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Unifrance Exec Spotlights French and American Women Directors

Unifrance Exec Spotlights French and American Women Directors

If you see any French films this year, you’ll have Isabelle Giordano to thank for that. Since June 2013, Giordano has been the General Director of Unifrance Films, the government agency that promotes French cinema abroad. A former journalist with decades of experience in print, television, and radio, Giordano is also the mastermind behind the upcoming panel “ACTION! French and American Women Directors” at the 2014 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema film festival (March 6-16) at New York’s Lincoln Center. 

The March 8 panel will begin with a screening of Cineast(e)s, a documentary about women in the film industry, and follow up with a discussion among Stacie Passon (Concussion), Katell Quillevere (Suzanne), Axelle Ropert (Miss and the Doctors), Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks), Justine Triet (Age of Panic), and Rebecca Zlotowski (Grand Central) that will be moderated by Giordano. 

Below, the Unifrance exec talks to Women and Hollywood about the differences between French and American films and what she hopes to accomplish with the “ACTION!” panel. 
For the people who are unfamiliar with Unifrance, can you please explain what your organization does?

Unifrance Films is a non-profit, Paris-based state association founded 65 years ago that promotes French cinema abroad. We have agents in New York, Mumbai, Beijing and Tokyo. Each year, we organize the biggest French cinema market in Paris, create French film festivals in strategic countries (and even online with, and work with the international press to promote our talents, movies, and sellers to help them present our films worldwide.

How does your experience as a journalist help you with your job at Unifrance Films?

The key word today in international promotion is communication. As a former journalist, I understand how important it is to create powerful messages and to have an appropriate strategy of transmitting our passion for French cinema. [My background has been] quite helpful in inventing new ways of presenting our movies with ideas, debates, panels, and discussions.

Is the US a good market for French films?

The US is still a priority for us, with more than 50 films bought each year for distribution here. And thanks to the Oscars, our actors, like Marion Cotillard, Jean Dujardin and Lea Seydoux, are becoming more and more famous. I am sure there are lots of other opportunities for French cinema. This is the reason why we are developing our partnership with universities (a program of masterclasses “Tournees +”) and with schools and preschools.

What is unique about French cinema?

We are the only [country] that has such diversity. And only we tell stories the way we do. 

Explain the biggest misconception about French films.

I hate it when people say that our cinema is too talkative. 

Last fall a charter was introduced in France to improve the numbers for women working in the film industryDoes Unifrance support the charter?

It is obvious that there are a lot of influential women in French cinema — directors and producers. I will tell you more after our panel discussion with French and US women directors that we organized!

There are more female directors in France because of government funding. How do you think that the US can increase the amount of women directors?

There are plenty of way to explore. The US has to follow the example of the great Kathryn Bigelow!

You have put together a panel of women directors this year on International Women’s Day. Talk a little about your objectives for the panel. 

Since we have a new generation of women being more and more creative and influential in the French film industry, we thought it might be a good idea to present some of them during the Rendez-Vous film festival and share our views and experiences with US women directors. This is a great time right now in France for women in films as [directors] Katell Quillevere, Axelle Ropert, Justine Triet and Rebecca Zlotowski gain exposure. I can’t wait to get feedback from our US guests.  

The festival opens with the ultimate French emissary, Catherine Deneuve, in On My Way, directed by Emmanuelle Bercot. Explain why this film was picked to open the festival.

On My Way is a very good example of how French cinema creates new narrative processes and how it is still modern. Catherine Deneuve is one of our best emissaries, and she always chooses to work with new directors. You will see that she had very good instincts in trusting Emmanuelle Bercot, who happens to be as gifted as a director as she is as an actress. 

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