New films by directors Jean-Jacques Beineix ("Diva," "Betty Blue") and Jacques Doillon ("Ponette") are just two of many good reasons to check out this year's Festival du Film Francais at Yokohama Pacifico. In addition to 19 new films, fans can enjoy a film-buff-friendly atmosphere, where the stars -- including such luminaries as Nathalie Baye and Emmanuele Beart -- are fairly accessible, taking questions after screenings and hanging around afterward for photos, autographs and conversation.

All the films screening will be Japan premieres. Some, such as Beineix's "Mortel Transfert," or Gerard Corbiau's "Le Roi danse," are already slated to open later this year. Others, including not a few remarkable films, have not been picked up by local distributors yet, so this may be your only chance to see them.

One such film is "Martha, Martha," by director Sandrine Veysset (whose previous film, "Victor . . . pendant qu'il est trop tard," opens here in July). Earning the director the International Critics' Award at Cannes this year, "Martha" is a powerful realist work about a high-strung young woman who struggles, unsuccessfully, to settle into the role of mother and wife. Actress Valerie Donzelli simmers in the lead role, while Yann Goven lends a light touch as her long-suffering husband, but it's little Lucie Regnier who steals the film with a touching and entirely unaffected performance as the couple's daughter. Never an "issue film," "Martha" is an intimate and moving look at the tension between personal freedom and family bonds.