enjoying the native trees of the Wellington Botanic Garden. I just got home.
What did you do this morning?
My day usually begins with fresh coffee. I get it from Coffee Supreme on Hopper Street in Wellington; it’s the one and only way to start the day. Then I spent the morning at our office in the old Dominion Building on Victoria Street working on opening events for the remainder of the festival.
How long have you been festival director?
I’m still quite new! Eight months as of today.
I studied political science and specialised in creative industries’ management; I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty and power of the arts, by their role and the impact they can have on society. In London I focused on research and opera, and then I worked for the Alliance Française French Film Festival in Sydney. I think that film, like opera, is a wonderful symbiosis of the arts, which makes it so powerful and fascinating. I love films because they are a window to the world … and to all of us.
Do you have a favourite film?
Not so much a favourite film, more like a series of favourite films for each season or mood. If I had to choose one film I’d pick Les Visiteurs (The Visitors) by Jean-Marie Poiré. It’s the story of two men from the Middle Ages who end up in contemporary France … Well, it was made back in the nineties, so contemporary to that time. It’s French comedy at its best.
Tell us your favourite thing about what you do?
My favourite thing is bringing this particular collection of films to New Zealand screens and experiencing the local reaction to them when the festival kicks off.
What inspires you every morning?
Knowing that I help bring a different experience and view of the world than that of the American blockbuster.
Who is this festival for?
Our festival is for everyone to enjoy. I’ve carefully selected a wide range of genres and stories for all ages and tastes to discover. Our films are not just for French speakers or francophiles; on the contrary, they all share something extraordinarily universal … French cinema is really accessible.
What is your driving passion above all else?
Probably my belief in the power of film to touch people, and I want to make the world a fairer place.
What is your favourite French saying?
Garder la pêche which means ‘keep it positive, keep it peachy’. It’s a fruity, motivational thing to say!