Students organize film festival on fashion icons of France – Nov. 4-6

Students in Assistant Professor Sarah Glasco's course "The French Cinema" have conceptualized and organized a film festival on fashion icons in France during National French Week .

​When Assistant Professor Sarah Glasco was planning her course on the French cinema this past summer, she was waxing nostalgic on the three years she had received a Tournées Festival grant from the French Cultural Mininstry through French American Cultural Exchange.

Glasco chose themes, invited faculty speakers and organized film festivals at Elon in Spring 2010, Fall 2010 and Spring 2012, each featuring five recent French films.

The Tournées Festival is a program of the FACE Foundation. The festival partners with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy whose aim is to bring French cinema to American college and university campuses. One of its primary objectives is to fund endeavors “that can eventually become permanent and self-sustaining.” 

Recipients of the grant must choose from the list of films offered by the Tournées Festival, contact distributors themselves to arrange payment for public performance rights, and submit extensive post-screening materials and questionnaires. 

Glasco learned a lot in the process of organizing three festivals with the help of the Tournées grant. By charging admission at the three previous grant-supported festivals, she was able to build up a small surplus of funds but hadn’t had the time to organize another festival.

While choosing a theme, films and projects for her course, Glasco had a eureka. Why not have the cinema students organize a film festival? This could be a creative coup for them as well as valuable project-based and experiential learning, and it would constitute a significant part of their class participation grade and foster authentic collaborative learning.

Despite the surplus, there still wasn’t enough money to include five films, so Glasco decided that three would be possible if the French Club, which she mentors, would agree to co-sponsor the film festival and offer support for one film. The officers met and agreed that it was a worthy cause and event for the club and are enthusiastically supporting the endeavor under the stellar leadership of President Nicole Hanrahan. 

Glasco’s French colleagues in the Department of World Languages and Cultures were all on board with putting the festival on their syllabi and including it in their course curricula for the fall as well. And so it began.

Teaching two new 300-level courses this fall, Glasco had her work cut out for her. Her other course “French Cuisine and Culture” offered yet another eureka: food would constitute the theme of her cinema course as well. When she sat down to write the syllabus, she pondered course goals carefully.  

“I wanted the course to familiarize students with a selection of films in French, to increase their understanding of the cinematic art form in France, and to encourage critical thinking and analysis as it regards to the use of images and sound in films” she said, “but I also wanted to encourage cross-cultural comparisons about the representation of food, the role of the restaurant and the concept of cuisine in French and American cinema.”  

Considered by the French to be the “septième art,” cinema holds a special place in French cultural production, but gastronomy is also considered an art form and is much revered in French culture. Glasco explains that “students learn how to ‘read’ French films … by studying a selection of films across the decades from 1938 to 2012 and examining the culture of cuisine in France through an historical lens. The course has also introduced students to the vocabulary of film analysis in French while focusing on representations of cuisine in French film.”

The class is conducted entirely in French and involves pair and group discussions, weekly reading and writing assignments, mandatory film viewings, oral presentations using PowerPoint and digital technology, and a final project involving the creation of a short film. Students have also been collaborating as a class all semester long to organize and put on a three-day French Film Festival during National French Week in early November. And they have done everything themselves with Glasco at the helm as mentor.

“I really wanted to make sure that they took ownership of the project, both creatively and logistically,” Glasco said. “I wanted them to generate the ideas and come up with the tasks to be completed together. I relinquished control completely, gave them the budget and just said go with it. And they did!”

The students chose fashion as a theme, and each film focuses on a single iconic personality from French culture. Now that they have prepared, they are just hoping to fill some seats and looking forward to some enriching conversations. They chose fashion because they felt that something seemingly lighter would help draw audiences to the film showings, but they acknowledged and are intrigued by deeper issues under the surface such as the fact that Coco Chanel dated a Nazi collaborator during WWII.   

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, the documentary “Mademoiselle C” will be shown in McEwen 011 at 7 p.m. It tells the story of Carine Roitfeld, the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, and a former fashion model and writer.

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, students will show and discuss “Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel)” at 7 p.m. in McEwen 011 with invited faculty speaker Professor Jack Smith from performing arts. As a costume designer, Smith is positioned to lead a discussion of perhaps the most significant character in the history of French fashion design, Coco Chanel.

The film “L’amour fou (Mad Love)” will wrap up the festival on Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. in KoBC 101, LaRose Digital Theatre. It is another documentary that tells the compelling story of Yves Saint Laurent, the French couturier who died in 2008, and his life-long partner Pierre Bergé.

Matthew Antonio Bosch, director of the the LGBTQIA Center, and Paul Geis, associate director of Study Abroad, will lead the discussion. Students procured the rights for public performances from the distributors and learned about the financial and copyright issues that revolve around public film showings on campus in the process. 

All films are free and open to the public. National French Week officially runs November 5-11 this year.