Tony Gatlif, Remi Besancon, Michel Reilhac, and Athina Rachel Tsangaris were present at the event.

The Minister (L’Exercice de l’etat) by Pierre Schoeller was awarded best film at the 13th Athens French speaking film festival (FFF-March 21-28).

17 Girls (17 Filles) by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin received a special mention and A Better Life (Une vie meilleure) by Cedric Kahn was voted best film by the public.

The five member-jury was headed by the celebrated Greek-French writer Vassilis Alexakis (1995 Prix Medicis and 2007 Grand Prix of the Academie Francaise for best novel) and included the likes of former Thessaloniki Film Festival topper film critic Michel Demopoulos, French actress Clemence Poesy, producer Amanda Livanou and director/producer George Tsemberopoulos.

The Minister, produced by Archipel 35 starring such French icons as Olivier Gourmet and Michel Blanc, written by the director himself, sheds light on the back stage of the French political scene thorough the case of a minister drawn in the cover up of a sensitive case.

The award sponsored by the Athens Municipality and the French public channel TV5 carries together a purse of Euros 9,000 to back the opening of the film in Greece by local distributor StraDa Films headed by Takis Veremis.

Murielle Coulin, co-director of 17 Girls was on hand to receive the special mention for the film also produced by Archipel and distributed here by Lefteris Adamidis and Sofia Angelidou’s new distribution venture One From the Heart.

Co-written by the directors, the film deals with the decision of a group of schoolgirls in their late teens to challenge the traditional society rules by  becoming all pregnant at the same time. It is based on a real life case.    

Fischer Breweries is the backer of the Euros 6,000 worth public award received by A Better Life produced by Les Films du Lendemain. 

Local distributor Spentzos Films’ Irene Papadakis received the award set to back the opening of the film in Greece.

A Better Life, co-written by director Kahn and Catherine Paille, starring Guillaume Canet and Leila Bekhti, deals with the frustrated efforts of a young couple to make a better living setting up a small restaurant.

The film is among those socially and politically themed projects that stood out in the 51-title-strong selection. Those also included Christian Rouaud documentary Tous au Larzac (Larzac) on the efforts of the  peasants from the Larzac region to stick to their land threatened by the state’s intention to establish military camp and Tony Gatlif’s docu-fiction Indignados.

The veteran celebrated French director of Algerian origin was on hand to introduce the film dealing with the protest wave of “indignated” citizens spontaneously organized and spreading throughout Europe since last year.

More films by African and Arab French-speaking film makers and countries formed part of the 21 titles-strong selection of the no competitive Panorama of  French speaking  cinema. Standing out were such titles as Tunisian’s Mourad Ben Cheikh Plus’s No More Fear (jamais peur) on last year’s Tunisian uprising which spearheaded the “Arab spring”. The director was present to introduce his film.

Other titles included American documentary icon Frederic Wiseman’s Crazy Horse, Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now?, Microphone by Egyptian Ahmad Abdalla, Early One Morning (De bon matin) by Belgian Jean-Marc Moutout, The Salesman (Le vendeur) by Canadian Sebastien Pilote, Mariage in Bessarabia by Romanian Nap Toader and Viva Riva by Congolese Djo Tunda Wa Munga.

Repeating this year was the Outview selection dealing with queer cinema. Among the titles presented were films by such well known  French film makers as Christophe Honore (Man at Bath) and Virginie Despente’s Bye Bye Blondie starring Beatrice Dalle and Emmanuelle Beart.

Standing out among the side events were, the homage to the late Greek film master Theo Angelopoulos and the Transmedia masterclass.

The organisers, Olivier Descotes, head of the Athens French Institute (IFA) and president of the festival and Elise Jalladeau, audiovisual attachee  and FFF artistic director, dedicated the festival to the memory of Angelopoulos, who died in a road accident earlier this year while shooting his new film, and christened the IFA auditorium with his name.

Michel Reilhac, director of ARTE France cinema made the trek to Athens to to talk about transmedia, and he participated in a round table with with directors Athina Rachel Tsangaris (Attenberg) and Menelaos Karamangiolis (Black Out).

The festival was bookended with two films representing  the widely succesfull trend of French comedies. Opening the proceedings was the huge French box-office hit The Intouchables. Anne Fontaine’s My Worst Nightmare (Mon pire cauchemar) starring Isabelle Huppert, Benoit Poelvoorde and Andre Dussolier was the closing gala film.

Standing out among the various backers of the event was Unifrance which classifies Greece among the top countries world wide distributing French films. Greek distributors aquire 8% of the annual French-speaking production which translates in over 50 films released theatrically in the country year after year.

After Athens the festival programme is repeated March 29 to April 4 at Thessaloniki’s Olympion.