News / The Network


The Network - 09/02/2009


Frédéric Henry, Jeune Public,organiser of activities for young audiences at the Cinémas du Palais in Créteil, THE PROJECT BORDERS



For several years Europa Cinemas has been following with interest the image-related education projects piloted by Frédéric Henry, who works with young audiences at the Cinémas du Palais in Créteil. A network member since 1997, this cinema in the suburbs of Paris has always actively contributed to the city's urban social development.
In 2005 we interviewed Frédéric Henry on the "Utopia 3000" project. Today he's back to talk about the "Borders" project, which consists of several components.

In your view what sort of rapport do young people have with the cinema, and with images in general?

I've been coordinating activities for young audiences at the Cinémas du Palais for 12 years now. The rapport young people have with the cinema and images in general has evolved considerably in that time. And this evolution has been accelerated by the Internet.
There's a paradox to this rapport. Images have never been as present as they are today. They're an essential part of the lives of young people, who handle them with instinctive virtuosity. But along the way the borders have become blurred between fiction and reality, and between the real and the virtual.
As for society, rather than encouraging a feeling of citizenship, it gives these young people the idea that they have to consume to be citizens. Today everything comes to you, there's no need to move. Everything is measured by its use and the immediate pleasure it gives. And the pleasure provided by the cinema seems to have changed accordingly. Film enthusiasts have become "net enthusiasts" or "DVD enthusiasts". Like football, and more generally the "marketed" entertainment industry, young people view the cinema as a sort of social elevator. Success and money are recurring themes when I talk with them about the cinema. By contrast, you almost never hear the words creation, intention, commitment.
Cinema has become an individual pleasure, isolated from the collective. It seems to be withdrawing from the human world, at a time when young audiences have never been so fragile. They have a dire need for recognition, a desire to dream, to create themselves in another way than on the basis of bans and prohibitions.
The aim of the Borders project is to bring the audience back into focus, to propose new ways of loving the cinema and to teach people to know themselves and others in a collective space: the film theatre. This is a space of liberty, discovery, exchange, discussion and creation, a space where people can construct themselves as human beings, a space where there's free access to the imaginary.

Borders continues your project Utopia 3000- Europa Fantastic which saw the light in 1998…

Yes, Utopia 3000 developed and is now called Borders. It's still a European cultural urban development and image education project, geared toward increasing the standing of audiences. This project contributes to the cultural activity of the department of Val de Marne, and has been selected by the federal Ministry of Youth and Sport in the context of the Plan Banlieue, the development plan for the suburbs.
The project has several components. The Borders cycle, first of all, involves programming 15 European films from 12 different countries. These films are proposed to pupils during school time in secondary schools in Val de Marne. They are accompanied by presentations and discussions on the cinema, in-class activities and filmmaking workshops.
The second component is a cinema lab called Borders Cinelab. This comprises fifteen activities each lasting two and a half hours, this time after school hours. These are cinema master classes, an initiation to audiovisual techniques.
Then there is the Borders cinema education camp. The young people educated in the context of Cinelab now focus on a film project aimed at "imagining Europe". This involves filming the world in order to transform it. In 2008, the young people selected shot a fiction film in Smucka, a small village in Bosnia Herzegovina. The is called Pola Pola. They worked on location with inhabitants of the village of Tuzla and at the same time shot reportages about the host country.
Two festivals support these different activities. The festival Un Notre Monde – Borders (One world, our world) takes place in November and focuses on promoting earlier productions of the Borders project. Participants meet in workshops and shoot short films in a single day. Then in February there's the festival La tête dans les étoiles (Head in the stars). Here young people can "see, understand and create images" and meet film professionals (directors, special effects technicians, stunt people, distributors).

Do you hope to give this project a European dimension? How do you see it developing in the future?

Yes, very early on we were keen to situate the project in a European context. The Borders programme must not limit itself to giving school children a theoretical approach to Europe. They also need hands-on experience. That's how the foreign filming workshop I was just telling you about, the Borders Tour, was born.
Another of the project's goals is to give rise to joint activities between Europa Cinemas theatres. What Borders seeks to do is situate independent arthouse cinemas in the very heart of city life. These are vibrant cultural locations for exchange and discussion. In addition, it has always been our ambition to disseminate the films created with our teams in other European cinemas.
Plus we've got loads of other ideas! In 2009, the Borders cinema troupe will go to the Berlinale and then to Slovenia, to Ljubljana and Krsko. In March we hope to go to Salamanca in Spain and work with the Cines Van Dyck, and then on to Warsaw. In April/May we'll go to Belfast in Ireland, where we'll organise activities in partnership with the Queen's Film Theater. And July will bring us back to Tuzla.
And that's not all! Every film shot is a response to the previous film. With these films we can mobilise populations, but also whole communities, regions, all of Europe… The Borders network hopes eventually to become an important forum, allowing inhabitants in a neighbourhood to be both actors and spectators.
Finally, we hope to develop an Un Notre Monde – Borders European tour. During our Borders tours we always present the films shot by our teams. We also hope to view on location short films directed in the host country, and to select and screen some of them during a "closing festival". Our trips could also be accompanied by workshops and discussions. This festival could become a travelling festival for previewing films.

Emilie Boucheteil
(with Jean-Baptiste Selliez)
February 2009