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Meet the Directors

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

As a French language learner, I watch French films to train my ear to the sound of French words and to catch a glimpse of French life and culture. In general, I love movies; the way they open my mind, warm my heart, or touch my soul.

On Sunday, March 14, 2021, I got up earlier than usual to watch the rest of the Cesar (French Academy) Nominated short films accessible to me through the Sacramento French Film Festival. I was giddy with anticipation. I was going to meet the film directors at noon. The invitation read:
14th Winter Short Film Festival
Films available starting March 12
Meet the film makers, in a live transatlantic discussion March 14

The morning of March 14, I finished watching the 14-minute animated film "And Then the Bear," by Agnes Patron. Billed as fantasy, there were sex scenes involving wooden figures and grasshoppers. The night before, I watched the 24-minute live-action film "So What If the Goats Die," but didn't finish because the story escaped me. Both films won in their category at the Cesar held in Paris. 
At 10 minutes to noon, I logged into Zoom — the teleconferencing platform that became essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. I glanced at my computer screen. I saw faces with names underneath, then heard a male and female voice speaking fluent French. My heart skipped. I whispered to my husband, "Oh, no! I'm only a beginner!" Sensing my panic, my husband said. "Just observe."

The night before, that was my plan — to just observe. And to speak English if need be. Still, showing my face on Zoom to strangers speaking French required bravery on my part. I had put on lipstick. I pulled my shoulders back, sat down and faced the computer with its squares of faces on Zoom.





All nine short films (courts-métrages) were available to me to watch from noon on March 12 to noon March 15. I could watch them for a discounted price of $12 because I'm a member of the Alliance Francaise de Sacramento. And what's more. I could meet the filmmakers on March 14. Noon in California (day light saving time) was 8:00 p.m. in France. Zoom made this transatlantic event possible.
Of the nine films, I first watched "First Goodbyes" by Mathilde Profit and "Among the Almond Trees" by Marie Le Floch. These were live action family dramas, 24 and 21 minutes long. Both directors were on Zoom to discuss their respective work. I watched Choum's Odyssey, the 26-minute animated film about a cute owl and her brother written and directed by Julien Bisaro. Julian wasn't there but Claire Paolletti, the co-author and producer was there for the event, as was Loic Barche, the director of L'Aventure Atomique, a 26-minute film set in Algeria 1961; France had just detonated its fourth atomic bomb.

The film directors were open about themselves, the creative process and the challenges. One director said she wrote her story after her father died. Patron shared that her film, "And Then the Bear," was inspired by her son's "temper tantrums." Indeed, the film captured a boy's righteous anger and jealousy at his mom's lover.

Of the five French film directors/producer present, four were women. This was inspiring to me. All five seemed down-to-earth. I learned that a 24-minute film could take three years to finish! Now I appreciate short films even more and will watch them with a keener eye.

I will remember that films are shaped by the creator's vision and experience. Meeting the Directors,, albeit virtually was truly "magnifique."

~ Nida Spalding






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