Winter/Spring 2016 concludes with Francofonia

Friday evening was another sunny one as spring gradually takes hold here in Nova Scotia, but Carbon Arc still managed to sell out its screening of the dreamlike Francofonia, Aleksandr Sokurov’s historical semi-document of the Louvre museum.


The fact that we managed to fill all the seats on the final screening of the season, one that—on paper, anyway—had the possibility of being an academic slog (it wasn’t) was huge for the Carbon Arc staff. A terrific capper to a great season. It feels like we’ve achieved something special in the past four months, with so many people coming to see the films and new people discovering Carbon Arc every week.

Francofonia, which was ably introduced by art historian and NSCAD instructor Sharon Murray (who, full disclosure, happens to be my partner), divided our staff and some in the audience, as you might expect a non-linear, loose-narrative, Russian-language, experimental tone poem (that’s for you, Zack) to do. Not everyone’s going to go where it wants to take you, but it was great to see so many on the journey.

Sokurov looks at the history (and location) of the museum from above, descending into its hallways and paintings to capture the soul of an institution and its importance to France since the days of Napoleon. Sokurov himself is a character in the film—though I don’t think we ever get a good look at his face—as he narrates, grousing about the objective success of his film while he deprecates the sound of his own voice. Occasionally we get segments of his conversation on Skype with a sea captain friend who is lost in rough seas steering a freighter crammed with antiquities and artwork. Enjoy heavy-handed metaphors, much, Aleksandr?

Various historical characters inhabit the Louvre in  Francophonia

Various historical characters inhabit the Louvre in Francophonia


OK, I apologize: It’s easy, even maybe lazy, to be glib about a complicated and challenging work like this. I actually appreciated what it was trying to achieve. Overall I found it interesting and a bit soothing, with Sokurov’s soft, visual approach to the material, and I enjoyed the material he used from the 1940s. There may be a fascinating feature docudrama to be made about the cautious working relationship/friendship between the French curator at the Louvre, Jacques Jaujard, and the Nazi officer, Franz Wolff-Metternich, charged with overseeing and delivering key works from the collection to Berlin. Francofonia isn’t it, but it’s enough to make me curious about that connection. Overall, an interesting, if flawed, film.

Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) and Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath) 

Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) and Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath) 


f you have come to see a film at Carbon Arc this past season, thank you! We really appreciate it. And thank you for checking out this blog. Carbon Arc will continue to program independent and international cinema in the fall, and we’re always learning how to best engage with the audience. If you have suggestions or programming ideas for us, I hope you’ll reach out via this website, Facebook, or by email: carbon.arc.cinema (at)

I want to say a special thank you to my fellow core Carbon Arc-ers: Kenny, Kendra, Donna, Zack, and especially Siloën Daley, the person who dreamed up Carbon Arc and inspires us all.

Also, thanks to the new volunteers, including Rose, Phillip, Nancy, Andrew, Emma, Kristen, Brittany, and anyone else I’ve neglected to mention—all you who came out and gave of your time. Your help and enthusiasm has been much appreciated. Thanks to Sharon and Martin for helping out. And a tip of the hat to the security staff at the Museum of Natural History, for always being so gracious and helpful.


My work here as Writer-in-Residence isn’t quite done yet. I still need to present more solid detail about my short film script—which I’ve been promising for some time, I know. My plan is to share elements from my first draft, if not the entire thing, in the coming week. Also, two more Carbon Arc staffers, including our director, Siloën, have promised profiles that I’m hoping to post in this space.

So I hope you’ll check back here from time to time into the days of warmer weather. There will be updates as we metabolize the lessons of this successful season and plan for the next one.