Actor Isaach De Bankolé at the Women In Film Crystal and Lucy Awards in 2018. De Bankolé will speak at the upcoming Princeton French Film Festival.
Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Thanks to two Princeton graduate students in the Department of French and Italian, the Princeton French Film Festival will return to town from April 12-26, with double the number of films as last year and a slew of related events.

This year’s schedule includes 10 new and classic feature-length movies, one short film, several Q&A discussions, and masterclasses with Richard Brody ’80, longtime film critic for The New Yorker, and Isaach de Bankolé, an Ivorian actor who has appeared in international films and television programs as well as American productions such as Black Panther and Casino Royale

According to Yassine Ait Ali, a fourth-year graduate student, who, together with fourth-year student Pierre Azou, is organizing the festival, the goal is to create “an environment for conversation and engagement with cinema” by presenting the best lineup in the hopes of gathering the community together.

The films — which this year include representation from France, Senegal, Cameroon, Canada, India, Italy, and the United States — will be screened in their original languages with English subtitles. This year’s slate includes family-friendly options and will touch on narrative themes ranging from racism to sustainability to sexual orientation to motherhood.

Ait Ali and Azou’s string of successes began in the fall of 2022, when they helped revive the French and Francophone Society. That November, they invited the public to a movie screening and were “very surprised to see that the 200 or so tickets that we offered were gone in less than 24 hours,” according to Ait Ali. The duo has since co-founded a separate Princeton Film Festival student group to promote movie screenings.

At the first French Film Festival, held last spring, Ait Ali and Azou were surprised when more than 1,000 attendees came to see five French and Francophone films from emerging and acclaimed filmmakers from Chad, France, and Haiti, three of which were followed by discussions with filmmakers, experts, and nonprofit leaders. 

This year, festival events will be held on campus, at the Princeton Public Library, and at the Princeton Garden Theatre; nearly all are free and open to the public, though registration is required. Tickets and more information can be found online here.

The festival’s many sponsors and partners include Albertine Cinémathèque, a program with ties to the French Embassy’s Cultural Services, and the Graduate School’s GradFUTURES Office. On April 10, in the lead up to the festival, Ait Ali will moderate a panel examining the current state of public humanities as part of the 2024 GradFUTURES Forum.