French Film Essay Competition 2015


bienvenue chez les ch'tis_2(1)

posted by Will McKenzie and Kate Rees

A feast of narrative imagination and directorial invention!The University of Oxford’s fourth French film essay competition was once more opened up to younger students (from year 7 onwards) and offered entrants the chance to write, direct and submit their own mini-film. An amazing total of 178 entries were received, from almost 50 schools.

The judges were deeply impressed by the range and richness of responses to the four set films: Le Petit Nicolas and Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (years 7-11) and Dans la maison and De Rouille et d’os (years 12-13)Entrants re-wrote the closing chapter, picking up narrative threads left hanging by each film’s ambiguous ending. So rich were the responses that, in addition to the winner and runner-up in each category, a selection of further entries were offered special and higher commendations. The winners in each age group were Joe Beadle (Years 7-11) and Jessica Binks (Years 12-13). The winners in the new ‘Film’ category were Class 7H of Bartholomew School. Further details are available at: .

Below are brief reports from the judges about the entries for each film.

Le Petit Nicolas

Rewritings (and filmed versions) of the end of Petit Nicolas offered a rich tonal and emotional range, from the gentle and tender – where the united family lives happily ever after – to the sudden and shocking – where the jealous Nicolas takes sibling rivalry to its murderous limit. The strongest entries gave emotional depth and richness to each of the wide cast of characters, including Nicolas’s friends and family, while retaining the rapid, quick-witted patter of the original. The judges were impressed throughout by the close attention entrants gave to all these aspects of the film, and by the sheer energy and enthusiasm invested in all the entries.

Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis

There was a pleasingly large number of responses to this very successful French movie. The vanished wife gave entrants scope to take the film in all kinds of unexpected directions; an opportunity they eagerly seized. Some movingly melancholic, even tragic, entries impressed the judges enormously in their emotional maturity. Others retained the sweetly joyous tone of the original. Scottish entries often made wittily knowing allusions to the “North” of the Ch’tis as wet, cold but ultimately welcoming. While entrants’ level of French was not taken into account when deciding the winners, the judges often noted in passing an encouragingly good grasp of the language.

 Dans la maison

Our older entrants responded very well to this film, which deals expressly with the problem of writing the ending of a story. There were twists and turns as inventive as those of the film itself, and some sensitive responses to the original film’s cold, tense tone and analysis of status anxiety, snobbism and sexual jealousy. There were some gripping retellings in English and in French, strengthened by subtle, incisive description, good narrative pacing and intelligent plotting, where just enough information was released at just the right time to keep the reader guessing.
De rouille et d’os

While relatively few entrants wrote on this film, the entries we did receive were extremely accomplished. Entries here were characterized by their tendency to formal experimentation: there were more rewritings in verse for this film than the others, in English and in French. The judges were impressed especially by entrants’ ability to express themselves well given the constraints of versification, often awarding Special Commendations in recognition of this.

Another competition is planned for next year. We hope you’ll consider entering.

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