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Festival Schedule and Program

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2008 Festival Feature Films (March 28-30)

Un secret

Thanks to French actor Philippe Torreton and German director Volker Schlöndorff, the VCU French Film Festival is proud to present the North American premiere of Ulzhan

director Volker Schlöndorff screenwriters Jean-Claude Carrière in cooperation with Volker Schlöndorff producers Régis Ghezelbash, Tasbolat Merecenov, Svetlana Novak starring Philippe Torreton, Ayanat Ksenbai, David Bennent, Maximilien Muller running time 1 h 35 min although not rated, parental guidance suggested for viewers under 13


A man named Charles leaves his native France for Kazakhstan. His initial impression is surprise; history has moved faster than he thought. His unexpected meeting of Ulzhan changes his path and his life.

Somewhere in the endless steppes of Central Asia lies a treasure. One man has the key to it — a fragment of an ancient map. In his relentless quest, Charles seeks neither fortune nor glory, only to save his soul. Ulzhan understood the moment she laid eyes on him.

Volker Schlöndorff

2004 The Ninth Day
2001 Ten Minutes Older: The Cello
2000 The Legends of Rita
1998 Palmetto
1996 The Ogre
1991 Voyager
1990 The Handmaid’s Tale
1983 A Love of Swann
1981 False Witness
1980 The Candidate
The Tin Drum (Palme d’Or, 1979 Cannes Film Festival; Best Foreign Language Film, 1979 Academy Awards)
1976 Coup de grâce
1975 The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
1967 Degree of Murder
1966 Young Torless

Philippe Torreton

2007 Jean de La Fontaine, le défi by Daniel Vigne
Le Grand Meaulnes by Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe
Jaurès: naissance d’un gêant (VCU French Film Festival 14)
  Adam et Eve by Michel Deutsch
2004 Les Chevaliers du ciel by Gérard Pirès
  Monsieur N. by Antoine de Caunes (VCU French Film Festival 12)
  Dear Hunter by Franck Saint-Cast
  L’Equipier by Philippe Lioret (VCU French Film Festival 13)
2002 Corps à corps by François Hanss, Arthur-Emmanuel Pierre
2001 Vertiges de l’amour by Laurent Chouchan
2000 Félix et Lola by Patrice Leconte
Ca commence aujourd’hui by Bertrand Tavernier (VCU French Film Festival 14)
  Tôt ou tard by Anne-Marie Etienne
1996 Capitaine Conan by Bertrand Tavernier
  Le Bel Eté, 1914 by Christian de Chalonge (VCU French Film Festival 5)
  La Servante aimante by Jean Douchet
1995 L’Appât by Bertrand Tavernier
1994 L’Ange noir by Jean-Claude Brisseau
  Oublie-moi by Noémie Lvovsky
1993 Une nouvelle vie by Olivier Assayas
  L. 627 by Bertrand Tavernier
1991 La Neige et le feu by Claude Pinoteau
Dernier regard by Philippe Coroyer

Ayanat Ksenbai

2005 Hope by Anton Gonapolskii
2004 Man-Wind by Huat Ahmetov
2003 Nomads by Ivan Passer, Talgat Temenov, Sergei Bodrov
2001 Leila’s Prayer by Satybaldy Narymbetov

David Bennent

2005 Traumschatten by Steffen Groth
2004 She Hate Me by Spike Lee
Poem — I Set My Foot upon the Air and It Carried Me by Ralf Schmerberg
1985 Legend by Ridley Scott
1984 Dog Day by Yves Boisset
1979 The Tin Drum by Volker Schlöndorff

Director's note

The quest for ultimate meaning, the search for a mythical place at the end of the world. The desire to flee and disappear when faced with an overwhelming grief — all this can appear quite pathetic, Ulzhanesoteric bordering on the ridiculous, but when the character is embodied by an actor as down-to-earth as Torreton and the country he crosses as real as Kazakhstan, this metaphysical quest can be presented as a very personal, indeed poetic, tale.

The ruins he visits are not archaic by their architecture, but only by the suffering to which they bear witness: the gulags where Lev Kopelev and Solzhenitsyn were interned.

The deserts aren’t deserts because of climate alone, but because more than 500 atomic bombs were tested there. The death of the Aral Sea was decided by men just as indifferent to the sufferings of nature as nature is to the sufferings of the men she contemplates from the high splendor of the snow-capped mountains.

Our traveler would like to shut his eyes to all these images of grandeur and misery, but he can’t help these images burning his retina, or, through the lens, our negative.

Nothing is neutral, he will perceive everything. Two guides will help him on his journey — one a storyteller and merchant of words, the other inevitably feminine, enigmatic and silent. The relationship that unites these three characters must be inspired by Beckett, never psychological, always realistic, opaque and impenetrable, sometimes poetic, sometimes lunatic. Their words, like their meeting, do not mean much. UlzhanThey are nothing but life’s passing, which can be so meaningful provided no meaning is sought, as the traveler will discover.

A picaresque adventure film, made up of very real episodes, rich in mood and faraway locations, rendered in direct, raw photography, will explore one of the last blank spots on our minds’ world map — Central Asia.

Berlin, June 1, 2006
Volker Schlöndorff




Virginia Commonwealth University University of Richmond University of Richmond