Only in Film: Tourneés Film Festival at McDaniel College

McDaniel and Westminster community members come together to enjoy The Tourneés Film Festival

Having only the title, L’Image Manquante, to base my prediction of how the next 95 minutes of my life would go, I walked into the auditorium. Popcorn, stifled laughter, and the occasional insensitive cell phone usage seem to be as much a part of a trip to the movies as the film itself. Being a big fan of big-screen movies, I was looking forward to The Tourneés Film Festival, but with no specific idea of what the festival was really about. Walking into Decker Auditorium, I sat down, looked for familiar faces, and prepared myself for the typical theater atmosphere.

Founded in 1995 by a partnership between The FACE Foundation (French-American Cultural Exchange), and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Tourneés Film Festival has been bringing many different genres of French films to U.S. campuses for two decades. The mixture of genres such as animation, documentary, fiction, and repertory films provides for a quick, yet in depth, glance into the French film industry.

“We extend a big thank you to the professors who put on these festivals that inspire us, through exploring another culture, to become more tolerant, more curious, and more available to others,” declares Alejandra Norambuena Skira, director of The Franco-American Cultural Fund.

This year the Film Selection Committee for the festival decided on an odd looking—varied to say the least—list of movies to be played here at McDaniel. The list included movies such as Bande de Filles (Girlhood), a film about the struggles of female adolescence set in the impoverished suburbs of Paris, and Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night), a story about a woman battling both crippling depression, and the potential loss of her job in Liège, an industrial Belgium town.

The movie that I sat down for, however, was much different than the two described above. Once the lights dimmed and the somber music started, I knew I had made the right decision of coming and seeing what the festival was all about.

“I felt inspired, it was beautiful and moving,” comments student Drew Kenyon after seeing a film.

L’Image Manquante (The Missing Picture), is a French documentary about the Khmer Rouge’s brutal occupation of Cambodia and the vast and disturbing cruelties of ruthless dictator Pol Pot.

Director Rithy Pahn brings to life the tragically moving, and true, story of a Cambodian survivor through the use of poetic dialogue, eerily fitting music selections, and thousands of wooden dolls. The movie shows the horrifying nature of evil men in power. With the little black-and-white film of the actual struggle Pahn creates a portal to a painful, and hopeless world.

When the film had ended, leaving a heavy silence on the theater, I realized I had forgotten all about finding my friends and the few snacks I had brought in my bag. The movie had held the entirety of my attention for the full duration and I felt as though I needed to learn more about what was so beautifully described.

The Tourneés Festival is a brilliant way to provide short bursts of immersion into another culture; if you haven’t been yet—even if you have—I recommend taking a trip to Decker Auditorium and letting the Tourneés French Film Festival inspire you.

I can do nothing more than give my highest recommendation of the beautifully directed film.