With lines for tickets and a packed theater, the 2019 French Film Festival provided an intimate look into the world of filmography in France. 

The festival is co-sponsored by University of Richmond's department of languages, literatures and cultures and Virginia Commonwealth University's School of World Studies. 

Complete with English subtitles, each film was open to students, teachers and the general public. From short films to longer feature films, many of the pieces conveyed an important social message. Some of them dealt directly with controversial international topics, such as immigration, freedom of expression and environmental activism.

In 1993, two French professors, one from UR and one from VCU, founded the festival to “gauge the true interest in the latest French film productions largely unknown to audiences in an average-sized American city," according to the festival's website. This year's festival ran from March 28-31.

Festival-goers filled the majority of the Byrd Theatre's approximate 1,400 seats on the morning of Saturday, March 30. 

The Byrd Theatre in Carytown has hosted the festival for several years, hiring the same technicians and projectionists to work the festival who work at the International Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, according to the website.

Some UR French classes required students to attend certain films, but several UR students went to the festival of their own accord. Hilary Raymond, a visiting lecturer of French, was one of the professors who required their students to attend the film festival. 

“It is a rare immersion into a French-speaking world,” Raymond said. “I can tell that some students are not that thrilled when I announce that they need to attend the festival and see a certain number of films. However, the discussions and the questions I hear afterwards – even if they didn't particularly like the films they saw – are definitely worth the price of admission.” 

Sophomore Emma Roberts attended and watched the short films on Saturday morning. 

“It was cool to see the short films,” Roberts said. “They gave an interesting variety of genre, technique and cultural significance.”

A few days before the festival, master classes were offered to the public to allow the audience to ask the filmmakers, actors and directors about their pieces, specifically about the themes woven into the films. 

These classes included presentations by the people involved in the filmmaking process, specifically about how they "create ingenious ways through the visual and aural power of cinema to communicate important issues facing our world today while captivating and entertaining the viewer," according to the festival's website.

First-year Noel Lora attended one of these master classes as well as the festival. 

“I felt immersed in French culture," Lora said. "It was the first time I had ever been around so many French speakers.

"It was amazing to see the Richmond community come together for such an event.”

Each film was subtitled in English for those who are not fluent in French, and the Q&As that followed each film included both French and English interpreters. By breaking down the language barrier, the film festival became an activity for everybody to enjoy. 

“The variety of feature films and short films ensures that there is truly something for everyone,” Raymond said. “The use of subtitles and translation of the question and answer sessions makes the festival accessible for everyone, whether they are students of French or not.” 

The French Film Festival has been a successful event in Richmond for decades. It brings an international feel to an otherwise small city and allows people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and enjoy an insight into French culture. 

DVDs of the films shown this year are available on the festival website for purchase. 

Contact lifestyle writer Kaitlin Edwardson at kaitlin.edwardson@richmond.edu.