By Darwin Manning
Students and professors of the French Department will no longer be the only people in Grinnell with a great love for the culture of France. Over the next three weekends, there will be a host of French-themed events, including French films at the Strand, restaurants with French-themed menus, a photo exhibition compiled by students who recently studied abroad in France and a play with French origins.
This series of events is being brought to Grinnell by the work of the Grinnell College French Department and the Center for International Studies, in collaboration with the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement and the Grinnell Area Arts Council.
The project began with an initial proposal spearheaded by Assistant Professor of French Andrea Magermans who applied for a grant from the French embassy to be able to show six films at the Strand. While this grant did not come into fruition, the project blossomed into something much larger.
“We didn’t get the grant, but we had reserved the Strand for two nights, so we decided to go ahead with our plans,” said French Professor Philippe Moisan.
The French department agreed that this would be a good way to give people from town a taste of French cinema and to encourage students to appreciate this culture more.
“It’s the first time the Strand will have a foreign film in a foreign language with 35 mm film, so it will be pretty exciting,” Moisan said.
The two film showings will allow students of the College and people from town to open their horizons and take in a new view of cinema.
“For the city of Grinnell, it’s a good opportunity to have a of couple foreign films at the Strand,” Magermans said. “It allows them to see films they wouldn’t normally see on a big screen in town.”
The first film that will be played is Paris, which will be followed by a wine and cheese opening reception for the “Photographs from France” exhibit at the Grinnell Arts Center. The next week, the Strand will feature “Tell No One,” a film which Magermans thinks will challenge most people’s views about French cinema.
“Oftentimes, people think French films are depressing—at least that’s the impression I get from my students – but this film shows that they can be exciting, as it’s a psychological thriller,” Magermans said.
Throughout this time, “Photographs from France” will be set up for viewing at the Arts Center downtown. Moisan believes this will be very interesting because of the synergy it will create between the College and the town.
“The photos were taken by students while they studied in France, so what’s interesting is that they are in a way showing that Grinnell is around the world, and the world is in Grinnell,” Moisan said.
Another component to this series of weekend events will be the Actors Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” a play originally written in French and which premiered in Paris in 1953.
Several restaurants around Grinnell will also be participating in this cultural extravaganza. Bourbon Street will be deviating from their normally Cajun style in favor of a French menu, and several restaurants will offer a discount if their customers show a ticket stub from one of the movies.
This event could perhaps not come at a better time, as many people are looking for an escape from the endless days of bone-chattering cold, explained Monica Chavez-Silva of the Office of Community Enhancement.
“This is an exciting collaboration,” she said, “one that combines the cultural talents and interest of both the College and the town. And what better time to ‘escape to Paris’ than in the middle of February?”
Moisan believes that if this event is successful, similar cultural weekends could be in the making.
“I think we should continue these types of events, like Cairo nights or London nights,” he said. “I also hope that the Strand can start to have more variety in the films they show.”
Parisian Nights in Grinnell will take place this Saturday, Feb. 12, and on the following two Saturdays, Feb. 19 and Feb. 26. The full schedule of events can be found at thesandb.com.