France Country Report

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Discovery Reports

Annual festival reaches out to people from all walks of life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 12:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 5:15pm

Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports

Every year at the start of summer, Hong Kong takes on a markedly Gallic hue. Le French May is one of the city's longest-running festivals, having started in 1993, and also one of the most popular, reaching out around the city to appeal to people from all walks of life.

The theme for this year's fest, which runs from May 1 until the end of June, will be "Dreams and Wonders", a title which gives some idea of the wide-ranging programmes on offer.

One of the most eagerly anticipated highlights will be an exhibition of the works of Claude Monet, one of France's most acclaimed artists and a founding member of the Impressionist movement, whose paintings addressed such diverse subjects as rural scenes and the Parisian train station of Saint Lazare.

Other events include classical music concerts, jazz sessions, dance performances ranging from ballet to hip-hop, a circus, a mini film festival, and opportunities to sample the best of French food and wine.

The two-month festival encompasses 120 events, and has become a major part of Hong Kong's cultural scene, winning a Gold Award for Arts Promotion from the Arts Development Council in 2008, and being recognised as one of the most significant arts festivals in Asia. "Le French May aims to touch everything, to be everywhere and for everyone," says Le French May's CEO Julien-Loïc Garin.

"Touching everything means showcasing the most diversified art forms, from heritage and contemporary arts, paintings and design, to classical music and hip-hop dance, cinema and new circus.

"Being everywhere entails bringing performances to various venues and districts, including the unusual and unexpected, from cultural centres and shopping malls, to public spaces, the racecourse, and Victoria Harbour.

"And Le French May should be for everyone because the festival aims to reach out to the entire community by developing educational programmes, talks, guided tours, workshops and master classes, including those that directly benefit the young and less privileged."

Le French May also extends its borders beyond Hong Kong across the Pearl River Delta to Macau, which will host an exhibition of the works of Edgar Degas.

Like Monet, Degas is regarded as one of the early practitioners of Impressionism, although he is also a highly respected sculptor, and is especially identified with the subject of dance, with his depiction of a ballet class being one of his most famous works.

Le French May's cinema programme, entitled Dream of Another World - Utopias, will present a selection of 20 films, featuring some of the finest French actors and directors known today, including the award-winning animation April and the Extraordinary World, which is voiced by Marion Cotillard, who besides being an actress is also a singer-songwriter, environmentalist and spokeswoman for Greenpeace.

The fantasy black comedy, The Brand New Testament starring Catherine Deneuve, is likely to be equally popular.

This year's Le French May follows a successful 2015 edition, which drew thousands of visitors to events such as Moliere's five-act comedy ballet The Bourgeois Gentleman, and musical performances by the French ensemble Doulce Mémoire.

Algerian Kader Attou's 11-strong hip-hop troupe wowed younger audiences with their playful dance pieces, while a retrospective devoted to the architect Le Corbusier, whose design exemplifies the style he pioneered, was held in City Hall. The street artist known as Invader, who is sometimes compared to Britain's Banksy, was another must-see for the festival's fans.

Le French May is expected to attract more than two million visitors this summer, from Hong Kong and around the region.