ECU Screens to kick off 10th annual Foreign Film Festival on Valentine's Day

East Central UniversityA scene from the film “Le Retour du Heros” is shown. The film will air at 4 p.m. Friday at ECU, kicking off ECU Screens’ 10th annual Foreign Film Festival.

On Valentine’s Day, ECU Screens will launch East Central University’s 10th annual Foreign Film Festival, featuring released foreign-language films from France, the Republic of Georgia and Spain. The films air at 4 p.m. on the second, third and fourth Fridays in February at the Raymond Estep Multimedia Center inside the Bill S. Cole University Center. All screenings are free and open to the public.

Prior to the first screening on Friday, ECU Screens and ECU’s Linscheid Library Academic Friends invite the community to attend an event titled “Ask Me About the World.” The event will feature international ECU students and faculty who will be sharing stories and answering questions about their home countries. “Ask Me About the World” also features music, food and books that the students have chosen to represent their home countries, including India, Nepal, Ghana, South Korea, Russia and the Bahamas. “Ask Me About the World” will begin at 3 p.m. inside the atrium of the University Center.

The film festival launches at 4 p.m. Friday with the French-language romantic comedy “Return of the Hero” (“Le Retour du Hero”), which showcases the comedic talents of two of France’s biggest stars, Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and César winner Mélanie Laurent (“Inglorious Basterds”).

Seasoned with a timely streak of feminism, this zesty screwball comedy offers audiences an “enjoyable romp” through Napoleonic France (The Guardian). In 1809, the charming Captain Neuville (Dujardin) is set to marry the naïve Pauline (Noémie Merlant) when war breaks out, forcing Neuville to depart for the battlefield. After not hearing from the captain for months, Pauline grows sick with worry, and her sister Elizabeth (Laurent) decides to write letters on Neuville’s behalf to cheer her up. Eventually, Neuville returns home in glory and is welcomed as a hero, but unbeknownst to everyone but Elizabeth, Neuville is, in fact, a penniless war deserter. Elizabeth is determined to expose the real Neuville, and the two imposters find themselves in a ruthless fight! The running time for “Return of the Hero” is 1 hour and 31 minutes. It has not been rated by the MPAA.

The Foreign Film Festival continues at 4 p.m. Feb. 21 with “Rezo,” a Russian-language film from the Republic of Georgia. “Rezo” explores the rich inner world of the renowned Georgian screenwriter, artist and puppeteer Rezo Gabriadze – a world that is as fantastic as the animation into which he has poured this story of his life.

In 2018, this charming autobiographical animated documentary won Best Animated Movie at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and Best Documentary at the European Independent Film Awards. “Rezo” is distributed in the United States by StageRussia, an intercultural project whose aim is “to share the beauty of Russian culture, which in these politically charged times can act as an olive branch between East and West, unified by universally understood film performances.” The running time for “Rezo” is 1 hour and 15 minutes. It has not been rated by the MPAA.

The festival concludes at 4 p.m. Feb. 28 with the Spanish-language drama “Pain and Glory” (“Dolor y Gloria”), the 22nd feature film by legendary Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar.

The most personal film of Almodóvar’s career, “Pain and Glory” stars Antonio Banderas as Salvador Mallo, a film director in physical decline, which Almodóvar based on his own life. Banderas’s performance recently earned him a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival and the European Film Awards, as well as the New York Film Critics Association and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and his first nomination for an Academy Award as Best Actor in a Leading Role. “Pain and Glory” has been rated “R” by the MPAA for drug use, some graphic nudity and language.

All Foreign Film Festival events are free and open to the public, and door prizes – books and foods associated with the home countries of each film – will be given away after each screening. Each film will also be introduced by an ECU faculty member. 

Dr. Sarah Peters, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, chair of the Department of English and Languages and co-director of ECU Screens, will introduce “Return of the Hero.” Dr. Mara Sukholutskaya, professor of English and Languages and director of global education, will introduce “Rezo.” Dr. Steve Benton, director of the Honors Program and co-director of ECU Screens, will introduce “Pain and Glory” and discuss his experience giving private English lessons to Antonio Banderas at Banderas’ home in Madrid in 1990 to help Banderas prepare for his first Hollywood role.

To learn more about ECU Screens, like the ECU Screens Facebook page. Benton may be contacted at 580-559-5877 or sbenton@ecok.edu.

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