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June 7, 2013
France designates film festival director Downs as a knight

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The French Order of Arts and Lettres has designated Cecile Mouette Downs -- longtime heroine of the Sacramento film community -- as a chevalier, or knight.

The order honored Sacramento French Film Festival founder and executive director Downs, a French native, along with 200 or so other artists and arts organizers in its most recent chevalier class.

San Francisco French Consulate cultural attache Denis Bisson will present a medal to Downs June 21, opening night of the 12th Sacramento French Festival.

"I was surprised and happy" to learn of the award, Downs said. "I think it is nice they are going to come give it to me on opening night, so I can share it with all the (festival) board members and planning-committee members and the Sacramento audience. If the audience wasn't here, I would not have (presented) 12 festivals, and there would be no medal."

The presentation will happen before the 8:30 p.m. screening of "Cloclo," a biopic of French pop star Claude Francois. Fittingly, "Cloclo" director Florent Emilio Siri was just named a chevalier as well, though he will not be in attendance on opening night.

Raised in a Paris suburb, Downs received a master's in history with an emphasis on film. Before moving to Sacramento, she worked at the French embassy in New York, where she helped promote French film.

The poster above, from 2011, depicts Downs in knight garb as Joan of Arc. Sacramento artist Kent Lacin, who creates all the SFFF posters, clearly was prescient about Downs becoming a knight, though he was a bit off on the context.

Click on the poster to get a better look at Downs, on the left.

The 12th French Film Festival runs June 21-23 and June 28-30 at Sacramento's Crest Theatre. Look for my story on the festival in our June 16 a&e section. For information on the event, see its website.

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