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Francophone 2017 Celebrates French-Speaking World

By Anna Gawel

Since 2001, more than 40 embassies and partners have collaborated each year to showcase the French-speaking world, from Africa and the Americas to Asia and the Middle East, through concerts, cuisine, films, literary salons and lectures for all ages. And this year’s Francophone festival in D.C. — the largest such festival in the world — continued that tradition with four weeks of French sounds, sights and tastes throughout March.

The Embassy of Egypt was one of over 30 embassies that hosted a booth at La Grande Fête at the French Embassy, the closing event of the 2017 Francophone D.C. Festival. Photo: Embassy of France

The extravaganza culminated in La Grande Fête at the French Embassy on March 31. The glittering party highlights the cultures of over 30 French-speaking nations such as Monaco and Morocco, with specialty booths, native cuisine and, of course, plenty of wine.

Other highlights included: French tours of the National Museum of African Art; a talk about diversity from slam poet Ami Karim; a French animation short film showcase; the concert “Nufolia Must Fall,” a tender love story between a robot and a human that comes magically to life through the imagination of scratch DJ/music producer Kid Koala; and a screening of “Eye of the Storm,” in which a young idealistic lawyer is assigned to defend a rebel accused of heinous war crimes who was a former child soldier.

The Embassy of Monaco participates La Grande Fête at the French Embassy. Photo: Embassy of France

In addition to venues such as AFI Silver Theatre and Lisner Auditorium, the D.C. chapter of the Alliance Française played a prominent role in the festival, hosting events such as a screening of “Corn Island” in conjunction with the Georgia Center, a film about life along the Enguri River that forms the border between Georgia and the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The event coincided with an exhibit by Georgian-French artist Levan Mosiashvili, whose paintings depict folklore and folk traditions.

Meanwhile, the Serbian Embassy partnered with the French Embassy to present “The Promise,” a character-driven feature documentary that follows the extraordinary experience of a French family who moved to a remote Serbian village to make wine. The French promised to revive the ancient wine glory of a forgotten region, but a clash of cultures and mentalities puts that goal in question.

Guests enjoy mint tea at the Moroccan booth La Grande Fête, which highlighted the cuisine and cultures of French-speaking nations. Photo: Embassy of France

Embassies opened their doors for a variety of Francophone-related events. At the Embassy of Luxembourg, guests could listen to Sascha Ley and Laurent Payfert perform a musical crossroads of modern jazz, popular, rock music, improvisation and instant composition.

Several embassy exhibits were on display as well. The Embassy of Gabon featured traditional masks, while the Embassy of Côte d’Ivoire highlighted art from West African nations.

In addition to film screenings, the Embassy of Armenia recognized Jean Kazandjian, a French-Armenian artist who is considered a central figure in the post-surrealist era.

Celestin Samba and Sarah Andely of the Embassy of the Republic of Congo participate in La Grande Fête at the French Embassy. Photo: Embassy of France

In “The Best of Both Worlds,” Kazandjian’s artwork blends Armenian and French influences with thought-provoking yet optimistic critiques on society.

A native of Beirut, Kazandjian relocated to Paris in his early 20s, where his reputation flourished Today, Kazandjiaan splits his time between Los Angeles and Paris.

Armenian Ambassador Grigor Hovhannissian praised Kazandjian’s work in a public statement prior to the exhibit’s opening reception last month.

“Jean Kazandjian has succeeded for decades in representing the best of both worlds by the intricate melding of Armenian and French culture and history throughout his art practice,” said Hovhannissian. “Jean has created his own magnificent universe through this art — one that encompasses many exciting worlds within it and leaves his viewers fulfilled and nostalgic.”

Anna Gawel is managing editor of The Washington Diplomat. Editorial intern Laura Spitalniak contributed to this report.




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