From Paris to Austin

AFA Ciné-Club brings in Gallic wonders from the Champs-Élysées Film Festival

May '68, My Father and Some Nails

There are spaces in this world – a bookstore of your youth, perhaps, or a favorite second-hand shop – filled top to bottom with things. Wonderful things, all useful to someone. But the sheer volume and scope of artifacts in the hardware store on the corner of a street in the Latin Quarter of Paris may feel daunting, but should you have the disposition, the space feels euphoric in its labyrinthine aisles and corridors that seem to endlessly descend into more rooms with more stuff. Samuel Bigiaoui's documentary '68, Mon Père et les Clous (May '68, My Father and Some Nails) centers on his father's store and its eventual end. It is an anti-elegiac and frank look at the plight of a small business that has been in operation for 30 years, whose time is now over. At first, the family history is revealed through sprightly vignettes of the eccentric customers and employees who gravitate around Bricomonge, ever faithful and needing the various objects and items one seeks from a hardware store. But soon enough, Bigiaoui teases out his father's history: a radical left-wing subversive in the Sixties, in the time of the Situationists and Guy Debord. How did this man, who was involved in kidnapping bureaucrats, end up owning a corner store selling plywood and stools?

For Julia McMahan, founder and curator of the Alliance Française d'Austin Ciné-Club, who is putting on the screening of May '68 this week with the Champs-Élysées Film Festival, the film "is very representative of today's French cinema, which strives to show the unique, unexpected, and even extraordinary life stories of people from modest social backgrounds, who have these amazing stories to tell." Speaking of amazing, the AFA Ciné-Club has recently been relocated from Austin Studios to AFS Cinema, and as McMahan notes, the larger venue "gives to a wider audience access to French cinema and French culture. Moving to AFS Cinema enables us to welcome more people to our screenings and to offer an optimal movie experience, with interaction with patrons and Q&As with filmmakers."

But what of this Champs-Élysées Film Festival that is co-presenting this screening? McMahan attended CEFF in June, where (coincidentally) the organizers had made Austin's Zellner brothers their Indie Guests of Honor, going out of their way to subtitle three of the features – plus three short films – in French for a retrospective. McMahan said, "I was amazed to see how their mission completely resonated with what I was trying to accomplish with Ciné-Club here in Austin."

She met with Justine Leveque, the Directrice Artistique et Evénementiel of the festival; the two bonded, and are now working to bring more films from the festival to Austin. Leveque explained, "Austin is a mythical city where the heart of indie cinema is beating. ... Indeed, we feel very close to its energy, its authenticity, and its vision of indépendance."

Alliance Française d’Austin Ciné-Club and Champs-Élysées Film Festival present May ’68, My Father and Some Nails, AFS Cinema, Oct. 27, 4pm. Tickets and info at

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Austin Alliance Francais Cine-Club, AFS Cinema, May '68, My Father and Some Nails, Alliance Française d'Austin Ciné-Club, Champs-Élysées Film Festival

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