The kid-friendly 2020 French animated feature “Chien Pourri, la Vie à Paris” screens Saturday morning. Photos courtesy of Champlain Film Festival

Fans of world cinema, folks looking for a free selection of some of the best foreign films out there, and/or people who just love the sound of the French language, spoken in all its lyrical variety, rejoice. The second annual Champlain Film Festival is coming to Portland this weekend.

This exciting new addition to Maine’s already eclectic and rewarding film festival season comes courtesy of the Alliance Française du Maine, the international organization dedicated to the promotion and learning of the French language. The group has chapters all over the world and in all 50 states, but, as Alliance Vice-President Lisa Scali explains, Maine is special.

“French is the second-most spoken language in Maine, thanks to the rich history of the Franco-American communities in places like Biddeford and Lewiston,” explained Scali, as she and her colleagues readied this year’s roster of six contemporary French-language films and other events. “For a long time, French-speaking people in Maine were discouraged from speaking in their native language, but there’s been a renaissance in recent years, a vibrancy that we’re looking to tap into.”

Scali points to the recent addition of new Mainers immigrating from French-speaking African countries as one factor in revitalizing the mission of the Alliance Française du Maine. “We’re all about embracing the French language as it’s spoken by people all over the world,” she said. To that end, the Alliance’s far-reaching programs include everything from art and yoga classes to French-language classes for speakers at any level and a conversation session at Portland’s Burundi Star Coffee on the first Saturday of every month. Said Scali: “It’s very casual, and it’s just about people being together, hanging out and speaking French.”

Of course, we’re here to talk about movies, and Scali notes that, after the Alliance’s promising start last year, the Champlain Film Festival (or Festival Champlain du Film Francophone) is ready to bring a whole new audience to worldwide French film – and a selection of world cinema that ordinarily might not play here in Maine.

“We learned a lot last year,” said Scali, crediting Alliance member and Maine’s Honorary Maine Consul for France Alban Maino for coming up with the idea. “We started earlier, we finalized the lineup of films earlier, and we really focused on the kinds of films we wanted to show.”


Indeed, while many culture- or language-focused film festivals incorporate a more historical overview of the films they’re presenting, festival organizers this year decided to focus exclusively on contemporary French-language film, resulting in a roster plucked from some of the most exciting releases from all over the French-speaking world. Attendees to this weekend’s films could just as well be walking into a movie theater in places as far-flung as Mali, Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, Senegal, the Ivory Coast or, of course, France.

Said Scali of this year’s films, “There are so many wonderful films in French, made by so many directors from so many cultures. We wanted to celebrate them all.” Good idea – let’s do that.

“Au Revoir le Bonheur/Goodbye Happiness” is a warm-hearted 2021 French Canadian family dramedy from director Ken Scott.

The Champlain Film Festival kicks off on Friday at the Portland Museum of Art’s PMA Films, with a 3 p.m. screening of “Au Revoir le Bonheur/Goodbye Happiness,” a warm-hearted 2021 French Canadian family dramedy from director Ken Scott. Four very different adult brothers reluctantly reunite at their Îles-de-la-Madeleine childhood home after the death of their father, with Scali calling this kickoff film “funny and touching. Plus, the Îles-de-la-Madeleine locations are unusual for a movie.”

At 5:45 p.m. Friday, PMA is showing Cédric Klapisch’s “En Corps/Rise” (2022), about a brilliant ballet dancer (Marion Barbeau) whose shattering injury sends her on a quest to adapt her skills into a new, more contemporary art form.

The festival shifts venues to the University of Southern Maine’s Talbot Hall on Saturday, starting off with an all-ages, kid-friendly 10 a.m. screening of the delightful 2020 French animated feature “Chien Pourri, la Vie à Paris,” about a rascally dog following his nose on an adventure throughout the City of Lights. There’s also a post-film art and activity session for the kids in attendance to burn off some artistic energy.

At 11 a.m., see the festival premiere of director Robert Guediguian’s 2021 film “Twist a Bamako/Dancing the Twist in Bamako.” Set in the tumultuous 1960s period after Mali threw off French colonial rule, the film sees an idealistic young revolutionary (Stéphane Bak) attempting to balance his zeal for social progress with his love of both capital city Bamako’s Motown-flavored nightlife and his love for Lara (Alice Da Luz), a young woman fleeing a troubled past.


Up next at 1:45 p.m. is Leonor Serraille’s “Un Petit Frère/Mother and Son,” a gripping and uplifting French drama about a young mother moving her family from the Ivory Coast to Paris, and following the family’s evolution over the next 20 years. Said Scali: “This movie tells a timeless tale in a very touching way.”

A scene from “Mon Crime/The Crime is Mine,” which will close the Champlain Film Festival.

And concluding the festival is “Mon crime/The Crime Is Mine” the latest comedy from contemporary French master François Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “8 Women,” “Peter von Kant”), about a struggling young actress whose passionate courtroom defense of her murder of a lecherous old producer sends her career skyrocketing – at least until some inconvenient truths start to come out. Featuring the always-amazing Isabelle Huppert (“The Piano Teacher,” “Elle,” “Amateur”), Scali promises this star-studded French comedy will leave audiences laughing.

Following “Mon crime/The Crime Is Mine,” attendees are all invited to a post-festival reception at the Portland Custom House, where there will be good food, drink and no doubt lively conversation. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to practice your French with representatives of the French and Canadian government (both of which, along with plenty of Maine companies and organizations, helped sponsor this year’s festival), with Scali noting that Maine Gov. Janet Mills herself made a speech (in French) at last year’s event.

The Festival Champlain du Film Francophone/Champlain Film Festival takes place on Friday and Saturday. Attendance is absolutely free, although you can RSVP at the Alliance Française du Maine festival site. And for more information on the great work being done all over the state by the Alliance Française du Maine, check out

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: