Returning to Kazakhstan this year once again highlighted the strong interest in French films in this country where audiences unfortunately do not have the chance to see many of our films. In spite of the recent opening of high standard movie theaters (with 200 screens around the country), as well an increased number of local films produced and growing movie attendance figures, it remains difficult to expand the range and number of French films distributed in this market. The distribution sector remains almost entirely dependent on its powerful Russian neighbors, with Kazakh distributors only releasing films acquired by Russia for the whole of the CIS, including American films.
This festival was founded with the aim of restoring an interest in French films amongst the generation of people who were very familiar with French cinema at the time of the USSR, as well younger audiences who have little knowledge of French cinema other than via television.
The focus of the event remains supporting Kazakh distributors in their release of French films. The timing of the event this year chimed in with the spring release of the major French titles The Intouchables, The Players, The Chef, and The Straight Line in Russia, and therefore also in Kazakhstan. Anne Le Ny traveled to Kazakhstan for the release of The Intouchables, which opened the festival to a packed theater. The enthusiastic welcome offered to Daniel Cohen, director of The Chef, matched the distributor's expectations of the guaranteed success of the combination of Jean Reno + Paris + French cuisine!
The big event that marked the history of Kazakhstan movie industry was the preview screening of The Assault by Julien Leclercq, which will be released in July dubbed in Russian and Kazakh. This is the very first foreign film acquired by a local distributor that was not negotiated through the habitual intermediaries in Moscow. Recounting a theme that is sensitive in this country, this one-off screening attracted a sizeable audience, showing great promise for the commercial release of the film in this market. To complete the selection, two films that have not been acquired were also presented, subtitled in Russian by uniFrance Films
: The Minister by Pierre Schoeller and 38 Witnesses by Lucas Belvaux, which was introduced by Natacha Régnier.
The event would not be what it is without the Short Film Night, which was held between midnight and 6 a.m. and attracted over 300 spectators, mainly students, who were delighted to be offered a French breakfast at sunrise.
Numerous interviews were held with the French artists, with a larger number of media representatives present than in previous years. Benefiting from excellent word-of-mouth intensified by a network of movie-enthusiast bloggers, the 2012 event proved a resounding success, with 2,000 spectators registered.
Next year, the event will be expanded to include the country's new capital city, Astana, thanks to support from local sponsors who now appear to be convinced of the potential of an event that was described by the best-known Kazakh journalist as "the country's third biggest movie event," after the international Eurasia and Action Film Festivals.