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French Revolutions

The French Film Festival at the Byrd brings notable movies and new technologies.



Peter Kirkpatrick's first French film experience, in high school, oddly enough was at the Byrd Theatre (Alain Resnais' “Mon Oncle d'AmAcrique,” with GAcrard Depardieu). And now the annual French Film Festival (March 25-28), which Kirkpatrick co-founded and directs with his wife, FranAoise, has been held there since its fourth year. The festival is in its 18th.

Peter and FranAoise watch a lot of French movies these days, of course — about 140-160 per year, not including around 300 short films — the entire annual production of French cinema, Kirkpatrick says. Every year. That's around 8,000 films since the festival began, more or less, and the two already have started on the 2010 slate, for which they'll travel to France about five times.

The festival whittles those hundreds down to less than a dozen features, plus three sets of short films. Because Kirkpatrick and his wife selected them all, he's the perfect person to suggest what not to miss.

“Marching Band,” shot in Virginia in 2008 on the University of Virginia and Virginia State University campuses, paints a portrait of student musicians in the context of the presidential election. 6:30 p.m.

The festival is especially excited about its master class on emerging 3-D technology, featuring a short film using the latest battery-powered 3-D glasses — a U.S. premiere, according to Kirkpatrick. 4 p.m., free.

If you can make only one event, Kirkpatrick suggests attending “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” based on a bestselling novel in both France and the United States by Muriel Barbery about two intelligent misfits. With Mona Achache and actress Josiane Balasko in attendance, 4 p.m. Reception at the University of Richmond's Jepson Alumni Center follows. ” S

Kirkpatrick notes French cinema's continued interest in current events with “Bank Error in Your Favor,” tragedy and comedy drawing from the world financial crises, part of a full day of shorts and features that close the festival. 11:35 a.m.

Co-presented by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond, the French Film Festival offers a variety of passes and individual tickets ($15) to films. Information is available at the festival Web site, All films are presented with English subtitles and followed by discussions with the stars and directors.


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