Films on the Green 2015 Opening Night
On Friday, May 29, 2015, Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur welcomed guests to the opening night of the 8th annual Films on the Green festival at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York. The reception was followed by a screening of Roger Vadim's "And God Created Woman" starring Brigitte Bardot in Central Park, Cedar Hill.
(c) Andreea B. Ballen Photography (www.andreeabballen.com)
Welcome, everybody, to the Opening Night of Films on the Green – our French film festival in New York City Parks. As the new Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, I am really happy to have you all tonight for this great occasion and to welcome our friends from the New York City Municipality, without whom this would not be possible. A special greeting to the New York City Parks Commissioner, Mr. Mitchell Silver, and to the Manhattan Borough Commissioner, William Castro. Without them we couldn’t be in the parks. We are very grateful to them.
Tonight I’m glad for several reasons. First of all I feel like it’s the first day of summer – I don’t know if you feel the same thing but there is a special thing in the air,.
Second, I’m really glad about the theme that was chosen – I have to say, this was chosen before my arrival - but this was destiny because as you know the theme of Films on the Green this year is about the Mediterranean. As I’ve worked a lot in the Middle East and in Africa, this region is very dear to my heart. The films will transport us not only to the French Riviera, not only to Italy, but also to Beirut, also to Cairo, also to a small town in Tunisia, to the Casbah of Algiers, so we will be traveling all together. And I think that at this moment of history it’s particularly important to remind everybody that the Mediterranean is not a place of violence, it is not what we observe today, but it’s really a cradle of culture. As I lived three years in Syria I of course have special thoughts for Palmyra today, because all that’s happening there is really terrible. But I’m glad to see that culture and creation are still happening now in the Middle East. And some of the members of my team who had the chance to be in the Cannes festival just a few days ago told me that there is an “Arab New Wave” that was really obvious at the Cannes Festival – that filmmakers from France and Cairo and Abu Dhabi and several other countries recently came together to form the Arab Cinema Center group. This is really a good sign in such a moment of violence and despair in this region. And we should continue to really emphasize this Mediterranean culture.
We are thrilled, in those conditions, to be partnering with Fondation Liban Cinéma and with the Consulate General of Lebanon to present director Nadine Labaki’s Caramel this year.
And I widely encourage you to see it, it’s a fantastic story of five women in a beauty salon—you will have a great time. And this gives me a great transition to the other reason why I’m happy, it’s because we will put a lot of emphasis also on powerful women filmmakers this year.
We will have the only female member of the New Wave/nouvelle vague movement – Paula Delsol – that directed the movie La Dérive, and also the talented Caroline Bottaro, the creator of Queen to Play, as well as lead female stars such as Audrey Tatou, Brigitte Bardot (tonight, the movie that you will see in the park) and Sandrine Bonnaire.
Films on the Green—I hope you all know the festival—has always been about bringing cultural perspectives to new audiences. So it’s not only about having dates in the park— even if it’s a really good opportunity to do that also.
But we’re overjoyed that this festival developed over eight years and now it’s composed of a lot of different parks, not only in Manhattan but also in Brooklyn, and we will have a closing night at Columbia University in September. I have to say also that it developed in other cities; now we don’t only have Films on the Green but we have Films on the Beach in Miami and we have Films on Campus in Boston and I’m quite hopeful that we will have Films on the Lake in Chicago. Everything started here in New York and I think you’re a big part of it, it’s thanks to all of you that this was such a success because of course we can show films but if nobody comes, then it’s worth nothing!
So I want to thank our friends and partners and supporters of Films on the Green.
So first, of course, a big thank you to the FACE Foundation, one of our closest partners; and to the Columbia Maison Française for hosting us.
To Mr. Silver, and Mr. Castro – Mr. Castro who will be honored with the French Decoration in just a few days and I’m quite intimidated because it will be one of my first decorations so I hope I won’t be nervous during it.
A big thank you also to WNYU Radio Station for their DJs. Because they make our screenings even more fun and are also providing tunes tonight! So thank you very much. You add a feeling of festivity and summer.
Our official sponsors truly ensure that the show will go on. To Air France, BNP Paribas and TV5 Monde—a huge thank you. The same gratitude goes to our valuable supporters and friends: to the New York Observer and The Criterion Collection.
We are most grateful to our friends from The Poitou-Charentes Region and The New York International Children’s Film Festival for sponsoring the young audience pick this year, Zarafa; and to the Institut Français and the Collectivité Territoriale de Corse, for bringing the film Queen to Play to our screens. Finally, we are very grateful to our individual donors: Michele Gerber Klein, Nora Coblence, Frederic Weiss, Joseph Rokacz, and Adrian Kahan Leibowitz, and many others.
You know I have to say tonight that of course we put in the energy, we got together our contacts, but without the support – financial and material – of many of you – this wouldn’t happen. It’s all really happening thanks to you. So, last but certainly not least, I thank all of you for joining us on this journey.
I invite you to enjoy some refreshments and snacks from Claudette Restaurant and Lillet, and take a gift bag with treats from Aesop (that’s really a good find, I’m sure all the women here will be very happy!) and our partners and sponsors. Finally, I hope after all these festivities you will join us—around 8:40 from what I hear—in the park in Cedar Hill, for the first movie of this series, “And God Created Woman…”
And so I wish you all a very good soirée, and more than that, a very good summer with Films on the Green.
I will leave the floor to New York City Parks Commissioner, Mitchell Silver.