Nicolas Winding Refn to Lead Jury of UniFrance's Online Film Festival

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Nicolas Winding Refn

"It gives young people the opportunity not to just see films, but to understand films as a futuristic language," says the director of the online-only film fest.

Nicolas Winding Refn will head up the jury of UniFrance’s My French Film Festival, the online-only film fest now in its sixth year. The event, which launched Monday, runs through Feb. 18.

Refn said he was “intrigued” when approached by the French film body because of the unique online structure of the competition. "I loved the concept. I’m the kind of person that thinks the Internet is the greatest thing ever — since the woman. And they usually go hand in hand,” he joked. "The idea of having a festival that’s about the Internet, and seeing how my own children use technology, [it] gives young people the opportunity not to just see films but to understand films as a futuristic language. Cinema is not just about the past, it’s very much about the future."

Refn praised his fellow jurors for being filmmakers that are “moving into the digital world.” French actress and Marguerite & Julien director Valerie Donzelli, Broken Circle Breakdown helmer Felix van Groeningen, It Follows director David Robert Mitchell and Persepolis helmer Marjane Satrapi are the other members of the jury.

Refn said that while many decry the digitalization of film and its move to the small screen, he sees it as “just another canvas."

He continued: “Now with the technology you can now have something as intimate in another scenario. And I think that is what is so unique about the revolution — in a way we have been saved in that we have something to look forward to.”

Oscar nominee Satrapi seemingly disagrees, saying she finds it hard to get immersed in a film when she has to "get up to pee or make a phone call." 

UniFrance, the film export body charged with promoting French films abroad, kicked off the festival with a splashy ceremony at the Eiffel Tower, with French stars Vincent Cassel, Julie Gayet and Raphael Personnaz in attendance.

The films in competition include Jerome Bonnell’s A Trois On Y Va, Catherine Corsini’s lesbian drama La Belle Saison, Olivier Jahan’s Les Chateaux de Sable, Fabrice du Welz’s horror thriller Alleluia, Diasteme’s Un Francais, David Moreau’s rom-com 20 Ans d’Ecart, Emmanuel Mouret’s Caprice, Clovis Cornillac’s Un Peu, Beaucoup, Raphael Jacoulot’s Coup de Chaud and Frederic Tellier’s police thriller L’Affaire SK1.

The 10 features and 10 shorts are available on 37 platforms worldwide, including Mubi, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon’s streaming service in the U.S.

The online festival, designed to promote French films in several markets, had 600,000 viewings last year. Jury and audience prizes will be revealed on Feb. 18.