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French & Francophone Film: A Research Guide

Contemporary Francophone Cinema

Toni Frissell, photographer. Paris & Toni Frissell Dancing Bear at Courchevel. March 6, 1964. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Contemporary Francophone cinema is more accessible than ever to audiences worldwide through streaming platforms, downloading, and DVDs. Simultaneously, it continues to hold its status as a cinema of the avant-garde, the forerunner or trendsetter in that art.

Francophone documentary cinema keeps evolving through films such as the blockbuster La Marche de l'empereur/March of the Penguins (2005, dir. Luc Jacquet) or Agnès Varda and JR's Visages Villages/Faces Places (2017), a documentary stroll through present-day rural France.

Les Revenants/They Came Back (2004, dir. Robin Campillo) and Grave/Raw (2016, dir. Julia Ducournau) are le cinéma gore on par with any Hollywood slasher film.

Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain/Amélie from Montmartre (2001, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet) is a staple of many university film courses, and in an example of life imitating art, it has inspired real-life tourism to the fictional film's shooting locations around Paris.

In opposition to Jeunet's depiction of Paris as an idyllic wonderland, Entre les murs/The Class (2008, dir. Laurent Cantet), La Bande des filles/Girlhood (2011, dir. Céline Sciamma), and Divines (2016, dir. Houda Benyamina) echo the Beur and Francophone African tradition of contesting such depictions and instead opt to show grittier economic realities of the City of Lights.

In addition to the above genres, Francophone directors have helped explode the number of multilingual films and multinational productions, including Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement (2004), Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud's Persepolis (2017), and Denis Villeneuve's Arrival (2016) and Dune (2021).

Animated films including Kirikou et la sorcière/Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998, dir. Michel Ocelet), Belleville rendez-vous/The Triplets of Belleville (2003, dir. Sylvain Chomet), and Le Chat du rabbin/The Rabbi's Cat (2011, dirs. Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux), familiar to many children around the world, have won major awards and are entered into festivals such as the Festival international du film d’animation d’Annecy/Annecy Animated Film Festival.

Finally, the tradition of cinéma engagé/activist cinema (as seen in poetic realism, Beur film, and much Francophone African film) continues in features such as Welcome (2009, dir. Philippe Lioret), the story of an undocumented Kurdish Iraqi refugee training to swim the English Channel from France; Timbuktu (2014, dir. Abderrahmane Sissako), about Jihadists taking over a village in Mali; Deephan (2015, dir. Jacques Audiard), an examination of three Tamil refugees' bleak new lives in Paris; and the acclaimed I Am Not Your Negro, Haitian director Raoul Peck's 2017 film completion of James Baldwin's book of the same name.

The Francophone film world will continue to change as financing, distribution, and technology bring these movies to increasingly larger audiences, attracted by French-speaking actors who are household names, such as Jean Reno, Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincent Cassel, Jean Dujardin, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Audrey Tautou, to name only a handful.

Growth of the film industry through media such as streaming, film consortia, NGOs, academic institutions, film festivals, public libraries, etc. means greater access to Francophone films. In the French language (and in combination with others such as Tamil, Mandarin, Persian, Wolof, Vietnamese, English, and Spanish, etc.), the traditions and technology that the Lumière brothers pioneered continue to advance and flourish in the hands of new filmmakers.

Below are a few contemporary Francophone films in the Library of Congress collection, along with resources for further study.

Suggested titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.