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Independent US films in the spotlight at the Champs-Elysées Film Festival

By Rosslyn Hyams

The Champs-Elysées Film Festival brings together old and new movies from France and the US with the accent on independent US filmmakers. RFI's Rosslyn Hyams tells us more in this week's look at the arts scene in France.

Folk from the film world in France take little or no rest. No sooner had the Cannes Film Festival wrapped up at the end of May than the animation film specialists headed off to Annecy in the east of France for a dedicated event in early June.

Romantic films were the theme of the 34-year-old festival in Cabourg in Normandy in mid-June, while the Trouville Cult Films Festival - also in mid-June - is in its second year  and is building a following.

In Paris, the number of film festivals explodes in June.

The slickest is the Champs-Elysées Film Festival where cinemas houses on and just off the Avenue share in the fun arising from a programme of new and old French and US independent movies.

The top prize, the American Independent Jury Award, went to The Strange Ones directed by Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff.

The first-time prize to a French independent film went to Jeune Femme (Montparnasse Bienvenüe) whose director Léonor Serraille won the Golden Camera for best first feature at Cannes in May 2017.

Jean of the Joneses by Stella Mehghie won a special mention from the Jury and the audience award for an American film. The audience chose Loïc Paillard's Les étoiles restantes - The Remaining Stars as their favourite French feature film.

The French release of Jean of the Joneses will be eagerly awaited as Meghie's second feature also stole the heart of US magazine Variety which also donates an award at the festival.

The French equivalent award is from subtitling firm Titra whichchose Paillard's debut feature film out of 6 French films in the competition this year.

At this festival, too, especially because of its US tie, the Netflix polemic raised by the Cannes film festival was fresh in people's minds.

The festival had selected two films actually produced by the US movie internet platform Netflix - Okja directed by Bong joon-ho stars British actress Tilda Swinton and US hero Jake Gyllenhal, and The Meyerowitz Stories, has US veteran Dustin Hoffman in the lead role supported, by British actress Emma Thomson.

Netflix films intends to keep their in-house productions for small-screen home-viewing only.

In France, current regulations require new feature films to be shown exclusively for several years in cinemas, before being authorised for home-viewing or on TV.

Each country applies its own waiting time, but France is the most strict.

The French authorities as well as producers and distributors views on the subject differ, but a general sense prevails that all parties must find a way to serve their own specific interests and the mutual ones which make France a special place for film.

Sophie Dulac said: "Netflix has only about 1.4 million audience in France today. It should have its' place, but we need regulations, and we need to take the time to think about them and the sort of conditions which are necessary. It shouldn't happen in the way it could have in Cannes."

At Cannes in May 2017, the fear was that an online-only film would have actually won a prize and never have been screened in public again.

As well as depriving audiences of big screen excitement, it would also have cut out all the distributors and halls which survive directly or indirectly on a percentage of physical box-office takings.

Netflix is threatening to be a culture changer, in a similar way to the arrival of the mutliplexes which swallowed up many independent or smaller cinema chains.

However, the multiplex groups in France, notably MK2, make space for and even produce art-house or independent movies.

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