Casablanca, Paris, Toronto

A love af­fair with cin­ema that gave birth to Cinéfranco

DINE and Destinations - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Mar­celle Lean

The birth of Cinéfranco

CIN­EMA IS IN MY DNA: as a young man, my ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was a trav­el­ling pro­jec­tion­ist in re­mote Moroc­can vil­lages. Many times he had to run for his life be­cause peo­ple thought he was a sorcerer. He later be­came a pro­jec­tion­ist in the myth­i­cal art film house, Le

Tri­om­phe, in Casablanca. As a 9-year-old girl, I of­ten heard the name Alain Res­nais, which didn’t mean any­thing. My grand­fa­ther’s pas­sion for film filled my child’s heart with dreams, ad­ven­ture and magic.

The pres­ti­gious name Alain Res­nais popped up later while or­ga­niz­ing the film club at Le Haut

du Roy, a sec­ondary school near Paris where I had a teach­ing po­si­tion. I came to dis­cover the ma­jor sig­nif­i­cance Res­nais had in the Nou­velle

Vague and modern Euro­pean cin­ema. Paris in the ’60s and ’70s was ar­tis­ti­cally boom­ing: the­atre and cin­ema were at the fore­front of this cul­tural re­vival. The year 1968 was rev­o­lu­tion­ary in France – and for me as a teenager. I joined pro­fes­sional the­atri­cal groups, stud­ied Amer­i­can cin­ema, and be­came an in­sa­tiable film con­sumer. I fol­lowed the ca­reers of iconic ac­tors Brigitte Bar­dot, Alain Delon, Jean-paul Bel­mondo. Sit­ting at Parisian cafés for hours on end, my friends and I dis­cussed and an­a­lyzed film.

In Toronto in the mid-’70s, I was craving French films. I was also frus­trated by the nar­row elit­ist, in­tel­lec­tual la­bel French cin­ema had. I started to look for ways to de­bunk the myth by bring­ing aware­ness to pop­u­lar Fran­co­phone film.

In 1994, the now late film direc­tor Claude Miller and his wife en­cour­aged me to in­crease the vis­i­bil­ity of French cin­ema in Toronto. They in­spired me to open a cul­tural space that would al­low au­di­ences to en­joy its rich­ness. Dur­ing that time, as a board mem­ber of Tele­film Canada, I came to un­der­stand the value of Fran­co­phone cin­ema in the On­tario and Cana­dian film land­scape.

I was ready to start a fes­ti­val. Fi­nanc­ing, how­ever, was my big­gest ob­sta­cle un­til my hus­band Ralph Lean and I suc­ceeded in rais­ing suf­fi­cient funds to cre­ate Cinéfranco in 1997.

The first fes­ti­val opened in 1998 at the now de­funct Cum­ber­land The­atre. Cinéfranco grew quickly to be­come one of Toronto’s favourite film fes­ti­vals. Rec­og­nized as a rel­e­vant cul­tural event and a pow­er­ful ed­u­ca­tional tool, Cinéfranco branched out into the Youth Film Fes­ti­val, now at­tended by more than 9,000 stu­dents.

I was able to act as a jury mem­ber or a pro­gram­mer at lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals: in Morocco Lu­mières de Safi and the Mar­rakech

In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, The Float­ing Film Fes­ti­val. Doc­u­men­taries on Vi­siontv, TVO, TFO, Ra­dio-canada, and on the In­ter­net fea­tured my work that was re­warded by re­ceiv­ing the medal of Che­va­lier des Arts et des Let­tres from France, the Prix de l’al­liance française and the Prix Jean-baptiste Rousseau (So­ciété d’his­toire de Toronto).

Now, 20 years later, Cinéfranco has grown into a vibrant, in­te­gral part of the cul­tural fab­ric of On­tario. www.2017.cine­

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