According to the French Consul General in Los Angeles, Axel Cruau, “For 19 years, COLCOA French Film Festival has been a long tribute to the diversity of French movies … Over the years, it has established itself as the most important premiere overseas French film festival, introducing many new artists to Los Angeles.”
The COLCOA (“City of Light, City of Angels”) French Film Festival 2015 kick-off reception and celebration was held at Consul Cruau’s Beverly Hills home, where the French film and television line-up was revealed.
On that keynote, COLCOA 2015 presented a French film festival like no other, under the guidance and talented efforts of its producer and artistic director Francois Truffart, who has been at the helm for eleven years with his staff, its many partners of the Franco-American Cultural Fund and generous sponsors.
With a spectacular opening night reception set in the famed Directors Guild of America, its piazza lobby space was an elegant setting for delectable tastings with wine and champagne toasts. Here in natural authentic glamour, COLCOA has its own distinctive atmosphere in surroundings of life size posters of the latest French films and classics. The DGA main theatres are named for famed French directors Renoir and Truffaut.
An array of top Los Angeles chefs blended their talents to offer their menu samples to an enthusiastic crowd prior to the formal opening. Among the notable speakers at the COLCOA opening were Francois Truffart, who received accolades for his ongoing commitment to French movies by French Consul Alex Cruau and Director Taylor Hackford.
Following was the U.S. premiere of a new thriller “A Perfect Man” by Writer/Director Yann Gozlan. The film stars Cesar winner Pierre Niney, as an unpublished writer who takes the opportunity to publish a dead man’s diary as his own story, gaining him fame and fortune, a wealthy wife, and unexpected challenges for harboring a secret. Following the screening Gozlan and Niney participated in an informative Q&A.
From the get go, all nine days were joyfully busy with screenings from early morning to late night, action packed with premieres, restored classics, New Wave 2.0, French TV and short films. This year’s lineup spanned 68 films including 20 shorts. To ensure that a new generation will be turned on to French cinema, over 15,000 students took part in screenings and educational Master Classes with Alix Delaporte (“The Last Hammer Blow”) and Anne Fontaine (“Gemma Bovary”).
Hospitality at its best, COLCOA treated its festival attendees to daily continental breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese with crepes on the weekend, and a marvelous birthday cake commemorating 19 years, in addition to a lavish opening and closing reception. Parking is free at the DGA for festivalgoers, even if it’s all day.
Up close and personal, the daily Press Sessions provided unique moments with directors, writers, producers and actors. Among the many sessions, writer/director Sabina Van Tassel gave insight into her documentary “Silenced Walls,” depicting an area on the outskirts of Paris known as Drancy, now used as low income housing, yet formerly an internment camp for the French Jews of WWII on their way to death camps.
Writer/director Erick Zonka gave background information on his TV film “White Soldier,” centering on Frenchmen engaged in a civil war in Vietnam, with soldiers pitted against each other for survival and rage.
Dante Desarthe’s TV movie “Ponzi’s Scheme” deals with a familiar name and crook whose methods are recognizable in today’s world of finance. It was adapted from a play about Italian con-man Carlo Ponzi.
Soon to be released in the U.S. are “Samba” starring Omar Sy and Charlotte Gainsbourg, an inside look into illegal immigration in France, as well as “In the Name of My Daughter,” the much talked-about unsolved crime in France, based on a true story. It’s helmed by writer/director Andre Techine and stars Catherine Denueve, Adele Haenel and Guillaume Canet.
The film, played out in the French tabloids for three decades, follows a mother/daughter battle over money.
Happy Hour Talks are free to the public and include meeting the French talent, foreign film distribution as explaind by experts, and the ever popular Focus on a Filmmaker, an insight into the creativity of writer/director Michel Hazanavicius, Academy Award winner for “The Artist.”
In his classic “OSS 117:Cairo, Nest of Spies,” Jean Dujardin (Academy Award winner for “The Artist”) spoofs a pre-James Bond bungling agent with plenty of laughs and charm.
In his latest film “The Search,” starring Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening, Hazanavicius transports his characters to war torn Chechnya in 1999, where a lost orphaned boy interacts with both women humanitarian workers, as his sister desperately searches for him. The idea was based on a Fred Zinneman’s 1948 film. Annette Bening, who lives in L.A., was on hand for the premiere and Q&A following the film.
“The Tournament,” by first time director/writer Elodie Namer, was inspired by her experience as a chess player. The film looks behind the scenes at the international tournament, as well as the competition.
“Blind Date,” which won the Audience Award, is a romantic comedy following two unlikely characters who develop a relationship as neighbors behind a brick wall separating their apartments.
This year’s restored classics, which draw crowds and packed audiences, included “The Last Metro” (Truffaut), “Paris, Texas” (Wim Wenders), “La Chienne” (Renoir), and “Two Men in Town”(Giovanni), starring Alain Delon.
The late-nighters sought out eclectic films after 10 p.m.; on my list was the period film “The Gate,” revealing tribulations of a French prisoner in Cambodia in the 70’s during a civil war; and “SK1,” tackling a French police inspector as he tracks a serial killer in Paris, based loosely on a true story.
“Hippocrates: Dairy of a French Doctor” follows a young intern’s experiences in a French hospital, where his father is Chief of Staff, as he questions his reasons for becoming a doctor.
At this French film festival, there is an energy and spirit embraced by the filmgoers, as the audiences are involved in choosing the winning films in competition and can win a trip to Paris for two.
COLCOA has emerged on the cutting edge of Los Angeles’ annual film festivals due to the quality French premieres, attendance of approachable actors, producers and directors, and the ever increasing support of the film industry and viewing audiences, which increase year after year. This year’s attendance reached an overwhelming 21,200.
The latest information on COLCOA, where French films shine, can be found at colcoa.org.
COLCOA 2015 AWARDS WINNERS:
- Audience Award: “Blind Date”
- Audience Special Prize: “Once In a Lifetime”
- Audience Special Mention: “Memories”
- Critics Award: “The Last Hammer Blow”
- Critics Special Prize: “Once in a Lifetime”
- Critics Special Mention: “Number One Fan”
- First Feature Award: “SK1”
- Best Documentary Award: “Sreak (R)Evolution”
- Coming Soon Award: “Samba”
COLCOA TELEVISON AWARDS:
- Best TV Movie Award: “Danbe”
- BEST TV Series: “Spiral” (Engrenages)
COLCOA SHORT FILMS:
- COLCOA Jury Short Film Award: “Grounded”
- COLCOA Jury Short Film Special Prize: “Chaud Lapin”
- COLCOA Jury Short Film Special Mention: “My Sense of Modesty & The Testicle”
- COLCOA Audience Short Film Award: “Grounded”
- COLCOA Audience Short Film Special Prize: “Smart Money”
- COLCOA Audience Short Film Special Mention: “Who’s Up?”