The French Are Here: An Interview with Dennis Lim, Curator of Rendez-Vous with French Cinéma

February 26, 2014 | By Florence Almozini
Dennis Lim

On the occasion of the 19th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Florence Almozini, Program Officer for Cinema at the French Embassy, interviewed Dennis Lim, the Director of Cinematheque Programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Florence Almozini: Dennis, congratulations on a great line up for Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2014. This is the 19th edition and your first time curating this festival. I personally think that it is a great line up, very representative of current French cinema, showcasing many of the younger director who make up the latest French New Wave such as Sebastien Betbeder, Justine Triet, Guillaume Brac, Katell Quillivere, as well as more established and popular directors like Francois Ozon, Michel Gondry, Agnes Jaoui, and grand masters like Jacques Doillon and Bertrand Tavernier.

This was your first time programming the annual French festival. How did you find the process? Were there any exciting discoveries or challenges you encountered while making your selection?

Dennis Lim : Most of the selections were made during screenings in Paris last fall, but there were also several films I had seen at the Berlin and Cannes festivals last year that I wanted to include – for instance, the films by Emmanuelle Bercot, Jacques Doillon, Francois Ozon, Rebecca Zlotowski, Serge Bozon, and Katell Quillévéré. A series like this is designed to showcase the best in French cinema in a given year, which means representing the widest spectrum possible. I was pleased to find so many options this year, from veterans and newcomers alike, and from both the commercial and the independent sector.

F.A : Do you find a common aesthetic in the French films that you have seen this year? Can you identify a "new wave" of French cinema particularly among some of the first and second time directors represented in this edition?

D.L : I didn’t set out to include so many first and second-timers, but it has been exciting to see the emergence of a younger generation of French filmmakers in the past few years, and it seemed important for the selection to reflect that. There is no common aesthetic — what excites me about the program is the sheer range of tones and styles — but there does seem to be, in many of this year’s selections, a desire to engage with present-day social and cultural realities. The contradictions and complexities of the new France are front and center in films as different as Eastern Boys, School of Babel, The Marchers, Les Apaches, and The Gilded Cage but also, no less memorably, seamlessly woven into the background of films like Age of Panic and Miss and the Doctors

I’m glad that we’ll be introducing audiences to a new wave of filmmakers as well as to a new generation of actors who may not yet be household names in the U.S. (but should be!). I’m thinking of, among others, Francois Damiens, who is very funny in Playing Dead and Tip Top and very moving in Suzanne; Sara Forestier, who’s sensational in her two very different lead roles (in Love Battles and Suzanne); and Vincent Macaigne, who with good reason has become the go-to actor for the new generation of filmmakers (and is especially impressive in Tonnerre).

F.A : Considering that most of the audience will not be able to see all 24 films, could you mention a few highlights that viewers should not miss?

D.L : I would call attention to Jacques Doillon’s Love Battles, a wild, intense film from a well-known veteran who’s still more than capable of surprising us each time out. Among the many offerings from relative newcomers, don’t miss Justine Triet’s Age of Panic and Axelle Ropert’s Miss and the Doctors, both very sharp comic dramas with completely distinctive sensibilities — both are filmmakers we’ll be hearing a lot from in the future.

A critic and programmer, Dennis Lim served on the selection committee of the New York Film Festival from 2009 to 2011. A frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times since 2006, Lim has written for, among other publications, Artforum, Cinema Scope and The Village Voice, where he served as Film Editor from 2000 to 2006. He is also the Founding Editor of Moving Image Source, the online magazine of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, where he has also organized film series and retrospectives. Additionally, he teaches in the Cultural Reporting and Criticism graduate program at New York University's Journalism Institute and served as Programmer of the 2010 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. As Director of Cinematheque Programming, Lim oversees the year-round retrospectives, festivals and screening series.

Florence Almozini, has worked in the world of cinema for many years. First as a founding member and film programmer at Ocularis, then in 1999 at BAM where she became Artistic Director and founding curator of BAMcinématek.  In 2009, after a successful three-year partnership with the Sundance Institute to present films from the celebrated festival in Brooklyn under the “Sundance Institute @BAM” banner, Almozini spearheaded another major initiative at BAM with the launch of the venue’s first ever film festival, BAMcinemaFest, for which she served as Festival Director and head programmer.  Almozini is currently Program Officer for Cinema at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York.

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