Another year passed by and so far I've seen about 540 movies in 2016:
CUATRO LUNAS - directed by Sergio Tovar Velarde
NAKED AS WE CAME directed by Richard LeMay
BLACKBIRD - Dir. Patrik Ian Polk
THE TIGER & THE MONK - tv special
SPECIAL FORCES - Dir. Stepjane Rybojad
SEBASTIAN - Dir. Svend Wam
LIKE A BROTHER - Dir. Bernard Alapetite
THE FENCER - Dir. Klaus Haro
ANGELS OF SEX - Dir. Xavier Villaverde
STEAK REVOLUTION - Dir. Franck Ribiero
DANCE FOR ME (Dans For Mig) - Dir. Katrine Philp
BIG SKY - Dir. Jorge Michel Grau
AMOROUS - Dir. Joanna Coates
13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI - Dir. Michael Bay
RIDE ALONG 2 - Dir. Tim Story
UNCLE JOHN - Dir. Steven Piet
UNLUCKY PLAZA - Dir. Ken Kwek
MAKING A MURDERER (10 EPISODES) - Directors Moira Demos | Laura Ricciardi
ANOMALISA - Dir. Duke Johnson
DIRTY GRANDPA - Dir. Dan Mazer
MOJAVE - Dir. William Monahan
ROSITA - Dir. Frederikke Aspöck
THE OTHER GIRLS - Dir. Esa Illi
THE LESSON - Dir. Andris Gauja
SECOND CHANCE - Dir. Susanne Bier
FINEST HOURS - Dir. Craig Gillespie
EVERYTHING ABOUT HER - Bb. Joyce Bernal
KUNG FU PANDA 3 - Dir. Alessandro Carloni
JANE GOT A GUN - Dir. Gavin O'Connor
FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK - Dir. Michael Tiddes
SBIFF 2016: BATTLECREEK - Dir. Allison Eastwood
ALEX & EVE - Dir. Peter Andrikidis
THE LITTLE PRINCE - Dir. Mark Osborne
10 BILLION: WHAT'S ON YOUR PLATE? - Dir. Valentin Thurne *****
ALENA - Dir. Daniel Di Grado *****
ALEX AND EVE - Dir. Peter Andrikidis *****
THE ASSISTANT (La Volante) - Dir. Nicolas Bonilauri *****
BAD SEEDS (Les Malvauses Herbes) - Dir. Louis Belanger *****
THE CHAMPIONS - Dir.Darcy Dennett
THE CLAN (El Clan) - Dir. Pablo Trapero ****
THE CULPABLE (Verfehlung) - Dir. Gerd Schneider *****
THE DARK SIDE OF THE OCEAN - Dir. Rick Roshenthal
A DECENT MAN (Nickts Passiert) - Dir. Micha Lewinsky *****
DREAMLAND - Dir. Steve Chen
HIGH STRUNG - Dir. Michael Damian ****
THE HIGH SUN (Zvizdan) - Dir. Dalibor Matanic *****
HOME CARE - Dir. Slavek Horok *****
I EAT, THEREFORE I AM - Dir. Cheoi-ha Lee
ISLA BONITA - Dir. Fernando Colomo
KING GEORGES - Dir. Erika Frankel
LAMB - Dir. Yared Zeleke
LAZAR - Dir. Svetozor Ristovski *****
LOUDER THAN BOMBS - Dir. Joachim Trier *****
MA MA - Dir. Julio Medem ****
MAMMAL - Dir. Rebecca Daly ***** Rachel Griffiths gives a arresting performance
MIDNIGHT RETURN - Dir. Sally Sussman Morina
THE MIDWIFE - Dir. Antti J. Jokinen
MONITOR - Dir. Alessio Lauria
A FOOL -
ONE MORE TIME - Dir. Robert Edwards, starring Amber Heard and Christopher Walken
THE PICKLE RECIPE - Dir. Michael Manasseri
RENDEZ-VOUS - Dir. Antoinette Baumer *****
SHE WALKS (La Marcheuse) - Dir. Noel Marandin *****
A SINGLE FRAME - Dir. Brandon Dickenson
SPARROWS - Dir. Runar Runarsson
SPEAR - Dir. Stephen Page
STEREOTYPICALLY YOU - Dir. Benjamin Cox
TALION - Dir. Martin Tuta *****
THE TRANSLATOR (Il Traduttore) - Dir. Massimo Natale *****
TOO CLOSE TO OUR SON (Au plus pres du Soleil) - Dir. Yves Angelo *****
VILLA-MARIE - Dir. Guy Edoin *****
WE MONSTERS (Wir Monster) - Dir. Sebastian Ko *****
GUARINI - Dir. Luis Zorraquin
HOW TO BE SINGLE - Dir. Christian Ditter
DEADPOOL - Dir. Tim Miller
ZOOLANDER 2 - Dir. Ben Stiller
HAIL, CAESAR! - Dir. Ethan Coen
THE CHOICE - Dir. Ross Katz
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES - Dir. Burr Steers
The 2016 Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animated Sanjay’s Super Team – dir. Sanjay Patel, USA, 7 minutes World of Tomorrow – dir. Don Hertzfeldt, USA, 17 minutes Bear Story – dir. Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 11 minutes We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – dir. Konstantin Bronzit, Russia, 16 minutes If I Was God (additional film) The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse (additional film) The Loneliest Spotlight (additional film) Catch It (additional film) Prologue – dir. Richard Williams, UK, 6 minutes
Important note: Prologue, one of the five nominees, will be the last film in the program. A beautiful, hand-drawn depiction of a battle scene, there’s violence and some male nudity in it, and it’s not appropriate for young children. We’ll have a Parental Guidance warning prior to this short, so that parents and caregivers can usher children out of the theater if they’d like. Other than Prologue, the program is acceptable for kids of all ages.
Sanjay's Super Team: Young Sanjay, a first-generation Indian-American, is obsessed with television, cartoons and his superhero action figures. He is reluctant to spend time in daily prayers with his devout Hindu father, but a flight of imagination helps him develop a new perspective that he and his father can both embrace.
World of Tomorrow: A little girl named Emily is taken on a fantastical tour of her distant future by a surprising visitor who reveals unnerving secrets about humanity's fate.
Bear Story: Every day, a melancholy old bear takes a mechanical diorama that he has created out to his street corner. For a coin, passersby can look into the peephole of his invention, which tells the story of a circus bear who longs to escape and return to the family from which he was taken.
We Can't Live without the Cosmos: Two best friends have dreamed since childhood of becoming cosmonauts, and together they endure the rigors of training and public scrutiny, and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their shared goal.
Prologue: 2,400 years ago, four warriors -- two Spartan and two Athenian -- battle to the death in an intense struggle witnessed by a little girl, who then runs to her grandmother for comfort.
The 2016 Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action This year's nominees are:
Ave Maria – dir. Basil Khalil, Palestine/France/Germany, 15 minutes Shok – dir. Jamie Donoughue, Kosovo/UK, 21 minutes Everything Will Be Okay – dir. Patrick Vollrath, Germany/Austria, 30 minutes Stutterer – dir. Benjamin Cleary, UK/Ireland, 12 minutes Day One – dir. Henry Hughes, USA, 25 minutes
Ave Maria: Five nuns living in the West Bank find their routine disrupted when the car of a family of Israeli settlers breaks down outside the convent. Unable to use the telephone due to Sabbath restrictions, the family needs help from the nuns, but the sisters' vow of silence requires them to work with their visitors to find an unorthodox solution.
Shok: In Kosovo in 1998, two young boys are best friends living normal lives, but as war engulfs their country, their daily existence becomes filled with violence and fear. Soon, the choices they make threaten not only their friendship, but their families and their lives.
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut): Michael, a divorced father devoted to his eight-year-old daughter, Lea, picks her up for their usual weekend together. At first it feels like a normal visit, but Lea soon realizes that something is different, and so begins a fateful journey.
Stutterer: For a lonely typographer, an online relationship has provided a much-needed connection without revealing the speech impediment that has kept him isolated. Now, however, he is faced with the proposition of meeting his online paramour in the flesh, and thereby revealing the truth about himself.
Day One: On the heels of a painful divorce, an Afghan-American woman joins the U.S. military as an interpreter and is sent to Afghanistan. On her first mission, she accompanies troops pursuing a bomb-maker, and must bridge the gender and culture gap to help the man's pregnant wife when she goes into labor.
BUSCO NOVIO PARA MI MUJER - Dir. Enrique Begne
RACE - Dir. Stephen Hopkins
RISEN - Dir. Kevin Reynolds
THE WITCH - Dir. Robert Eggers
WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE'S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM - Director Evgeny Afineevsky
GODS OF EGYPT - Dir. Alex Proyas
TRIPLE 9 - Dir. John Hillcoat
FIVE DANCES - Dir. Alan Brown
SECRETS OF WAR - Dir. Dennis Bots
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY - Dir. Woo Ping-Yuen
THE BOY AND THE BEAST - Dir. Mamoru Hosoda
LONDON HAS FALLEN - Dir. Babak Najafi
THE WITCH - Dir. Robert Eggers
ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE - Dir. Dan Villegas starring Gerald Anderson and Arci Munoz
ZOOTOPIA - Dir. Byron Howard
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT - Dir. Glenn Ficarra
EDDIE THE EAGLE - Dir. Dexter Fletcher
TOUCH WITH FIRE - Dir. Paul Dalio
IMMINENT THREAT - Dir. Janek Ambros
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER - Dir. John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
BUEN DIA, RAMON - Dir. Jorge Ramirez Suarez
COOKED - Dir. Alex Gibney
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE - Dir. Dan Trachtenberg
THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY - Dir. Louis Leterrier
THE PERFECT MATCH - Dir. Billy Woodruff
THE YOUNG MESSIAH - Dir. Cyrus Nowrasteh
HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS - Dir. Michael Showalter
THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT - Dir. Robert Schwentke
THE BRONZE - Dir. Bryan Buckley
THANK YOU FOR PLAYING - Dir. David Osit
BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD - Dir. Jen Senko
REMEMBER - Dir. Atom Egoyan
KNIGHT OF CUPS - Dir. Terrence Malick
CITY OF GOLD - Dir. Laura Gabbert A+
MARGUERITE -Dir. Xavier Gannoli
THE LADY IN VAN - Dir. Nicholas Hytner
CALIFORNIA WINTER - Dir. Odin Ozdil
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE - Dir. Jack Snyder
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 - Dir. Kirk Jones
LOLO - Dir. Julie Delpy
NO LETTING GO - Dir. Jonathan D. Bucari
LOVE IS BLIND - Dir. Jason Paul Laxamana
DECAY - Dir. Joseph Wartnerchaney
STRANGE SEPTEMBERS: THE HILL ABDUCTION & THE EXETER ENCOUNTER - Dir. Jeff Finn
LITTLE BOY - Dir. Alejandro Monteverde
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER - Dir. Matt Sobel
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL - Dir. Jeff Nichols
GOD'S NOT DEAD 2 - Dir. Harold Cronk
EYE IN THE SKY - Dir. Gavin Hood
MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN - Dir. Patricia Riggen
STANDING TALL - Dir. Emmanuelle Bercot
CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR - Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
I SAW THE LIGHT - Dir. Marc Abraham
KRISHA - Dir. Trey Edward Shults
BORN TO BE BLUE - Dir. Robert Budreau
CASA GRANDE - Dir. Fellipe Barbosa
HARDCORE HENRY - Dir. Ilya Naishuller
THE BOSS - Dir. Ben Falcone
DEMOLITION - Dir. Jean-Marc Vallee
INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2016: UMRIKA - Dir. Prashant Nair
ALIGARH - Dir. Hansal Mehta
KIRUMI - Dir. Anucharan Marugaiyan
DAARAVTHA (THE TRESHOLD) - Dir. Nishant Roy Bombarde
VISAARANAI - Dir. Vetrimaaran
THE NUMBERS STATION - Dir. Kasper Barfoed
KINKY BOOTS - Dir. Julian Jarrold
13 CAMERAS - Dir. Victor Zarcoff
COLONIA - Dir. Florian Gallenberger
SOUTH 32 - Dir. Jake Barsha
BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT - Dir. Malcolm D. Lee
THE JUNGLE BOOK - Dir. Jon Favreau
CRIMINAL - Dir. Ariel Vromen
EVERYBODY WANTS SOME - Dir. Richard Linklater
COLCOA - French Film Festival (April 18-26):
AS I OPEN MY EYES / A peine j’ouvre les yeux - Dir. Leyla Bouzid It’s the summer of 2010, the eve of the Arab Spring. Tunisia heaves under the ever-watchful regime of dictator Ben Ali; revolution is in the air. Exuberantly breathing in that air is Farah, a bright high school grad eager to explore the fresh possibilities of young adulthood. Her mother, Hayet (renowned singer Ghalia Benali), is pressuring her to go to medical school, but Farah has more intriguing offers. She’s the singer in an underground band, and dabbling in matters of love and sex with fellow musician, Bohrene. Farah’s fearless feminist stance and the band’s lyrics challenge the status quo, so when Hayet receives a warning from an old friend in the Interior Ministry, she is determined to make Farah understand the very real dangers of her growing political convictions. A bittersweet coming of age drama, not only for its impetuous protagonist, but also for Tunisia, a country coming of age after its own rebellious spree ended without the freedoms that many of its youthful protesters had hoped for.
After taking top honors at the 2015 Dubai International Film Festival, this French-Tunisian co-production from writer/director Leyla Bouzid went on to receive the Label Europa Cinemas prize at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. Tunisian born Bouzid studied film at La Fémis in Paris. After a few short films, she turned her attention to Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, a rich source of inspiration for her debut feature. From this starting point, Bouzid and her French co-screenwriter Marie-Sophie Chambon were able to create a complex mother-daughter relationship that mirrors the social forces at play in the country as a whole. Music was another critical component in the film, so Bouzid enlisted Iraqi musician/composer Khyam Allami to write the band’s songs.
LONG WAY NORTH / Tout en haut du monde - Dir. Rémi Chayé - This charming animated English-voiced adventure is set in the glory days of 19th Century exploration. As a member of the Russian aristocracy, 15 year-old Sasha is expected to make her debut in polite society, to marry strategically, and to live out her life as an obedient wife. But Sasha has other plans. She was born with the wanderlust of her grandfather Oloukine, an explorer of renown who has yet to return from his expedition to the far reaches of the North Pole aboard his unsinkable ship, the Davia. Meanwhile, the Tsar’s treacherous nephew has used Oloukine’s absence to tarnish her family’s honor and Sasha is convinced that the Davia hasn’t been found because everyone is looking in the wrong place. Without a ruble of her own, Sasha sets off to territories unknown, hoping to prove her theory and to restore the family reputation, even if it leaves her marriage prospects in ruins.
Director Rémi Chayé decided to animate his first feature in 2D, a bold choice for a spectacular adventure story. This graphically simplified technique had the advantages of allowing him to focus more on color, and of helping to evoke the nostalgic worlds of two major influences: Jack London and Jules Verne. In development since 2005, the film was a labor of love for Chayé, who began as an illustrator for comics and advertising before making his way through the ranks of animation starting as a storyboarder for films like L'île de Black Mór (2004), Secret of the Kells (2009), and The Painting (2011). The idea for the film came to Chayé through TV writer Claire Paoletti, who, using Shackleton’s polar expedition as a major reference, developed the full treatment from a one-page outline. Two writers contributed to the screenplay, Patricia Valeix completed the second draft and Fabrice de Costil added the dialogue and final polish.
DON'T TELL ME THE BOY WAS MAD / Une histoire de fou - Dir. Robert Guédiguian - Against a backdrop of militant attacks sweeping 1980s Europe, this absorbing tale dives headfirst into themes of collective guilt, historical amnesia, and radicalization. Aram, a young man of Armenian descent, grows up in Marseille hearing stories of Turkish brutality and genocide against his people. Although these are the sins of a past generation, Aram’s pitched rage leads him to lash out against a Turkish diplomat in Paris. Fleeing to Beirut to join the Armenian Liberation Army, Aram doesn’t know that his bomb also seriously wounded Gilles, an innocent cyclist who happened to be passing by. When Aram’s mother Anouch learns of her son’s involvement in the bombing, her conscience gets the better of her, and she decides to pay a visit to Gilles in the hospital. Anouch’s shame seems no match for Gilles’ anger and bitterness, yet the encounter inspires Gilles to dig deeper into Armenian history – by way of imposing himself directly on Aram’s family.
Based on the autobiographical novel by journalist Jose Antonio Gurriaran, who was himself paralyzed in an Armenian terrorist attack and later defended the Armenian cause, this cri de coeur from writer/director Robert Guédiguian is a return to themes that have preoccupied him personally and professionally. Born to an Armenian dockworker in Marseille, Guédiguian makes films that confront social and political issues but add a touch of thriller or noir to the kitchen sink naturalism. Relying on a stable of regular actors, his early features were expressions of pessimism for the future of the French working class. Later films like Marius and Jeannette (1997) took a lighter, more charming turn, and garnered international acclaim. His ambitious Army of Crime (2009) pays tribute to immigrant resistance fighters in wartime France. For one of that film’s co-writers, Gilles Taurand, this marks his third collaboration with Guédiguian, along with The Last Mitterrand (2005). Don’t Tell me the Boy was Mad had its World Premiere at the last Cannes Film Festival.
SAINT AMOUR - Dir. Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern - Deadpan humor hits the highway for a romp through France’s most beautiful wine-growing regions, finding pathos - and some highly improbable sex - along the way. Benoît Poelvoorde brings his signature staccato to the role of Bruno, a lonely, patched-together, wannabe-anything-but cattle farmer. Bruno hopes to drink his way through his personal crisis by taking the “national wine tour”, a series of regional wine stalls at Paris’ annual agriculture trade fair. When Bruno’s buzz turns belligerent, his father Jean decides that a tour of the real wine country is just the thing to help his son better appreciate France’s rural traditions. On the spot, Jean hires a cabbie, the handsome but smug city slicker Mike, and the unlikely trio hoof it out to the countryside to squeeze in a little drinking between hilariously awkward hookups and offbeat encounters, including one with author Michel Houellebecq as a disturbing B&B proprietor. Gérard Depardieu brings some heft to the proceedings as the genial, but slightly befuddled dad hoping to reconnect with his wayward son.
The holy terrors of Franco-Belgian film are back with their seventh film. Writing/directing duo Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern are specialists when it comes to the anarchic road trip comedy. There’s the cross-country wheelchair “odd-yssey” Aaltra (COLCOA 2005). There’s Depardieu starring as a not-so-easy-rider in Mammuth (COLCOA 2011), and there’s Near Death Experience (2014) in which Michel Houellebecq takes a philosophical spin as a suicidal cyclist. Their work has always flirted with the absurd, as with the Sundance Special Jury Prize winner Louise-Michel (COLCOA 2009) about factory workers pooling their money to hire a hit man to kill the boss, and Avida (2006), about a dognapping by two deaf-mute ketamine addicts. But as chaotic and broad as their films can be, there is usually a touch of authentic tenderness extended to their characters, even if some of them don’t deserve it. Both Delépine and Kervern got their start in TV, doing political satire. They still contribute to the Canal + comic show, Made in Groeland.
TOMORROW/ Demain - Dir. Cyril Dion, Mélanie Laurent - This entertaining and eye-opening winner of the 2016 Best Documentary César offers some provocative solutions to the hard challenges facing much of humanity. In 2012, extinction experts Anthony Barnosky and Elizabeth Hadly published a paper warning of a coming planetary “sixth extinction” beginning as soon as two generations from now. When environmental activist Cyril Dion shared the article with actress Mélanie Laurent, they decided to team up for a personal journey across ten countries to see what, if anything, could be done. They sought out those pioneers who challenge the old narratives and buck conventional wisdom in agriculture, energy, the economy, democracy, and education. Laurent and Dion quickly understood that they weren’t making another pessimistic, moralizing eco-doc, but an inspiring futuristic vision, because those who are offering the most effective solutions today are actually reinventing the world of tomorrow. With humor, stunning imagery, and a musical assist from Swedish songstress Fredrika Stahl, Tomorrow is an emphatic declaration of hope.
Co-directors Mélanie Laurent and Cyril Dion insist that this is not their film. It belongs to the thousands of people who crowdfunded the project. Their goal to raise 200,000 euros in two months was met in two days, and they went on to break a documentary fundraising record. Dion began writing the project in 2010, but when he fully absorbed the implications of the Barnosky/Hadly findings, he resigned his position as head of the Mouvement Colibris (Hummingbird Movement), the environmental NGO he co-founded, in order to dedicate himself to what would become his first feature film. This is the third feature outing for Mélanie Laurent, whose previous features focused on female friendship and bonding. Her first film, The Adopted, won the COLCOA First Feature Award in 2012. Her sophomore effort, Breathe (2014) tackled a toxic friendship between two teenage girls. Laurent is better known stateside as an actress starring with some of Hollywood’s biggest names including Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Enemy).
BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY) / Une histoire d'amour moderne - Dir. Eva Husson - A heat wave isn’t the only thing in full swing in this steamy drama about rich kids in the coastal town of Biarritz stripping down and shaking off that mid-summer ennui. Young George (Marilyn Lima, think adolescent Bardot painted by Botticelli) unexpectedly falls for Alex after he coaxes her into a casual encounter. When the feelings aren’t reciprocated, George tries to remind him what he’s missing by instigating a game of truth or dare with enough dare in it to put a glint in the eye of a porn impresario. Aided by some selfies and the internet, word spreads, and what began as an attempt to spark a little jealously explodes into a furious wildfire of sexual discovery. George, Alex, and their growing circle of libertine teens are now determined to find their limits, consequences be damned.
Twenty years after Kids arrived like a “cultural blitzkrieg,” Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) was raising eyebrows at its Toronto International Film Festival premiere. Although the film’s explicit depiction of too-much too-young sex invites that comparison, first-time feature writer/director Eva Husson was thinking more Wong Kar-Wei than Larry Clark. An AFI graduate, Husson made a splash with her mid-length, Death Valley-set Those For Whom It’s Always Complicated (2013), which French audiences would have seen on Arte. She has also made videos for music acts such as Florence and the Machine and M83. Husson conscripted M83 collaborator Morgan Kibby to make the film’s mesmerizing synth beat soundtrack.
COME WHAT MAY / En mai, fais ce qu'il te plait - Dir. Christian Carion - War films tend to tell stories about political leaders, or the soldiers who carry out their orders. Come What May examines the effects of war on more ordinary citizens, a timely subject in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis. It’s 1940; German Panzers are smashing through the Ardennes forest on their way to France. Eight million people flee – the largest exodus in modern history. Among them are Paul, the mayor of a small village, and Suzanne, a young schoolteacher and surrogate mother to Max, a displaced German boy. They organize the charge to abandon the town and head for the safety of the coast. It’s a heavy decision, because taking their caravan on the open roads leaves them defenseless against German attack. At the same time, Max’s father Hans, who fled the Nazi regime and was subsequently imprisoned in France, sets out to look for his son, accompanied by Scottish soldier Percy (The Americans star Matthew Rhys), who hopes to repatriate a set of bagpipes with the retreating British army. An intimate story, told on an epic scale, and with an expansive score by the maestro of film music, Academy Award winner Ennio Morricone.
Known for making historical tapestries based on true stories, writer/director Christian Carion stepped onto the international stage with his feel-good WWI film Joyeux Noel (2005), in which soldiers in the trenches lay down their arms for one day to celebrate Christmas with the enemy. His gripping thriller Farewell (COLCOA 2010), went back to the Cold War and featured filmmakers Emir Kusturica and Guillaume Canet as spies passing Soviet secrets to the West. Carion was born into a farming family and initially went in that direction professionally. After meeting fellow film enthusiast Christophe Rossignon, now a prominent producer, the two of them decided to dedicate their lives to filmmaking. Co-writer Andrew Bampfield is an established writer for French TV, known for Inside The Twin Towers (2006). This is the first writing credit for co-writer Laure Irrmann.
ONE MAN AND HIS COW / La Vache - Dir. Mohamed Hamidi - If Hannibal could get an army of elephants across the Alps, how hard can it be to get one cow across France? Fatah, an Algerian farmer played by Franco-Algerian comic Fatsah Bouyahmed, is determined to find out in this cheerful, comedic road movie with a twist or two. When his beloved prize heifer, Jacqueline, is finally invited to compete at the prestigious Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris, Fatah has to figure out a way to get there. After some encouragement from his fellow villagers, Fatah rounds up his courage and leaves his home for the first time in his life. Crossing all of France on foot, you’re bound to have a few interesting encounters, and Jacqueline turns out to be a real conversation starter. Before Fatah knows it, he and his bovine BFF go viral, and even his wife and children are watching him milk his newfound fame on the village’s one communal TV. Which is unfortunate, because with all those cameras trained on him, it’s only a matter of time before something goes utterly wrong.
The journey to filmmaking for writer/director Mohamed Hamidi has been as full of twists as the protagonist of his film. While teaching economics in Bobigny, he got the opportunity to compose some music for Franco-Morroccan comedian Jamel Debbouze’s comedy club. Before long, Hamidi was collaborating full time, working as artistic director for the comedy festival Marrakech du Rire and even writing material for Debbouze’s stand-up shows. In 2013, Hamidi mounted his first feature, Homeland, about a young second-generation immigrant man going “home” to Algeria for the first time in his life. Both of his films feature Debbouze, who remains an important compass point in his career. Hamidi’s strength lays in his ability to transform the contradictions of modern life in Algeria into comedy. One Man and His Cow is a riff on Henri Verneuil’s 1959 The Cow and I, about a French POW who escapes Germany using a cow as a decoy. And that’s the straight story…
MY KING / Mon Roi - Dir. Maïwenn - This intimate take on a rollercoaster relationship puts all the tropes of romance on its head by looking at it through the eyes of a woman seduced by the male equivalent of a blonde bombshell. Licking her wounds in a convalescent center after an accident-on-purpose on the ski slopes, fortyish lawyer Tony looks back on a tumultuous decade with her dream guy, Georgio. An effortlessly charming restaurateur, Georgio views the world as a stage upon which he is performing his life. Tony obliges with five-star reviews, at least while the passions are in full flush. Only later, when the couple gets down to the business of building a life together, will Georgio’s wolfish ego and his inability to fully let go of his womanizing past, begin to tarnish the shine. But even if theirs is a doomed relationship, Tony is about to learn that it doesn’t always have to be this way. Vincent Cassel is at his raffish best, and Emmanuelle Bercot won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her heartbreaking portrayal of a woman desperate to fall out of love.
With My King, her fourth feature film, it’s perhaps time to stop calling Maïwenn an actress-turned-filmmaker and start calling her simply a filmmaker. Coming off her grittier Cannes Jury Prize-winning ensemble drama Polisse (COLCOA 2011), Maïwenn has put her spin on the classic French romance, and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Daughter of actress Catherine Belkhodja, Maïwenn was raised in the entertainment industry, and began acting as a child; her career was briefly on hold after she began a relationship with director Luc Besson. Technically, her first film was shooting the making of for Besson’s Léo: The Professional (1994). She returned to acting with an autobiographical one-woman show, which led to her real first film, the short I’m an actrice (2004). Maïwenn’s co-writer Etienne Comar, has also co-written Of Gods and Men (2010), and Haute Cuisine (COLCOA 2012), among his many producer credits.
MADE IN FRANCE - Dir. Nicolas Boukhrief - This darkly atmospheric shock-thriller takes you on a white-knuckle ride inside a cell of homegrown extremists dedicated to bringing jihad to the streets of Paris. Sam is a Franco-Algerian journalist hoping to write a tell-all exposing the threat of domestic terrorism. Using his knowledge of Islam, he infiltrates a small cadre of extremists led by Hassan, a disgruntled shoe salesman whose chief leadership credential is having met “the principals” on his pilgrimage to Mecca. Hassan instructs everyone to “become invisible.” From the outside, it all appears frighteningly ordinary, except for Sam, who is now in the precarious position of a normal guy trying to look like an extremist trying to look normal. Sam discovers that the cell is comprised of young men who, far from marching in lockstep, have wildly different motivations. But as the plan moves closer to fruition, suspicion grips the conspirators, putting more than his book in immediate danger.
When writer/director Nicolas Boukhrief and his co-writer Éric Besnard (Babylon A.D.) began to research this subject, their principal reference was the Paris commuter train bombing in 1995. They had no way of knowing just how prophetic the film would be, nor how much its commercial life would suffer for it. Slated initially for release in early 2015, the devastating attack on Charlie Hebdo gave the original distributor cold feet. Then the tragic Bataclan attack, coming just one week before the film’s new release date, led to a second cancellation. For Boukhrief, a genre specialist, the film was conceived firstly as entertainment, but its subject matter struck raw nerves in France. Known for crime dramas like Cash Truck (COLCOA 2004), Cortex (2008), and Sphinx (COLCOA 2010), Boukhrief began his career as a journalist, first as an editor for the genre film magazine Starfix, then creating the Canal + series Le Journal du cinéma, which aired for more than a decade. His transition to filmmaking began in 1993, when he co-wrote Tout le monde n'a pas eu la chance d'avoir des parents communistes with director/co-writer Jean-Jacques Zilbermann.
MONSIEUR CHOCOLAT / Chocolat - Dir. Roschdy Zem - The 20th Anniversary of COLCOA celebrates its opening night with this lively, lavish biopic set in the Belle Époque worlds of circus and music halls. Omar Sy effortlessly juggles comedy and compassion as Raphael Padilla, a.k.a. Chocolat, the first black star of the French stage. Born a slave in Cuba, Padilla makes his way to a rag-tag circus in Europe, where he plays a tooth-baring cannibal named Kalanka for provincial rubes who’ve never seen a black man before. Impressed with Padilla’s agility, George Footit partners up with him and they develop a clown act that catapults them to fame and fortune – more or less, since Footit, the white man in the partnership, takes most of the fortune. Success is bittersweet for Chocolat, who stays positive despite the fact that his act consists of mocking his own race to the delight of French audiences. But when he tries to step outside the character society wants him to play, those delighted audiences vanish in droves. Monsieur Chocolat revives the legend of a trailblazing artist whom history has all but forgotten.
The fourth film of writer/director Roschdy Zem is his first period piece, and his most ambitious effort yet. Most people will know Zem for a diverse acting career that has spanned nearly three decades. He brings that same versatility to directing, ranging from his cross-cultural comedy Bad Faith (COLCOA 2007), to the crime drama Omar Killed Me (2011) to the family drama Bodybuilder (2014). This project was first proposed to Zem by producers Éric and Nicolas Altmayer, who had a Cyril Gely script based on a theater piece and subsequent book by historian Gérard Noiriel. For the final adaptation Zem brought in his Omar Killed Me collaborator Oliver Gorce. For the role of Footit, Zem cast Charlie Chaplin’s grandson James Thiérrée, an accomplished acrobat and juggler who designed and choreographed the circus numbers.
FAMILIES / Belles Familles - Dir. Jean-Paul Rappeneau - Mathieu Amalric leads a nimble comedic cast as Jérôme, a globetrotting businessman based in Shanghai, who makes a pit stop in Paris to introduce his business partner/fiancée to his mother. Jérôme’s estranged father has recently passed away, and when he learns that the sale of his family’s elegant Loire Valley manor is in bureaucratic limbo, he decides to send his fiancée on to London and take care of the matter personally. Upon arrival, Jérôme’s finds that his private memory lane is about to be paved over by the highway of progress. To begin with, the man threatening to lay his ancestral home to block-development waste is none other than Grégoire, an old rival from school. Then it dawns on him that for years his father had been managing an elaborate alternate life in the old place. But it’s Grégoire’s girlfriend Louise (Young and Beautiful revelation Marine Vacth) that really intrigues him. She dislikes him more than she should, for a man she just met.
When his big budget international espionage project hit a roadblock, veteran writer/director Jean-Paul Rappeneau took a detour that led him to a more autobiographical approach, and a return to the high-energy comedy of earlier films like Call Me Savage (1975 – COLCOA 2012). Known for his meticulous blocking and dynamic camera moves, the Rappeneau style reached its apex in lavish period productions Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) and The Horseman on the Roof (1995). Less known is the fact that Rappeneau is one of very few French writers to have been nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar (That Man From Rio, 1964). To help shape his latest screenplay, Rappeneau enlisted co-writers Philippe Le Guay (The Women on the 6th Floor, COLCOA 2011), and son Julien Rappeneau (My Way, COLCOA 2012). Julien’s brother Martin Rappeneau composed the film’s music, keeping Families in the family.
THE FIRST, THE LAST / Les Premiers, les derniers - Dir. Bouli Lanners - Elements of the western and the gothic thriller come together in this darkly absurd conceptual one-off. Set amidst the industrial ruins of a flatland vast enough to swallow men whole, Cochise and Gilou, a pair of grizzled bounty hunters, have been hired by a wealthy stranger to obtain a phone that holds some critical information. The phone is in the possession of Esther and Willy, a homeless young couple. Whenever they turn the phone on, Cochise and Gilou can get a lead on their whereabouts, but the feckless lovers don’t have much need for phones. They believe the end-times have begun, an unlikely proposition seemingly corroborated by the appearance of a gaunt, bearded man calling himself Jesus. As the chase develops, straightforward genre elements give way to more metaphorical and thematic concerns. In this singular and deeply personal universe, everyone, including a craggy undertaker played by Max Von Sydow, seems uprooted, set adrift in his/her own way.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that the fourth feature of Belgian actor/writer/director Bouli Lanners has a painterly look; Lanners’ first calling was to fine arts and painting, although it was as an actor that Lanners found the success that opened doors for him. Over the last two decades, he has established himself as a character actor in dozens of films. In 2006 he made his first feature Ultranova, followed by Eldorado (2008), which took the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight. A road movie about a heroin addict and a lonely car dealer who end up unlikely companions, the film was Lanners’ first to draw visual inspiration from the Western canon. Lanners’ third film, the Belgium-set, coming-of-age comedy, The Giants (2011), won the SACD Prize at Cannes. Throughout his directing career, Lanners has nurtured a creative collaboration with cinematographer Jean-Paul de Zaetijd, making for films that recall Lanners’ underpinnings as a painter. In fact it was a single image, glimpsed from a passing train that planted the seed for this film. The First, The Last took its international bow in the Panorama section of the 2016 Berlin Film Festival.
COURTED / L'Hermine - Dir. Christian Vincent - Best Actor prize at the 2015 Venice International Film Festival went to Fabrice Luchini for his portrayal of Michel Racine, a cranky, straight-laced judge presiding over a sobering murder case, while dealing with a divorce on the home front, and a pesky flu. As demanding as all of that is, Michel’s world skids to a halt when a randomly chosen juror turns out to be someone from his past. Ditte, played by Borgen star Sidse Babett Knudsen, is a caring single mother who made an indelible impression on Michel six years earlier. Michel, whose reputation for severity has earned him a nickname reflecting the double-digit sentences he likes to hand down, tosses his beloved protocol aside for a series of assignations to explore their mutual attraction. While nodding to courtroom drama and rom-com, Courted conscientiously dodges the clichés of both genres.
Known for his skill with intimate drama, such as the Isabelle Huppert and Daniel Auteuil starrer, La separation (1994), and for studied social critiques like Save Me (2000), writer/director Christian Vincent is equally adept with comedy, as he demonstrated with his Ernst Lubitsch-styled hit Quatres étoiles (2006). Stateside, many will know him from his previous hit, Haute Cuisine (COLCOA 2013). Vincent first gained attention with his feature La Discrète (1991). Adding to the acclaim the film received from the César Awards, including Best Debut Feature, was a Best Actor nomination for the film’s lead, Fabrice Luchini. Early on, Vincent was compared to filmmaking legend Eric Rohmer with his explorations of the incivility lurking in the nuances of so-called civil society. But it is foremost to Jean Renoir’s Rules Of The Game that Vincent claims creative lineage. In addition to the Best Actor prize, the 2015 Venice International Film Festival awarded Vincent a Best Screenplay honor.
MUCH LOVED - Dir. Nabil Ayouch - Following its unveiling at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, this glossy, Marrakech-based drama about women making ends meet by selling their bodies has been banned in Morocco and cast members have been attacked on the streets. Loubna Abidar is magnetic as Noha, who at 28, is the matriarch of a group of upscale call girls who live together as a family of sorts. Case-hardened by life, Noha’s only vulnerability is her judgmental mother. Soukaina, on the other hand, still harbors romantic sentiments for a penniless suitor who can only observe the object of his affection from a distance. Randa, the youngest and most modern, could learn a lot from Noha, if only her growing attraction to women weren’t eroding the mentorship. We follow their precarious lives as they negotiate the hypocritical macho posturing, the sexual repression, and the deeply entrenched double standards that mark Moroccan society, and perhaps by extension, much of the Arab world.
Writer/director Nabil Ayouch is known for pointed social dramas that focus on characters driven to desperation by poverty and victimization. While films like A Minute of Sun Less (2002), which depicted homosexual sex, have served to start conversations, they have also landed him in direct conflict with the more conservative elements of the Moroccan state. His 2012 film Horses of God took a hard look at the 2003 Casablanca suicide bombers as a harbinger for the rising phenomena of terrorism fueled by poverty and social alienation. After that, Ayouch decided to look into prostitution as another form of violence visited upon the underprivileged. Much Love[BD1] was the product of 18 months of research, including personal interviews with more than 200 sex workers. Initially conceived as a documentary, it evolved into what Ayouch calls a “fiction du reel”. Born in Paris to a Moroccan father and a Tunisian mother, Ayouch was raised in France. In response to the ongoing ban on his film, more than 80 French producers and filmmakers have signed a petition in support.
THE INNOCENTS - Dir. Anne Fontaine - Premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film festival under the original title Agnus Dei, The Innocents is a WWII film with a fresh, feminine perspective. Set in the ruins of 1945 Poland after hostilities have ceased, the drama unfolds in a Benedictine convent, where the sisters try to maintain a tenuous grip on their faith after the chaos of war upends their cloistered existence. Mathilde, a young French Red Cross doctor is convinced to break protocol and make a house call at the convent. What she finds there disturbs her – a pregnant nun in the midst of a complicated labor. More shocking still, she discovers several more novice nuns in various stages of pregnancy, and a headstrong Mother Superior (Agata Kulesza, Ida) refusing medical assistance for fear that if word gets out the convent’s future will be jeopardized. Secular and thoroughly modern, what Mathilde lacks in religious conviction she makes up for in compassion and decency, but she is ill prepared to confront the corrosive feelings of abandonment and shame overwhelming these servants of God.
This is perhaps the most restrained and intense film of writer/director Anne Fontaine, who is known for her more glamorous fare such as the glitzy biopic Coco Before Chanel (2009), and her frothy comedy Gemma Bovery (COLCOA 2015). With the help of co-writers Sabrina Karine, Pascal Bonitzer and Alice Vial, Fontaine creates a multi-layered story based on an original idea by Philippe Maynial, the nephew of historical figure Madeleine Pauliac, upon whom the Mathilde character is based. After starting out as a TV actor, Fontaine gained international recognition with her provocative third feature, Dry Cleaning (COLCOA 1998).
UN PLUS UNE - Dir. Claude Lelouch - n this slow-burning romance, charismatic leads Jean Dujardin and Elsa Zylberstein play opposites attracting in postcard India. Celebrated film composer Antoine arrives in Mumbai to record the music for a Bollywood take on Romeo and Juliet. Already bored with the idea of scoring yet another “movie for festivals”, the womanizing charmer sets his sights on Anna, the younger wife of the French Ambassador. Ever since his arrival, Antoine has been unable to shake a headache, exacerbated it seems by his much younger girlfriend, who keeps calling from Paris. Anna, on the other hand, is convinced that a child is the only thing missing from her relationship, and decides to go on a “fertility pilgrimage” to the holy city of Varanasi to commune with Amma, the “hugging saint.” With his awards and his self-satisfaction, Antoine doesn’t see the need for spiritual quests, but with his girlfriend’s arrival a few days away, he’s got some time to kill. And who knows, a motherly hug might be just the thing for that nagging migraine of symbolic import.
Few filmmakers are more in love with the idea of being in love than writer/director Claude Lelouch. After six decades of filmmaking and five life partners, the 78 year-old veteran remains ever the hopeless romantic of French cinema. Lelouch forged that reputation beginning fifty years ago with A Man and a Woman, a simplistic love story that earned him a grand slam of both the Palme d’Or and the Foreign Language Oscar. If his overt sentimentalism confounded his New Wave cohorts, audiences felt no such ambivalence. Over the years he scored hits such hits as Les Misérables (1995), and the thriller Roman de gare (COLCOA 2008). Most recently his films have taken on a more autobiographical nature, with protagonists that are thinly veiled stand-ins for Lelouch himself, allowing him to explore themes of mortality and family ties. This is Lelouch’s second collaboration with co-writer Valérie Perrin, who worked with him on We Love You, You Bastard (COLCOA 2014).
A DECENT MAN / Je ne suis pas un salaud - Dir. Emmanuel Finkiel - The modern world is changing too fast for people like Eddie, an unemployed, underachieving 30-something separated from his wife and son. Morose and aimless, Eddie sees few opportunities for improvement from his barstool perch in the soul-sucking concrete gloom of the housing projects. Yet when Eddie is stabbed and beaten while attempting to stop some hoodlums from stealing a car radio, his life changes unexpectedly, and for the better. He’s proclaimed a hero. His wife takes him back in and even finds an entry-level job. In a police line-up, Eddie fingers Ahmed, an Arab youth whom he recognizes, not from the attack, but from a sales training video. He can’t say exactly why he lied, but as the law comes down hard on a man whose only crime is being an Arab with a good job, Eddie is trapped in his own downward spiral of volatility and rage.
Due to the film’s themes and violence, some may see it as a reaction to the November Paris attack but, in fact writer/director Emmanuel Finkiel has been working on the project for a decade. Finkiel began as an assistant director for Krzysztof Kieslowski and Jean-Luc Godard before winning a César for his short film, Madame Jacques on the Croisette (1999). His Holocaust-themed debut feature Voyages (1999) won the Best First Work César and was praised for its “subtlety and restraint”. A Decent Man may be more hard-hitting than his earlier work, but it shows the same measured precision and studied naturalism. The film was inspired in part by a real incident in which a friend of Finkiel, named Ahmed was falsely accused after the police rounded up everyone in the area with that name. Finkiel collaborated on the screenplay with Julie Peyr, noted for her work with director Arnaud Desplechin.
KALINKA / Au nom de ma fille - More intimate drama than thriller, Kalinka chronicles one man’s quixotic, 27-year fight for justice in the name of his murdered daughter. Imagine it, your 14-year-old child turns up dead from alleged sunstroke at the house of your ex-wife’s new husband, a German doctor with a history of sexual abuse. Worse, the autopsy report reveals evidence of abuse and mysterious injections, administered both before and after death. The sordid side of André Bamberski’s story has been tabloid fodder for years in France. But questions about what really happened that fateful night take a back seat to Daniel Auteuil’s fierce interpretation of Bamberski’s obsessive determination to bring the case to trial in the face of mounting bureaucratic quagmires and spineless magistrates. As the situation grows more desperate, so do Bamberski’s tactics, and when the doctor’s extradition to France begins to look unlikely, the aggrieved father decides it’s time to play a different, more proactive role.
For documentarian turned fiction filmmaker, Vincent Garenq, justice is more than a subject for a film. Of his four features, three of them are interpretations of court cases. Garenq’s skill lays in his total command of the issues involved in the cases, and in his ability to plum the emotional depths of his everyday heroes, like the family man fighting to prove his innocence in Guilty (COLCOA 2012), or the journalist risking his career to reveal the corruption within a multinational bank in The ClearStream Affair (2014). Garenq is sometimes compared to André Cayatte, whose films, such as Justice is Done (1950), reflected an enduring fascination for the French judicial system. However, Garenq’s approach is less moralizing, designed merely to point out, rather than to point a finger at, institutional dysfunction. Garenq’s co-writer Julien Rappeneau, is also the co-writer of Families, the latest work of director Jean-Paul Rappeneau, screening its U.S. Premiere at COLCOA this year.
FAST CONVOY/ Le Convoi - Dir. Frédéric Schoendoerffer - Speed isn’t the only thing that kills in this slick, turbo-charged road thriller. Benoît Magimel leads a band of banlieue bad boys hauling stash for cash while steering clear of the law. Tasked with moving 3,000 lbs. of hashish from southern Spain to Paris, Alex (Magimel) organizes a motorcade of four vehicles for a “go fast” – a flagrant, high-speed drug run designed to be so risky the police can’t stop the traffickers without endangering the public. The scout car looks for trouble up the road, while Alex stoically drives the follow car, ready to intervene should trouble be found. The team's camaraderie is fragile, and as they tick off the kilometers, suspicion and paranoia make everyone twitchy. The tension kicks into overdrive when a firefight with the Spanish police forces them to take a hostage. Burning as much adrenaline as gasoline, Alex struggles to hold the team together as they make their mad dash for pay dirt in Paris.
Action aficionado Frédéric Schoendoerffer has always been a stickler for detail and authenticity in his films, so as part of his research for this project, he brought in Yacine, a young man who had participated in 20 go fasts before he was caught and sent to jail. Co-writer Yann Brion, on his fifth collaboration with Schoendoerffer, spent several months working with Yacine as an adviser. Schoendoerffer got his first taste of filmmaking as an assistant director on his father Pierre Schoendoerffer’s war drama Dien Bien Phu in 1992. His first feature, the thriller Crime Scene (2000), starred his brother, actor Ludovic Schoendoerffer, and was nominated for a Best First Feature César. From there, Schoendoerffer has gone on to make a handful of taut thrillers set in the world of crime, including Switch (2011), and Paris Lockdown (2007), his first outing with actor Benoît Magimel. As part of the final auditions for Convoy, actors were asked to drive as fast as they could while speaking their lines, with Schoendoerffer and his driving coordinator Jean-Claude Lagniez sitting in the back seat.
LAND LEGS (Tempête) - Dir. Samuel Collardey - When we first meet 36-year-old Dom in a pub listening to old sea shanties, it’s not immediately clear if he’s an actor playing a fisherman, or a fisherman re-enacting the story of his life. Dominique Leborne won the Best Actor Award in the Venice Horizons sidebar for his portrayal of himself – a divorced father of two trying to hold his family together at all costs. Usually, Dom is out on fishing vessels for months at a time, but when his daughter Mailys (Mailys Leborne) turns up pregnant, social services threatens to take custody of the kids unless he can spend more time with them. Dom has only known a life at sea, so his best shot at making his own hours is to get a boat of his own. But without any capital, his decision to stop working for others precipitates a downward spiral that brings the family to the brink of homelessness. This unassuming docudrama starring a trio of nonprofessional actors manages to blend just enough reality and fiction to get the best of both.
The third time’s a charm for writer/director Samuel Collardey. Since his first feature, the Prix Louis Delluc-winning Apprentice (2008), Collardey has been honing his naturalistic docu-fiction approach. For his second film, Little Lion (COLCOA 2013), Collardey felt that his style might benefit from a little more fiction and story elements. But when the boy whose story he wanted to tell refused to play himself, Collardey was forced to use an actor, and his original impetus for the film was lost. Collardey was drawn to the world of fisherman, but it was his long-time screenwriting partner Catherine Paillé who first met Dominique Leborne on a short film she was shooting several years earlier. Before filming, Collardey spent nearly a year observing Dom. He slept on Dom’s sofa, went to sea with him. At that time, Dom’s daughter Mailys was estranged from her father, and Collardy convinced her to portray herself in the film as a way of spending more time with him. Trained as a cinematographer, Collardey’s camera perfectly captures the melancholy grays of Sables d'Olonne.
I AM A SOLDIER / Je suis un soldat - Dir. Laurent Larivière - If you were thinking a willowy leading actress and a lot of cute puppies mean you’re in for a schmaltz fest, think again. I am a Soldier is a hard-hitting drama about a woman compromised by the financial pressures of France’s economic austerity. In a thoughtful, subdued performance, Louise Bourgoin plays Sandrine, a 30-year-old who, after a failed attempt to succeed in Paris, is forced to retreat to Roubaix and the working-class life she’d hoped to escape. Disengaged from the world, she takes a job working at her Uncle Henri’s dog-breeding kennel. Everyone in her immediate circle has money issues, except Henri, and as she soon finds out, that’s because he’s operating an illegal puppy mill. Puppies are smuggled in from Eastern Europe, purchased by weight like meat; the unsold stock disposed of with little more concern. In desperate times money trumps morality and Sandrine stays with it, long enough to discover she has a knack for business. Intoxicated by finding her first real talent in life, Sandrine turns a blind eye to the dark side of the actual business she’s in.
This year, COLCOA’s Focus on a Producer is dedicated to Dominique Besnehard, who brings us this debut feature from writer/director Laurent Larivière. Shown in competition at the 2015 Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar, Larivière brings together the stylistic approach and techniques he’s honed over the course making a handful of acclaimed shorts such as Lightning Struck Me (2006), and Les larmes (2010). Narrative restraint, naturalistic performances, and economic dialogue all bring to mind his chief influences: American James Gray and Belgium’s Dardenne brothers. Parallel to his filmmaking career, Larivière creates films that are part of the stage design for theater and performance pieces. It was at one of his shows that he met and befriended actress Louise Bourgoin (The Girl from Monaco – COLCOA 2009, Love Lasts Three Years – COLCOA 2012.) He wrote the part of Sandrine with Bourgoin in mind, though she was unaware of that when she first read the screenplay. This is also the first feature credit for co-writer François Decodts. He has recently collaborated on a new feature script for Heat Wave (2011) director Jean-Jacques Jauffret.
FATIMA - Dir. Phillippe Faucon - This perceptive celebration of a resilient immigrant mother of two working as a house cleaner in Lyon, cleaned up at the 2016 César Awards, taking prizes for Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Most Promising Actress for bright newcomer Zita Hanrot. Adopting a grounded, episodic approach, the film focuses on the challenges of cultural assimilation as seen through the eyes of two generations of women. Fatima is a divorcee holding down several menial jobs. She emigrated from North Africa at 20, but 20 years later, she struggles to speak enough French to communicate with her own daughters Nesrine and Souad, whose lives she is tirelessly devoted to improving. Nesrine is trying to strike a balance between cramming for her pre-med exams and dating, while the younger and more rebellious Souad is testing her limits and her mother’s patience by acting out. Facing veiled racism, suspicion, awkwardness, and shame on a daily basis, Fatima discovers that the perfect outlet for her frustrations is also the best way to tell her daughters how she really feels.
The immigrant experience is on the minds of quite a few French filmmakers of late, but for writer/director Philippe Faucon it has been a career-defining theme. Samia (2000), shed light on the conflicting expectations of first and second generation Algerian immigrants. La Désintégration (2012) looked at the disillusionment leading to Islamic radicalization amongst a group of young men in Lille. The Betrayal (2006) turned the tables, exploring the struggles of a French officer torn between his duty and the excessive repression of villagers during the Algerian War. Faucon achieves portraits of startling complexity and immediacy, in part through the use of an almost docu-style naturalism. His casting of Soria Zeroual as Fatima, a non-actor who actually works as a house cleaner, is a case in point. For the script, Faucon consulted with Aziza Boudjellal, Yasmina Nini-Faucon, and Mustapha Kharmoudi to forge a narrative out of the poems and prose from autobiographical books by Fatima Elayoubi.
FANNY'S JOURNEY/ Le Voyage de Fanny - Dir. Lola Doillon - COLCOA’s audience will be the first in the world to see this poignant story of a brave and resourceful young girl leading a small band of orphans through Nazi-occupied Europe. Based on the autobiography of Fanny Ben Ami, the journey starts in 1939. After the arrest of her father in Paris, Fanny and her younger sisters, Erica and Georgette, are sent to a refectory for Jewish children in a neutral zone. For a time, she and her new friends are safe, but the war catches up to them soon enough, forcing them to flee. Fanny, now all of 13 years-old, has always relied on adults to take care of her, but as Mussolini’s Italy collapses and the chaos of war closes in, Fanny has to be the adult for a group of 8 children. Hounded on all sides, and with nothing but her wits and her newly discovered fearlessness, Fanny resolves to do whatever it takes to get her young charges safely to the Swiss border. A tale of survival seen through the eyes of children coming-of-age amidst the horrors of WWII.
This is the third feature from writer/director Lola Doillon and her most ambitious to date. Her debut, Et toi t'es sur qui?, is a coming-of-age romantic drama that screened in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section in 2007. Doillon followed that up with the psychological drama In Your Hands (2010), starring Kristin Scott Thomas. Doillon wrote both of her previous films, but here she collaborated with veteran TV writer Anne Peyregne to tackle Fanny Ben Ami’s epistolary autobiography. Growing up, filmmaking was the Doillon family business. Her mother is editor Noelle Boisson, and her father is director Jacques Doillon, with whom she got her start as an assistant director. Now married to director Cedric Klapisch, Doillon is keeping the tradition going. In addition to her feature work, Doillon is branching out into TV. In 2015 she directed two episodes of the new France 2 show Call My Agent, screening in COLCOA’s Television section this year.
STOLEN BABIES (Bébés volés) - Dir. Alain Berliner
ONE WILD MOMENT (Un moment d’égarement) - Dir. Jean-francois Richet - Two of France’s biggest stars, Vincent Cassel (Mesrine, COLCOA 2009), and François Cluzet (The Intouchables, COLCOA 2012) come together for the first time in this update of the 1977 Claude Berri film about doting dads and naughty daughters. Forty-something divorcee Laurent joins his old friend Antoine for a summer holiday at Antoine’s aging family manor in Corsica. Reluctantly tagging along, are Laurent’s and Antoine’s beautiful “almost-18” year-old daughters, Marie and Louna. The girls have nothing but boys on their mind, and while Laurent puts on a good show of accepting his daughter’s budding adulthood, Antoine shifts into overprotective father mode. When Antoine’s daughter makes a Lolita-like play for the attentions of Laurent, she starts a chain reaction that turns the fun in the sun into a minor meltdown.
The plot of One Wild Moment may sound familiar to Americans who saw the 1984 American remake, Blame It On Rio, starring Michael Caine and Demi Moore. For this second retelling, producer Thomas Langmann, Claude Berri’s son, invited writer/director Jean-François Richet to take a comic detour from hardboiled action pictures like Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), and his Mesrine diptych. To help him make the transition, Langmann brought in co-writer Lisa Azuelos, who penned the hit coming-of-age comedy LOL in 2008. Richet’s working class roots and his love for Russian political masters Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov were inspirations for his politically incendiary first features Inner City (1995), and Ma 6-T va crack-er (1997). Richet will unveil his latest action thriller, Blood Father, starring Mel Gibson, later this year.
UP FOR LOVE/ Un homme à la hauteur - Dir. Laurent Tirard - Every now and then COLCOA audiences get to see a film even before the French. Scheduled for a May 4th release in France, Up With Love is a high concept romantic comedy from the writer/director of Astérix and Obélix: God Save Britannia. Belgian rom-com veteran Virginie Efira stars as Dianne, a successful lawyer who’s been unlucky in love. She gets an unexpected phone call from a stranger who’s found her cell phone and wants to return it. The stranger, Alexandre, is funny and charming, and as the conversation goes on, the two seem to hit it off. They agree to a date of sorts – to meet and return the lost phone. Dianne arrives at the appointed time with growing expectations, only to be let down, literally, when Alexandre turns out to be so short, he has to jump up to sit in the café chair. Dianne is tempted to walk away on the spot. Problem is, apart from his diminutive stature, Alexandre is the total package. As the pair rises to meet the romantic challenges, not to mention the prejudices of society, Dianne will be forced to decide if Alexandre is man enough for her. Jean Dujardin displays impeccable comic timing as a vertically-challenged Romeo.
Coming off a string of box office successes adapting popular French children’s books Le petit Nicolas: Little Nicholas (2009) and its sequel Nicholas on Holiday (2014), as well as Astérix and Obélix: God Save Britannia (2012), writer/director Laurent Tirard now turns his attention to effects-driven comedy. Tirard took up the challenge of creating a visually convincing four-foot version of Jean Dujardin, without stepping on the chemistry of his romantic leads. To adapt his story from the Argentine hit Corazόn de Leόn (2013) by director Marcos Carnevale, Tirard worked with his long time writing collaborator Grégoire Vigneron. Tirard began as a journalist and critic for the magazine Studio. His book, Moviemakers' Master Class: Private Lessons from the World's Foremost Directors, features interviews with Woody Allen, David Cronenberg, the Coen brothers, and Lars Von Trier, among others. Tirard’s debut feature, The Story of My Life, won the COLCOA Audience Award in 2005. He went on to gain international attention for his historical comedy Molière (2007).
MILES AHEAD - Dir. Don Cheadle
NINA - Dir. Cynthia Mort
SING STREET - Dir. John Carney
FRANCOFORNIA - Dir. Aleksandr Sokurov
THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY - Dir. Andrew Rossi
AN EYE FOR BEAUTY - Dir. Denys Arcand
OUR LAST TANGO - Dir. German Kral
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SINCE: THE BOMBING OF PAN AM FLIGHT 103 - Dir. Phil Furey
LOS ANGELES ASIAN PACIFIC FILM FESTIVAL: LOEV - Dir. Sudhanshu Saria - PROTESTS GREETED DEEPA MEHTA’S LESBIAN-THEMED FIRE after it opened in 1998 in India, where same-sex activity remains criminalized as officially “against the order of nature.” No wonder Sudhanshu Saria shot his debut film, the English-language LOEV, in complete secrecy. While its very existence is something of a bold political statement, Saria smartly doesn’t dwell on the novelty of the LGBT content. LOEV simply tells a tender, often hilarious road movie capturing a knotty love affair between two Indians who just happen to be gay.
Arriving in Mumbai for a short business trip, Jai (Shiv Pandit), a handsome Wall Street banker, meets up with his old pal Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh), a young music-producer. The excitable Sahil leaves his volatile boyfriend Alex behind and earnestly plans out the road trip to the canyons of Western Ghats, after Jai proposes to take a short pleasure trip. As these old friends drive and hike the trails, their fascinating dynamic — sometimes easy and jokey, at other times thorny and awkward — emerges. Leaving many things unsaid, the pair engages in a feverish tryst. Outwardly confident but actually confused and struggling with his sexuality, Jai unleashes his frustration on Sahil in a brutal scene. Things come to a head at dinner, between the would-be lovers as well as Alex and his new boy toy, when Sahil — who turns out to be the more self-aware of the two — puts all his cards on the table.
Thoroughly engaging, LOEV is told in an assured, shorthand style that evokes Richard Linklater. Director Saria has a light touch, and he’s not afraid of ambiguity. Eliding standard exposition, he lets his actors play out their complicated relationship through silences and gestures. Pandit wears the alpha dog mask well, and Ganesh is absolutely dynamite — his Sahil is at once brash, funny, insecure, and all too human. Tragically, Ganesh died of tuberculosis at the age 29 shortly after making LOEV, and the film is dedicated to his memory.
OUTRUN - Dir. S. Leo Chiang & Johnny Symons IN THIS MOST CONTENTIOUS OF ELECTION YEARS IN THE U.S., the current political climate in the Philippines offers a frightening corollary in its specific cultural and religious contexts. Directors S. Leo Chiang (MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON, Festival 2012; A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES, Festival) and Johnny Symons (BEYOND CONCEPTION, ASK NOT) team up for this highly topical look at the emergence of Ladlad, the first Filipino LGBT political party, and its members’ struggles for representation in the national government.
The filmmakers follow key Ladlad members Bemz Benedito, a LGBT activist, trans woman, and “public face” of the party; Raymond Alikpala, a recently “out” attorney passionate about advocacy; and Danton Remoto, one of the party’s founders. OUT RUN follows this grassroots team as they campaign to win three government seats and root the fledgling party into the corridors of power, in the hope that they can effect long-term change. As baklas (Filipino for gay and lesbian people) in a fundamentally Catholic nation, they are all well-acquainted with daily, in-your-face discrimination, in which some are overt but more commonly in the form of microaggressions. Even as recent surveys reveal a growing acceptance of the LGBT community, the Ladlad members face an uphill political battle as conservative candidates like Christian pastor Benny Abante play upon Filipinos’ homophobic fears. Abante’s brand of political rhetoric convinces particular LGBTQ community members to back his platform under the unfortunate acronym, A.I.D.S. (“Alyansa ng Ikatlong lahi ng Distrito Sais”). When compared to people of color and women who misguidedly support Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, the comparisons are chilling.
In their quest for political inclusion, the Ladlad agree to a seemingly fatal compromise in the hopes of bettering their election chances. Directors Chiang and Symons highlight these milestones and missteps among the candidates and within the rank-and-file party membership. While the compromises made may seem steep, these intrepid Ladlad activists see them as building blocks towards a more equitable future in Philippine society.
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MILES - Dir. Nathan Adloff
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DEMON - Dir. Marcin Wrona
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DIVINES - Dir. Uda Benyamina -------------------------------------------
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