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Two film directors highlight Francophone Fest

March 5, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Two internationally known filmmakers will visit Western Michigan University as part of the seventh annual Francophone Film Festival, March 12-16.

Award-winning Haitian filmmaker and screenwriter Arnold Antonin will be on hand to present his film, "Does the President Have AIDS?" while Quebec director Maryanne Zehil will present her film, "From My Window, Without a Home." The two films are among six to be shown in the festival's feature film competition.

The other four festival films include "Darratt (Dry Season)" by Mahammat Saleh Haroun of Chad; "God Bless America" by Robert Morin of Quebec; "Flower of Oblivion" by Salma Baccar of Tunisia; and "Mokili" by Berni Goldblatt of Burkina Faso.

All of the films have English subtitles and will be shown in the Little Theatre at the corner of Oliver Street and Oakland Drive. Admission is $8 for general admission or $5 for students. Passes good for all films are $40 for general admission or $18 for students.

Zehil will present her film at 7 p.m. Friday, March 14; the film also will be shown at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15. Zehil made her first short film in 2004, one that involved people who had never previously been before the cameras. "From My Window, Without a Home" is her first feature film and was presented at the closing of the Rendez-vous du cinema quebecois in 2006. The film tells the story of Sana, a Lebanese Christian who balks at the pressure to be a traditional woman and leaves her four-year-old daughter to immigrate to Quebec. To deal with the pain of separation, she burns all bridges to her past. But when she meets her daughter seventeen years later, all that she has tried to forget returns with a vengeance.

Antonin will present his film at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 15. The film also will be shown at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 16. Antonin has produced and directed more than 22 films, mostly documentaries, and is a professor at the Ecole Nationale des Arts of Haiti. "Does the President Have AIDS?" won the Paul Robeson award for best film of the African Diaspora at the African film festival FESPACO in 2007. The film revolves around Dao, "president" of the Compas music scene, who lives a life of sex, drugs and alcohol until he becomes ill. He meets Nina and rescues her from Larieux, a wealthy businessman who her mother wants her to marry. As romance blossoms between Dao and Nina, Larieux plans his revenge. Several short films by Antonin on Haitian art also will be shown at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16.

As in previous years, the festival will feature films out of competition, as well as a short film competition, which begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 15.

For more information, including film descriptions and screening times, go to the festival's at www.wmich.edu/fffkazoo.

Feature films in the competition (unless otherwise noted) are:

"Daratt (Dry Season)" by Mahammat Salleh Haroun; 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15. Atim's grandfather is distraught when he hears that the government is not punishing the criminals of Chad's civil war. Among these men is Nassar, the man who killed Atim's father. The grandfather asks the 16-year-old Atim to find and kill Nassar. Once Atim has found Nassar, he decides to work as his apprentice, thinking that he will be able to dispatch him without being noticed, but are things that easy? This film won the Bronze Stallion at FESPACO in 2007.

"Fleur d'oubli (Flower of Oblivion)" by Salma Baccar; Tunisia; 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, and 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13. Zakia faces many challenges. Her husband has neglected her in favor of a man, yet clearly understands the pain that he has caused her. She must also cope with the teenage daughter who wants nothing to do with her and holds Zakia responsible for the dissolution of her parent's marriage. Drugs are Zakia's escape route, but one that leads to addiction and an asylum, where her destiny keeps evolving.

"Que Dieu benisse l'Amerique (God Bless America)" by Robert Morin, Quebec; 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 14, and 7 p.m. Sunday, March 16. In a quiet suburb, a list containing the names of sexual predators who have been released from prison is posted in various areas. Shortly thereafter, a mysterious vigilante begins murdering people identified on the list. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, one of the predators--whose time has come--faces six of his neighbors.

"Mokili" by Berni Goldblatt; Burkina Faso; 9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13, and 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 14. "Mokili" is the chronicle of a few crucial weeks in the lives of two adolescents in modern-day Burkina Faso. Papou and Goumbe are worlds apart, reacting in opposite ways to their approaching exams. Their contrasting approaches to dealing with family and peer relations, as well as their choices about drugs and sex, easy money, forced marriage and corruption, reveal the issues faced by young people everywhere, but, more particularly, those in contemporary African society.

"Tomisun Koro (In the Shade of the Tamarind Tree)" by Dramane Deme Burkina Faso, out of competition; 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 12 (following "Duratt"). A modern tale about the African conception of knowledge and the way in which it relates to power. Deme, who now lives in Kalamazoo, will present his film.

"Wesh Wesh" by Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, France, out of competition; 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 16, (following awards ceremony). This film is set in Cite des Bosquets, a council estate in the Parisian suburbs. The story is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Kamel, a young man who has returned to the estate after having been expelled. "Wesh Wesh" presents the experiences of a group of young adults confronted with the social decomposition of their neighborhood.

The Francophone Film Festival of Kalamazoo is supported by the the governments of Quebec and Canada, the government of Tunisia, the Centre de la Cinematographie of Moroco, the Alliance Francaise of Kalamazoo and a number of WMU departments and programs.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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