At Your Home, Without Me: Ramatuelle, Jacqueline Franjou’s Essential Festival
Tonight, August 1st, 2020–and until August 10th. If you are in Ramatuelle, a little village above the Mediterranean Sea near Saint Tropez in the South of France, you might be among the luckiest people. While almost all summer cultural events have been canceled in France, Jacqueline Franjou is opening the 2020 Festival of Ramatuelle, a series of plays, stand-up comedies, and concerts under the stars and the songs of crickets. A must attend annual event, a rarity this year.
This summery feast has been scheduled every August since 1985. But with movies, theaters, operas and museums still closed in most places around the world because of containment and a very much still present covid19 pandemic, the mere possibility to see comedians and musicians on a stage has become an extraordinary experience. This year’s Festival is an act of audacity and resistance, against all odds, a small, yet safe step to keep us on the pace of being humans, together.
I was fortunate to attend last summer and I remember fondly the performance of French actor Gérard Depardieu (Golden Globe 1991 for Peter Weir’s movie Green Card) sing Barbara’s most iconic songs in a soft and elusive voice.
I cannot go this summer but will have a special thought for Franjou, the co-founder and President of this Festival, a woman I was lucky enough to work with for a few years and who has never been afraid to be disruptive to keep all of us thinking beyond the obvious. We need this festival, we need culture to fill our hopes and dreams, we need words and scores and stories to pave our immediate future.
Next is the translation from a French interview I did with Franjou while I was still confined in New York and she was already planning this week’s performances (published in Le Petit Journal).
At Your Home Without Me with Leah Pisar
Donald Trump, Ambushed or Unmasked?
[Translated from French]
Over the last few weeks, the health crisis has morphed into a full-fledged socio-political crisis within the United States. An inevitable explosion in unemployment, resulting from these extra-ordinary circumstances, paired with the anti-racist protests and riots sweeping not only the nation, but the world, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, are proof that this is a turbulent period indeed.
In addition to the pandemic and the protests, the White House’s reaction to the upheaval has set the tone for the upcoming presidential election–it is a climate with which the American people have become very familiar over the past three months of quarantine. That is: utterly out of the ordinary.
It still remains difficult to determine whether Donald Trump has cannily taken advantage of a violent political situation mirroring a divided America, one which he does not seem interested in reconciling; or if he has gone too far and, finally, crossed a line. With declining approval ratings, some cracks in the heretofore seamless Republican support he used to enjoy, and disagreement seeping within his own administration, has Donald Trump begun to jeopardize his chances for re-election on Nov. 3rd? The 2020 presidential election will offer voters a stark choice between a divided, individualistic society; and a united America that is open to the world.
It is a struggle between “two visions of America,” in which “the soul of this country and the balance of the world” are at stake, explains Franco-American writer and former advisor to President Clinton Leah Pisar. Current President of the Aladdin Project—a NGO that works for intercultural rapprochement and the rejection of Holocaust denial, racism and anti-Semitism, Leah Pisar naturally sides with openness, humanity, and a shared world.
At Your Home Without Me: The Artistic Mankind of Betsabeé Romero
“Art needs to express itself to safeguard humanity.” These are the words of Betsabeé Romero, a Mexican fixture, sculptor, and a generous, greedy painter who is exhibited around the world. She is a poet and activist too. This humanity—a damaged, confused and self-reflecting humanity—was not prepared to face the brutal consequences of the Covid19 pandemic.
Betsabeé Romero is now listening to the suddenly silent streets of Mexico City, North America’s largest city.
From her little street house in the Villa de Cortés district, the artist is on the lookout for the sadness that invades the world faster than the disease. The absence of funerals. the hidden violence against the women and children in her country. And of course, her own personal fight fight for female artists.
Confined, she writes, draws, and reads, mostly philosophy at the moment. She is thinking about art installations to illustrate the staggered mourning that many people will experience. Incidentally, she has been invited to create and speak on this topic at the Frieze in London this Fall, as well as in Sydney and Rome.
The Art of the Virus with Olivia Tournay Flatto
A moving body, notes in harmony, an emotion, a knowledge, a narrow door toward a new idea, an engine inherent to life, to the mere concept of human beings’ survival, science and art maintain an intimate relationship, two mirrors reflecting each other and focusing on the hope of creation.
A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) actually just metamorphosed Covid19 into a musical existence, similar to the work of a composer, an exceptional melody that could help science to better understand the mechanics and weaknesses of this devastating virus.
Art in the service of science, science in the service of art. Olivia Tournay Flatto is no stranger to the crossover between these two fields.
A scientist herself and President of the Pershing Square Foundation, she has developed a fund to support young researchers with bold and new ideas in the fight against cancer. Passionate about ballet, she is a member of the Board of the Friends of the Paris Opera and President in New York of the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet (AFPOB), created 35 years ago in response to Rudolf Nureyev’s request to support a tour in the United States of the ballet company, which he directed.
The halls of the Palais Garnier and the Opéra Bastille are now closed until further notice; laboratories are mostly concentrating their research on a Covid19 vaccine. Yet science and art—brain and heart—remain more than ever the essence of our lives.
Marc Levy Beyond the Walls
There is a small bookstore on the corner of 10th Street in the West Village. In this little shop so reminiscent of the past, old and new books squeeze together on the shelves and give off that special scent of cracked ancient floors and living pages. Just a block away, if you look up, you can see through an open window that belongs to the most widely read French novelist and storyteller in the world.
A conversation with Marc Levy usually takes place over a good lunch on the terrace of Sant Ambroeus café. But Sant Ambroeus is closed now, as is the Three Lives & Company bookshop.
We could have also dined on a dish he would have cooked. But Marc Levy is currently a recluse in his haunt, sitting at his desk, among his books, computer screens and ancient typewriters. Surrounded by his characters, he gathers the letters of the alphabet and creates stories, like the one he just published in Des Mots Par La Fenêtre.