by William Wang
The Festival Croisements kicked off in China, April 15th and continued on through an epic three months of Francophile arts and culture. Now in its eighth year, the festival hit 20 cities across China, showcasing the work of over 1000 artists. It is perhaps unsurprisingly the biggest French cultural festival on the planet.
Acclaimed French film-maker Jean-Jacques Annaud (who directed "Quest for Fire" and "The Lover") spoke at the festival opening, and he helped clarify how this festival achieved its success. "I think there''s a lot in common between our countries," he began. "A real sense of life and a true love for the arts. I''m excited to introduce my country''s culture to yours, and I''m very proud that the French embassy is providing important and original works to China for exhibition."
Many Chinese people have an interest in western culture, but French culture shouldn''t be merely called "western", clumped in with hamburgers and American football; at the risk of flirting with elitism (as many Chinese strive to do), French culture can be considered as more of a cultural crème de la crème. Masses of China''s newly wealthy have realized that there''s more ways to spend their fortunes than by giving their Ferraris ugly paint jobs.
The opportunities for people to broaden their horizons were varied and many. By checking out the crew of Les Folies Francoises, people learned the finer points of 17th century baroque composition. Les Foles were backed up by the baroque dance troupe L''Eventail, whose performances included acrobatics and puppeteering.
Marcel Duchamp''s seminal objets d''art were also on exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, along with a collection of Chinese artists'' work which dialogued with the hugely influential artist.
Contemporary video art or sublime African masks provided by Quai Branley a Paris rounded off the variety of arts to be taken in.
Not to imply that Croisements was all high brow. Au contraire! I mean, who wouldn''t dig all the above? But the free music on the streets was about as unpretentious as you can get, and June 21st''s Fete de la Musique had 33 shows for 6000 revelers on the streets and in the hutongs. Nouvelle Vague also revisited Beijing, bringing their lounge bossa nova interpretations of 80s punk and pop.
This year''s festival made concrete steps to appeal to a wider audience, with most events having accommodations for Chinese as well as English speakers, and a trilingual fest guide. Its ambitious scope stretched from literary discussion to street arts and beyond. The festival had clearly accomplished its raison d''etre.