The Foundation paid for the rental of the Opera House and Galleries at Meaford Hall, as well as the cost of the two films. This took a major burden off the student organizers, and made the festival an affordable undertaking. Things took off from there.
Pernilla Johannesson felt an introduction to French cinema would enrich her students’ appreciation for Franco-Canadian language and culture, and she considered taking her Georgian Bay Secondary School French classes to the Youth Festival at Cinéfranco in Toronto. “But February is a bad month for arranging trips when you live in Grey County,” she says with a laugh.
Another option was to show films at the school, but Pernilla felt it would be more engaging to hold the screening at an outside location. That’s when she contacted Meaford Hall, whose big screen, comfortable seating and brilliant acoustics were perfect for the event.
Little did she know how much support she’d find in the coming months. As soon as Hall Manager Susan Lake heard the idea, she suggested that the student-run French film festival might be something the Meaford Hall and Culture Foundation would like to support. She picked up the phone.
“Then the Foundation contacted me,” says Pernilla. “They were very positive about the idea and really super supportive. They just told me what I needed to do, and from there it went really smoothly… and fast!”
With help from fellow French teacher Thomas Thwaits, Pernilla enlisted the students as the real organizers of the event. The Grade 10 French students came up with the concept for the festival, prepared introductory speeches, MCed the screenings, and organized the one-day event, recruiting students from other classes to share their unique talents. A string quartet of music students played before the films. The hospitality department provided French pastries for a Continental café set up in the South Gallery. And members of the photography club became paparazzi for a day, snapping photos of students on the red carpet. There was even a competition for best-dressed male and female students, to add another element of glamour. “We wanted to make it a special event,” says Pernilla. “More like a real film festival… like Cannes.” She laughs.
The festival showed two Quebec films: Louis Cyr (which was also one of the screenings at Cinéfranco), and The Rocket, a biopic of famed Montreal Canadian Maurice Richard.
The group invited local elementary Grade 7 and 8 French Immersion students and Grade 8 French classes, and the students who participated from other courses also attended the screenings – about 180 students in all.
From all accounts, the festival was a great success. Before it was over, Grade 9 students were excited about their Grade 10 year and the opportunity to participate. “It was a lot of fun and very engaging,” says Pernilla. “We want to do it again… absolutely. We’re so thankful to the Meaford Hall and Culture Foundation for supporting our students and our festival.”