How about a Rendez-Vous?

The French movie festival offers filmmakers the chance to team up with their international counterparts.

Nathalie Baye and Eric Caravaca 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Nathalie Baye and Eric Caravaca 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Do these movies ring a bell? Welcome, Il y a longtemps que je t'aime, Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, Plus tard tu comprendras, Faubourg 36 and Entre les murs (winner of the Golden Palm at the Cannes in 2008). In recent years, theaters have been offering local cinema-goers more and more French movies. The French reel is literally invading the Israeli big screen - and it's about to get more intense, as French cinema ranks second in the foreign movie market in Israel, following the US. Thus, the annual French movie festival - "Rendez-Vous" (which will run in Tel Aviv from June 7 through 13) is becoming a serious gathering to promote French film here. "In 2003, the year of the first edition of the festival, not more than 15 French movies were released each year in Israel," recalls Tobie Nathan, the director of the French Institute in Tel Aviv (IFTA) and cultural adviser at the French Embassy. "Today, at least 30 [French] movies are screened each year in Israeli theater." According to Nathan, Israelis have always had a soft spot for French movies. But their interest was mostly in the classic films that created the French cinema's reputation. So Nathan had this in mind when he built the festival, hoping to present the Israeli public with the latest vintage of French productions, in order to show off contemporary French culture and society. But the main goal of Rendez-Vous is to initiate and increase cooperation between French and Israeli producers. Not that there is no exchange in this field between them; cultural exchanges between France and Israel have always been intense, since the creation of the state, stresses the director of the IFTA - "even during times of political and diplomatic dissension between the two countries." And cinema appears at the top of the list of those exchanges. As Nathan likes to recall, "French and Israelis have a common vision of cinema, meaning that they both want to promote specificity through it and to deal with marginal matters." Result: Most of the Israeli movies - of which some were particularly successful in France and all over the world, like The Band's Visit, Waltz with Bashir, and To Take a Wife, Seven Days - are coproduced by both countries. Another reason for the common coproductions is that, contrary to Israel, France provides production aid which is open to foreign filmmakers, as long as the movies are marked as coproductions with France. Thus, the French movie festival aims to create in Israel a kind of mirror image of what happens in France - especially since the French have realized since the first edition of Rendez-Vous that the Israeli movie market is very structured, comparable to the European one, and it represents a great outlet for contemporary French movies. It is the perfect occasion for French producers, who take the event very seriously, to seal deals with their Israeli counterparts. TO ENTICE the Israelis, the festival has a special ingredient. During Rendez-Vous, French actors and directors are invited to present their movies to the Israeli public and producers. Like Claude Brasseurs or Gerard Depardieu in the past years, Josiane Balasko (actress and director of the successful 1995 movie French Twist, about a couple who evolve in a menage à trois) and director Anne Fontaine will come to present their respective works, Cliente and Coco Before Chanel. The first film, whose title means "emale client" and opens the festival, is about young men who offer their services to beautiful and lonely 50-year-old women. The second film traces the rise of Coco Chanel to the heights of the fashion world. Vincent Garenq, the director of Comme les autres ("Like the Others"), will also be on hand as his movie - the story of a gay couple's desire to have a child - closes the event in Tel Aviv. Women and love are the two main themes in this year's Rendez-Vous. Nathan and his team, after viewing most of the movies released in 2008 in France, selected the films they liked and they thought Israeli audiences would enjoy. Alongside the recent French movies, the festival also features two events screening some classical movies. Directed in 1962 by François Truffaud, Jules & Jim, with Jeanne Moreau, is "the choice of Israeli actresses." "We asked 27 Israeli cinema, theater and television actresses - including Yael Abecassis, Gila Almagor, Hanna Maron and Lea Kenig - to view a number of classic French movies and to choose only one. At the end, Jules & Jim won the majority," Nathan explains. A retrospective about fashion king Yves Saint Laurent - who died a year ago - will also provide an opportunity for audiences to view old famous French movies, like Belle de jour (with Catherine Deneuve and Michel Piccoli and directed by Luis Bunuel), Subway (with Christophe Lambert and Isabelle Adjani and directed by Luc Besson) and Stavisky (with Jean-Paul Belmondo and directed by Alain Resnais). These films show off Saint Laurent's relatively unknown role as a talented costume designer. Plus, the 2009 installation of Rendez-Vous couldn't neglect to mark the centenary of the White City, which hosts the event this year. And the French film festival has found an original way to celebrate the Tel Aviv milestone; before each movie, old images of the city (the oldest is dated from 1938) from French news reports about Israel at the time will be screened for the audience's pleasure. The archive footage was provided by the two largest institutes of audiovisual archives in France - Gaumont-Pathé and INA (National Institute of Audiovisual). More than a simple artistic event, Rendez-Vous is each year a real opportunity to promote French cinema and contemporary culture in Israel, and it helps locals develop a new perception of French society. Movies will be screened in the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa cinematheques from June 8-20. For more program details, check