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Reader question: Can you avoid seeing a dubbed movie in French cinemas?

If you're not a fan of the tradition of dubbing foreign-language movies into French, here's how to avoid it.

Reader question: Can you avoid seeing a dubbed movie in French cinemas?
A Dimanche au Cinéma event on the Champs-Elysees. (Photo: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP)

Question: Sometimes I like to watch Hollywood movies in France, but they always seem to be dubbed into French – is there a way of avoiding dubbed versions?

Going to the cinema is one of life’s joys for many people – and France, the home of Cannes, is well known as a nation of cinephiles. But what if you want to enjoy an overseas film with its original language soundtrack rather than one that has been dubbed into French?

You can do that, too. Many cinemas in France show original language versions of films with French subtitles as well as French dubbed versions. 

The trick is to know which screenings are which – and for that you need to look at cinema listings online or in the local press.

The acronym you’re looking for in the cinema listings is VOST – which stands for Version Originale Sous-Titrée – and that means the screening in question has the original soundtrack and (French) subtitles. 

Frequently, avant-premiere screenings – preview showings of films in selected cinemas before their official release in France – are VOST.

You may occasionally also see VO – Version Originale – which comes without subtitles for the full-on original movie experience.

It’s similar to the VM (Version Multilingue)  initialisation on French TV, which allows viewers to watch imported TV shows or movies in their original language, as well as in French.

If the listing shows no initials, it means the movie will be dubbed into French, so you’ll be treated to the sight of one of your favourite American or British movie starts speaking fluent French – albeit while their mouth moves slightly out-of-sync with the words being spoken.

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French AOP cheese the latest victim of France’s drought

Your cheeseboard board might have to go without a classic French cheese for some time, after production was halted due to the impacts of drought. 

French AOP cheese the latest victim of France's drought

Production of Salars – a type of cows’ milk cheese from the central French département of Cantal – has been halted for an indefinite period, as France suffers its worst drought on record.

Across the country rivers have run dry and water restrictions have been imposed – and now the cheese-makers are affected too.

The Salars cheese is an AOP (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), meaning the rules for its production are carefully defined – to be authentic, the cows’ diet must be at least 75 percent grass from pastures within the Auvergne region.

But as the drought continues, the normally fertile volcanic earth in Auvergne has gone hard and dry, and the grass has died – for the 78 AOP cheese producers in the region, their cows have not been able to graze for weeks.

READ MORE: Ask the expert: Why is France’s drought so bad and what will happen next?

“There is nothing left to eat at my place,” said Laurent Roux, a farmer at Gaec de la Calsade in Cantal, to Francetvinfo.

“In some places, the ground looks like ashes. It’s dust,” he added. Roux’ cows have not been able to graze since June 25th. 

While this is the first time a full production stop for Salers has occurred, it is not the first time the AOP has had to contend with challenging climate conditions.

Some farmers had to temporarily suspend production in 2017, and in 2019, the AOP requested a waiver to decrease cows’ share of grass in their diets to 50 percent rather than the usual 75 percent.

However, farmer and head of the AOP, Laurent Lours, said this option was not on the table this year. “It is not worth it because we do not even have 50 percent of the grass,” he told the local station of France 3

He expects production to drop by at least 15 percent this year, as the cheese is only produced on farms between April 15th and November 15th. 

READ MORE: More than 100 French villages without tap water in ‘unprecedented’ drought

For individual farmers, many will turn to Cantal cheese (rather than Salers), which has less restrictive regulations for its production. Doing so also means that they will earn less – a loss of €200 per 1,000 litres of milk.

As for consumers, they can expect a shortage in stores and increase in prices for Salers cheese.

The drought is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with the possibility of impacting other cheeses and AOP products.

In Switzerland, producers of Gruyère cheese are also worried about a lower quantity of milk production and are considering bringing their cows down to the plains earlier than usual this season.

From the mussels in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel (as a result of a lack of fresh water in the rivers) to the Espelette peppers being lost to high temperatures, drought will likely impact a range of France’s unique ingredients.