French films receive a chic critique at the Viridian
Fox Hollow Dual Language Immersion students pose next to the movie poster for "Eleanor's Secret." (Natalie Conforto/City Journals)
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By Natalie Conforto | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Bonjour” is about as far as most Americans can get in French, but a growing group of West Jordan residents is expanding their horizons. January through April of this year, the Viridian Event Center hosted viewers who enjoyed full-length, feature films in French. Most of those who understood without subtitles were 12 and under.
The Utah Film Center, which seeks to “promote a diversity of ideas and develop new audiences for film,” kicked off 2017 by offering a series of four animated French films for children through its Tumbleweeds program.
Families enrolled in French immersion programs were especially thrilled. They said they appreciated that the county’s West Jordan Library recognized there would be in interest in French cinema because of the dual language immersion program housed in four schools in the valley.
“I’m glad we could come,” sixth-grader Whitney Cheney said. “I understood everything, and I like the free popcorn.”
Emillia Fuller, a Fox Hollow mom, said she is grateful that the center offered this resource to complement what her kids were learning at school. While her school-age French immersion students were able to keep up with the movie plots in French, her younger children came along as well so they could start getting an ear for the language. They also managed to understand the films.
“It’s a nice change from Disney because you get more of the culture. I hope they keep doing this,” Fuller said.
“The French movies are more mysterious than American movies,” Ryleigh said. “They talk a lot faster and don’t articulate like our teachers. Sometimes it’s harder for us to understand because we’re used to our French teachers’ voices.”
At first, it was difficult for the children to comprehend what was happening in the films, and they struggled to read the subtitles, but as the movies went on, they realized that they didn’t have to read anymore—they were understanding the French. On the other hand, first-grader Matthew Barnett saw the subtitles as a welcome challenge.
“They help me read,” he said.
Many of the attendees at the screenings were families from French immersion schools, including Fox Hollow in West Jordan, Diamond Ridge in West Valley, Butler Elementary in Cottonwood Heights and Oak Hollow in Draper. Several families in the crowd said they read about it on their school Facebook pages.
There were also some native French speakers who learned of the film series through the French Alliance.
The audiences for the screenings have grown each time, as the word has spread over social media about this extracurricular opportunity to learn more French.
Fourth-grader Mira Barnett said the films were “cool because they aren’t like movies you see in theaters,” while her older sister Ella thought they were “fun and creative.”
“Zarafa,” January’s offering, told the tall tale of France’s first zoo giraffe arriving via hot air balloon. “April and the Extraordinary World,” shown in February, was set in an alternate steampunk universe that used the Eiffel Tower as a power source. “Eleanor’s Secret,” presented in March, followed a boy through an imaginative adventure of learning to read, guided by fairytale characters come-to-life. The final film in the French series, “A Cat in Paris,” will be shown on April 3.
Hopefully it will live up to the common thread found by first-grader Hali Sims. “I like how all the French movies have happy endings,” she said.
Tumbleweeds offers monthly children’s film screenings at the Viridian Event Center the first Monday of each month at 4 p.m. Visit utahfilmcenter.org to find out what they’ll be showing next. The Utah Film Center brings ongoing free movie screenings to many venues throughout the state, including Salt Lake City, Logan, Moab, Ogden, Orem, Park City and West Jordan.