The Velvet Queen | Alliance Française French Film Festival | Review

The Velvet Queen – Film Review

Screening as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2022

by Carla Caruso

The Alliance Française French Film Festival is on again in Adelaide. 

In its 33rd season, the festival offers the crème-de-la-crème of contemporary French cinema. It’s screening in SA from March 24 to April 24, 2022, at the Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect Cinemas, and Victa Cinemas (Victor Harbor).

We were lucky enough to head along to the wildlife doco, The Velvet Queen (La panthère des neiges), directed by Marie Amiguet.

Parents and bigger kids will be enamoured by the visual feast that it is, aided by a soundtrack from Aussies Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

This is a French-language film, with English subtitles, but it’s set in the heart of the Tibetan highlands. It follows French photographer Vincent Munier, who brings writer Sylvain Tesson on his quest to find the snow leopard.

The Asian cat is on the vulnerable list, with a worldwide population that numbers only in the thousands.

Vincent introduces Sylvain to the subtle art of waiting from a ‘blind spot’, tracking animals, and finding the patience to catch sight of the beasts – amid near-zero or subzero temperatures.

While I like the idea of watching wildlife documentaries, I’m not a fan of seeing animals hunting and killing other animals. The idea of it makes me somewhat tense.

So, I was pleased to learn that Vincent is the kind of photographer who, as he says, ‘celebrates’ the beauty of nature rather than revels in its brutality.

In the opening, you do see wolves rushing towards a herd of yaks but it’s from a distance, plus animals like the quirky Pallas’s cat eating its prey. But it’s done in such a way that you don’t see the distress in the prey animal’s eyes.

You understand that this is the cycle of life. That every day is a game of life and death for these creatures, doing their best to camouflage amid the steep terrain. Among the animals caught on camera are bharals; Tibetan foxes, antelopes, and ponies; and birds including owls and saker falcons.

Vincent is a charismatic, attractive protagonist – and, as I discovered, has a big following online (almost 90,000 fans on Instagram). I’ll be looking up more of his work!

His profession feels similar to war photography, with him having to don camouflage attire, camp out in isolated landscapes, and often put himself in danger (like when a mama bear and her cubs cross his path). I was constantly asking myself whether I could withstand such conditions too. (Probably not.) But his boyish excitement for his work never abates.

The doco also has a powerful message about how disconnected people have become from nature and how caught up we get in modern life’s trivialities, missing out on what truly matters.

I walked out of the cinema, feeling so moved, and vowing to ‘slow down’ … only to check my inbox on my phone, like a reflex, and immediately feel disgruntled by a work email. Kind of like walking out of a rejuvenating day spa onto a traffic-clogged street!

At the movie’s end, a message reads:

“This film was shot by a small team with free and wild animals and the concern of not disturbing them. Homage (respect and honour) to animals and to those who dedicate their lives to protecting them.”

For other family-friendly films during the French fest, check out our guide to the Alliance Française French Film Festival.

Bons baisers de France! (Kisses from France.)

Review by Carla Caruso

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For the full festival line-up and to buy tickets, please visit The Festival website

At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.

Image source: Alliance Française French Film Festival site.

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