June 4, 2008

Cinema Sur l'Herbe: Films on the Green.

Quand tu descendras du ciel James Van Maanen checks in on an ongoing series of open air screenings of French films in NYC.

French films fans, arise! And then sit down. On the grass. Or on benches, chairs or something soft. Because the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, in conjunction with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, is offering New Yorkers a particular treat: five films (well, four at this point: your correspondent has been lax in getting the news to you). For the next four Friday nights (screenings start between 8:30 and 9 pm, depending on the daylight factor), you can see a relatively new French film that is making its New York almost-debut. I can vouch that two of the four are fine indeed, and admission is free to every program.

The series, titled Cinema Sur l'Herbe: Films on the Green will show Eric Guirado's Quand tu descendras du ciel (When You Come Down From Heaven) this Friday, 6/6, in Tompkins Square Park. Guirado, whose terrific movie The Grocer's Son opens for a commercial run this Friday as well, at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas here in NY, used to be a social worker, I believe, and this may account for the humane outlook this director bestows on all his characters. In Quand tu descendras du ciel (made in 2003), he tells the tale of a country boy coming to the city in order to make some money to take back to his mom and their failing farm. So begins an adventure that will bring city and country closer together. From the first few shots, as Jérôme (Benoît Giros) waits to board a bus into town, only to find his favorite calf has come out onto the road to say goodbye, the movie puts you in surprising places full of country charm and, eventually, city sadness, leavened with things sweet and growth-enhancing. This is a wonderful movie, and I should think that, aside from fans of good film, all social service people who harbor an interest in cinema (seeing it or making it) will want to catch it.

Rebeca Conget, VP Acquisitions and Distribution for Film Movement (the distributor of Guirado's The Grocer's Son), tells us that the filmmaker himself be will in Tomkins Square Park for a post-film Q&A on Friday and then for another one at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Saturday, June 7, after the 7:40 showing of The Grocer's Son. Also, there will be an opening night The Grocer's Son party at FR.OG (at 73 Spring St near Lafayette), at which complimentary Stella Artois will be served from 10 pm to 11 pm and an extra free drink for everyone with a ticket stub.

Zim and Co On Friday, June 13, again at Tompkins Square Park, Pierre Jolivet's Zim and Co will be screened. This zippy film made its US debut at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema a few seasons ago, and it is as funny as it is fast-moving. A young man, desperate to get a car (and a driver's license to go with it) in order to land a job calls on his friends for help, and together they make the movie a real delight.

On Friday, June 20, again at Tompkins Square Park, Wesh, wesh, qu'est ce qu'il se passé? screens. Directed by Rabah Ameur Zaïmèche, this one, unseen by me, offers a look at an immigrant family struggling to integrate into France. The director will appear for a post-screening Q&A. The final film in the series, Malik Chibane's Voisins, voisines, screens, Friday, June 27, at the 6th & B Community Garden (6th Street @ Avenue B). In this 2005 film, also unseen by me, a rap musician, looking for inspiration for his music, transforms the lives of his neighbors.

Cinema Sur l'Herbe

This past Friday evening, May 30, saw the initial screening in the program, Philippe Faucon's Samia, and the turn-out, it appears, was terrific. Florence Faure, program officer for film at the French Embassy Cultural Services, tells us that the evening went extremely well. "We are more than happy with this first night!" she exclaims. "And the audience was amazing. People didn't come to see friends, have a drink or just pass by. They really came to see the movie. The garden was packed 15 minutes before we started. It was the first time we organized such an event downtown and I had no idea what to expect. But I think we reached a new audience, young and sensitive, that we didn't have before. Everything went smoothly and most people stayed after the screening, thanked us at the end, and said they will come again next week. The screen was perfect, too: big enough (7.5 by 10) so that everybody could see. We served a delicious punch, the garden was lovely, and the weather was fine. It was a wonderful night!"

Sounds good to us, Florence. See you there!

-James Van Maanen; photo by Benoit Herzbrun


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Posted by dwhudson at June 4, 2008 7:38 AM


Whoops. Bad Jim! I erred by making writer/director Eric Guirado an ex-social worker. He tells me that he never was one but that he did intervew a lot of them in preparation for making his first film. Sorry, Eric. But I still love your movies and -- ex-social worker or not -- you are a wonderfully humane filmmaker!
--Jim V.

Posted by: James van Maanen at June 4, 2008 12:17 PM