Annual French language festival celebrated across China
This year in China, the 22nd Francophonie Festival is organized in cooperation with 20 embassies and diplomatic offices. It celebrates the multi-faceted francophone culture of Northern Africa. It has chosen to highlight Tunisian cinema, Moroccan gastronomy and Algerian literature.
In around 20 Chinese cities, through WeChat and in more than 11,000 karaoke bars, the French language will be celebrated via a series of cultural events and student contests. They have two new additions to the festival program this year: China’s first francophone drama contest and a program on football.
An official language of the UN, the EU and the Olympic Games, French is the fifth most spoken language in the world, the third language of international affairs and the fourth language on the Internet. Around 300 million speakers share with the French language its values of solidarity, respect and tolerance. The number of French speakers continues to increase toward an expected 800 million people by 2050.
Jin Xing, Francophonie Festival ambassador said, “Speaking French means holding a key to the cultures and peoples of Africa, Asia, North America and, of course, Europe. That is why I want my children to be conversant in this language, rich in its diversity, its stories and its values.”
Jin is an icon in Chinese society recognized as an artist as well as an opinion leader. At a very young age she danced for the People’s Liberation Army and pursued an international education in the United States and in Europe where she learned French. She came back to China in 1995 where she laid the foundation of the first independent dance company, The Jin Xing Dance Theatre.
Eclecticism and beauty
In 2017, the Maghreb region (North Africa) is in the spotlight, notably with the invitation of the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal (published by SeaSky), author of the anticipation-novel 2084, inspired by George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984. Tunisian film Hédi, by Mohamed Ben Attia (which won two awards at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival), recounts the love story between a shy young man and an independent woman, shortly after the Arab Spring.
Morroccan chef Moha of famous Marrakech restaurant Dar Moha, also a radio host, will come and teach his art to 20. The French language was revolutionized by the brilliant singer Serge Gainsbourg, who also wrote music for Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Vanessa Paradis and of course for his partner, Jane Birkin, with whom he formed one of the most iconic artistic couples of the 20th century.
The couple were behind the first pop concept album, Histoire de Melody Nelson. The album cover pictures a young woman who would go on to become a seminal fashion icon, even lending her name to a Hermès bag (the ‘Birkin’). Both this and several other of Gainsbourg’s album covers were immortalized by his friend, the photographer Tony Frank, who is coming to China (Guangzhou, Beijing and Shenyang) to present his exhibition, Serge Gainsbourg, and to share the story of their friendship.
Gainsbourg’s songs will also provide the soundtrack for Phillippe Calvario’s staging of Marivaux’s famous play, The Game of Love and Chance, which was first introduced in 1730 and became one of the most played theatre plays since then.
Aimed mainly at young people, the Francophonie is a celebration of the eclecticism and beauty of the French language. Many competitions are organized for students, giving them the chance to win trips to France, Switzerland and Canada: The Pivot Dictationm WeChat Game: a game that speaks to everyone, even beginners, and allows discovering the French language, with many gifts to be won.
The 29 best players will be selected for a final on March 20 in Beijing, where the dictation will be read by Haitian-Quebecois writer and academician Dany Laferrière! Go to Faguowenhua WeChat account from March 1 to 31 to play:
- The Francophone singing competition, notable winners of which are the singers Lui Huan and Shang Wenjie. During the festival, participants can rehearse in one of 11,000 karaoke salons featuring 120 French songs! To find a francophone KTV near you, download the KTVME app.
- The theater contest for French universities and alliances is to be held throughout China with a jury of Chinese and French celebrities from the theater world.
- The poetry translation competition, for learners of French in China and poetry lovers with five poems from the French-speaking Mediterranean world (Tahar Ben Jelloun, Yves Bonnefoy, Salah Stetie).
Film & music
New in 2017, a focus on soccer with Melody Donchet, freestyle football world champion, and Lilian Thuram, World Cup champion (1998), who created The Lilian Thuram Foundation, aiming at fighting against every kind of discrimination. The university professor Pascal Boniface will be giving a conference series on sports geopolitics. The Francophone Cinema Encounters will also screen two movies dealing with sports: The African Who Wanted to Fly by Samantha Biffot, on the incredible life of Gabonese kungfu master Luc Bendza, and Maracana, on the 1950 World Cup.
A pastry-making residency awaits Francophone and Chinese apprentice pastry makers as a means to spread the French language via gourmet creations. The aim is to come up with a final product derived from a blend of cultures and knowledge, original research and new flavors. Chefs from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Morocco, Quebec and China will teach their pastry techniques to young pastry chefs in Lycée Jinsong (Beijing) and Belle Vie School (Changsha).
The Francophonie Festival is also about cinema, with films from all over the world being shown in 20 Chinese cities as part of the Francophone Cinema Encounters cycle. Michel Ocelot, one of France’s leading animated film directors, and the recipient of several international prizes (Kirikou and the Sorceress, Princes and Princesses, Azur & Azmar: The Princes’ Quest), will come to China to present his latest film, Ivan Tsarevich and the Moody Princess. Right after Hollywood where his film My life as a Courgette is nominated for Oscars, the Swiss Claude Barras will come to Beijing.
The “Mars en Folie” music festival invites you to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2017. Each year, young music talents from Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Quebec, Switzerland and Luxembourg tour China, thanks to the Alliance Française. More information at marsenfolie.afchine.org.
The Francophonie Festival also welcomes the famous Malian kora player, Ballaké Sissoko, who will be performing in Poly theaters in Henan, Changsha, Wuhan, Shanxi, Jiangsu and Shenyang.
In China, around 150 universities have French departments. More and more primary schools, middle schools and high schools provide French as foreign language courses. The 15 French Alliances all around China also provide tailored courses. Find out more about it on the information day on French language trips at the French Institute in Beijing on April 1 (for all levels and ages).
Multinational attendees take a group photo at a promotional event for this year’s Francophonie Festival.