The French Institute’s first annual press conference: are froggies bouncing back?

X. Darcos, S. Tarsot-Gillery and L. Auer are looking in many directions to promote France's language, culture and influence.


Strange currencies
As France  took a blow with the loss of its S&P  triple A notification, people have been recently seen queuing for hours  to attend prestigious art venues in Paris such as Game Story at the Grand Palais, Diane Arbus at the Salle du jeu de paume or Edward Munch at Beaubourg (see below).

Queuing for Munch, Beaubourg, 29.10.2011.

Like gold and real estate, culture, art and entertainment seemingly turn out to be safe investments. When the northern city of Lille ventured as the European Capital of culture in 2004, officials eventually said that every penny funded brought several back. During his two latest press conferences, Frederic Mitterrand, current Minister of Culture & Communication kept repeating, contrary to popular belief and the say of some friends going through local cutdowns, that the overall budget dedicated to culture was stable.

Xavier Darcos, President of the Institute: "A solid English is a priority (...) but we have to promote French and its values nonetheless".

The power of being smart
Under the rule of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The French Institute (l’Institut Français) is the newest entity of the former CulturesFrance, whose goal is to promote French abroad through cultural exchanges.

Accordingly, the notions of “smart power” and “cultural diplomacy” introduced within the very pages of the Institute presentation sheet are very interesting. With an annual budget of 65,5 millions of euros, maintaining a dialogue and a certain influence through the language, the books, the movies, the ideas and cultural exchanges is what it’s all about.

Expanding the networks
While the core action of the Institute is giving broader means to teach French language through its large network of foreign Institutes and Alliances, other fields such as cultural exchanges, helping intellectuals and ideas to circulate are undertaken.

Sylviane Tarsot-Gillery, Head of the Institute: "We have to emancipate through time and geographical constraints".

But what seriously enticed the concern of  TheNightShift is the care and prority given to digital development. Right now, the French Institute managed to set up, with the help of Universciné, a streaming platform dedicated to french cinema, with an ongoing growing catalog including documentaries, spectacles and animated features as well. The result looks very promising and close to what prestigious movie publisher Criterion is commercially offering through its own website. Two months ago, Olivier Attia, head of cutting edge company Audionamix, which recently worked on the sequel to Sherlock Holmes, told me that the global exploitation of back catalogs online was one of the main concerns and transformations discussed right now among the majors’ back alleys.

Beyond the exploitation of the French catalog, Valérie Mouroux, responsible of the cinema department, tells TheNightShift:  “We are currently in the process of scouting young and promising directors in emerging countries like Indonesia and Burma. We want to help them produce their first movie”.

Laurence Auer, General Secretary: "Experimentation must pay".

Other very interesting tools and perspectives are under development and the sound of it is very exciting and spot on:  a facebook like network dedicated to book professionnals, a digital library, a web TV with specific content, mobile applications,  a global map of current cultural places, events and venues…

All these initiatives seem to reflect the cultural and media transformation our country is going through, which mainly concerns a new generation that holds both a curse and a blessing in its hands: the financial crisis and its dire consequences in one, the digital playground and its incredible possibilities in the other.

Seeing all these projects pushing through would be very meaningful and interesting. So stay tuned!


More  is more

The Institute’s brand new website :

IFCinéma, the promising online movie platform:

The map app:

“The French Institute  is  a diplomatic tool”,
Xavier Darcos in l’Express, 12.12.2011 (video in french):


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