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French film festival brings immersive language experiences to UNC community


French language graduate teaching fellow Alex Goldych still remembers the first time she watched a French film in high school. 

She described it as an "immersive experience." After the film, she said she understood the language in a different way. 

Goldych is an event coordinator for UNC's Department of Romance Studies' Albertine Cinémathèque Film Festival, which provides UNC students and community members with a similar opportunity.

The festival began on Monday, Sept. 18, and will feature five more French films over the course of the next five weeks.

The Albertine Cinémathèque Film Festival is free and open to the public. The event will be at Nelson Mandela Auditorium in the FedEx Global Center, and all films will be shown in French with English subtitles. 

The next film showing will be Alain Kassanda's “Colette et Justin” on Sept. 28. The documentary follows the filmmaker as he traces his personal family history and examines the political circumstances of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that affected it. 

Aubrey Lewis, another graduate teaching fellow, is Goldych's co-coordinator for the festival.

She said that part of their job is to choose what films will be shown, and that they usually choose five contemporary films and one classic that demonstrate the diversity of the French speaking community.

“We also want to have a lot of varied films that cover a lot of different interests, so we try to go for some more lighthearted films, and other ones, you know, a little bit more interesting, or deeper topics, but also varied geography-wise,” Lewis said. 

Goldych said she is particularly excited for the film “Retour à Séoul,” which is being shown on Oct. 10. 

“It’s a film about a Korean woman who is adopted by a French family, and then it’s exploring her identity by going back to Korea, but goes over themes of language and cultural identity,” she said. 

The festival began in the 2010s under the name Tournées Film Festival. After a two-year suspension due to COVID-19 and a new grant from the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation, the festival was reborn as the Albertine Cinémathèque Film Festival in 2022. 

The festival will be accessible and beneficial for community members as well as French language students, Romance Studies Department Chair Ellen Welch said. 

Welch said that she believes watching French films can help students connect to their coursework. 

“I was kind of recommending to them that they could attend and kind of make connections between our course themes and things that people are working on today," Welch said. "I think that’s true for probably all of the classes that we’re teaching, there’s definitely going to be overlaps with the films that are programmed.” 

Laura Demsey, an associate professor of French at UNC, said that one of the best ways for someone to connect with a language they are learning is to get out of the classroom and engage with it in some way that makes it real. 

Demsey said that no matter how familiar the audience member is with the French language, there are always ways to connect with the subject matter of the films. She said that she encourages students outside of the department to attend in order to expand their cultural knowledge of the world and become more adaptable people.

Goldych also encouraged community members who are less familiar with French to attend. 

“Psychology shows that it’s valuable to take risks,” she said. “So I think people who are a little nervous to come and sit in a theater and watch a French movie — take a risk. They’re all really interesting. They’re all award-winning, that’s why they’re part of a film festival. So, it’s gonna be a really good experience.” 

With snacks, award-winning films and community, the festival has something for everyone.

@dthlifestyle |

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