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It was hailed as “Two Countries: One Passion.” COLCOA, the largest French Film Festival in North America, celebrated its 20th Anniversary along with its partner of 20 years, the Franco American Cultural Fund (FACF) at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Los Angeles on April 18-26, 2016. Film and TV premieres, cherished classics, “meet the directors and the actors” with screen dramas, comedies, docs and shorts, all in nine days dedicated to French film.

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COLCOA | Barbara Singer Photo

Certainly, it was an affair to remember as the COLCOA opening welcomed noted dignitaries, including Michael Mann, Board Member of the DGA and FACF, joined U.S. Ambassador of France, Gerard Arnaud from Washington, D.C.

Preceding the COLCOA gala was a lavish champagne and wine reception with French delectables. Highlighting the affair was the North American premiere of “Monsieur Chocolat” from noted actor and director Roschdy Zem. It’s based on the life of France’s first Black Circus clown, played by Omar Sy, as part of the duo with George Foottit, played by James Thierree, actor and circus performer, the grandson of Charlie Chaplin. The pair delighted French audiences of the Belle Époque era, yet Chocolat suffered the brunt of racism with extreme highs and lows related to his successes. It was an informative and impressive must-see film.

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COLCOA kicks off with French Consul Lemoine and Festival Director Truffart | Barbara Singer Photo

COLCOA’s kick off took place at the Beverly Hills residence of Christophe Lemoine, Consul of France in Los Angeles, where Francois Truffart, Executive Producer and Artistic Director of COLCOA introduced the slate of features, documentaries, TV dramas and series, and 21 shorts – a record 70 films for 2016. It’s no surprise that this year’s attendance was an all time high of 25,000 devotees of French cinema.

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Omar Sy at the premiere of Monsiuer Chocolat | Barbara Singer Photo

There’s no denying that French actor Omar Sy was a crowdpleaser, as he recounted how he prepared for his role as Chocolat. The director Roschdy Zem stayed true to the story with every show a real performance, as he coached Omar Sy to learn the routines.

French film lovers filled the theatres for the classics, including “More” (1969), “Marius” (1931), “Delusions of Grandeur” (1971) and others. Happy Hour talks featured Meet the Talent (actors and filmmakers); and Focus on a Filmmaker, with Jean-Paul Rappeneau premiering his latest film “Families” and his 1966 film “A Matter of Resistance.” The 2016 documentary Cesar winner “Tomorrow” chronicles the future of urban ecology and solutions. It’s an eye opener to what can and is being done.

As Europe is very volatile these days, many French films dealt with sensitive subjects related to terrorism, war and survival issues at home. “As I Open My Eyes” dealt with coming of age in Tunisia; Cesar winner “Fatima” an immigrant woman’s plight in France; “Made in France” centers on a controversial domestic terrorism drama as a small group plots extremist plans; and “Much Loved” takes a look at prostitution in Marrakech.

“Bang Gang” involves a group of rich teens who use sexual freedom as game that changes the course of their lives. Daily Press Sessions brought filmmakers up close and personal to share insights into their films. DGA security was increased as an awareness of world terrorism issues was essential.

Highly anticipated was the arrival of beloved writer/director Claude Lelouch, who has made 44 films in 50 years of filmmaking. His latest film “UN Plus UNE,” a romantic story filmed in India, stars Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin and Elsa Zylberstein, as opposites who attract.

Director Quentin Tarantino was on hand to greet Claude Lelouch, who noted, “My stories of my films are based on people that I have met. My position is to be an observer.” He was very proud that daughter Sarah Lelouch’s short film “It’s Caviar” won the Audience Award at COLCOA.

Popular actor Jean Dujardin starred in the closing film by Laurent Tirard, “Up For Love,” as a very short guy in love with a beautiful lawyer, Virginie Efira. Some unique special effects transformed the 6-foot actor into a 4’ 5” short man. The film, based on an Argentina film, will premiere in Paris in early May. Regular supporters of COLCOA, actors Robert Forster and Jacqueline Bisset, were present for the screenings.

COLCOA takes good care of its visitors, as it integrates programs for students and teachers, offers free re-runs, Master classes, croissants and coffee in the morning and wine and cheese in the afternoon. A 20-foot mocha birthday cake celebrated COLCOA’s 20 years of bringing French cinema to Los Angeles. Every year, a COLCOA visitor with a winning ticket wins a free trip to Paris.

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COLCOA Cake | Barbara Singer Photo

Late night film aficionados, of which I am one, stay for the after 10 p.m. quirky films. Two of these films stayed with me, especially “Eva Doesn’t Sleep” from Argentina. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, it’s an eerie and insightful look at the journey of the embalmed corpse of Eva Peron as it travels and is abducted. In “Saint Amour,” Gerard Depardieu plays a father who takes a road trip with his nitwit son, Benoit Poelvoorde. The two drole farmers have continuous misfortunes on a wine trail.

Trending at COLCOA 2016 was a diversity of quality films dealing with timely topics. French TV has gained a positive appearance with a showcase of the best TV movies and series prominent in France, including “Call My Agent.”

The 20-year ongoing collaboration with France and the United States has inspired the theme “Two Countries: One Passion.“ COLCOA is the festival for French film lovers to savor French cinema, French filmmakers and French wines.

For more information go to COLCOA’s official website.

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Nicolas Boukhrief, director of “Made in France” | Barbara Singer Photo

2016 COLCOA AWARDS:

COLCOA CINEMA :

– Audience Award: THE INNOCENTS

– Audience Special Prize: MADE IN FRANCE

– Audience Special Mentions: UN PLUS UNE & I AM A SOLDIER

– Critics Award: COME WHAT MAY

– Critics Special Prize: THE FIRST, THE LAST

– Critics Special Mentions:  FATIMA, THE INNOCENTS

– First Feature Award: NEATHER HEAVEN NOR EARTH

– Best Documentary Award: TOMORROW

– Coming Soon Award: LONG WAY NORTH

COLCOA TELEVISION

– Jury TV Drama Award: CARPETS AND CHAOS

– Jury TV Drama Special Prize: WOMAN UNDER INFLUENCE

– Jury TV Series Award: CALL MY AGENT – SEASON 1

– Jury TV Series Special Prize: THE BUREAU-SEASON 2

– Audience TV Drama Award: CARPET AND CHAOS

– Audience TV Drama Special Prize: BORDERLINE

– Audience TV Series Award: THE BUREAU – SEASON 2

– Audience TV Series Special Prize: CALL MY AGENT – SEASON 1

COLCOA SHORT FILMS:

– COLCOA Jury Short Film Award: MOTHER(S)

– COLCOA Jury Short Film Special Prize: MILLIONS OF TEARS

– COLCOA Jury Short Film Special Mentions: COLD COFFEE

– COLCOA Audience Short Film Award: IT’S CAVIAR

COLCOA Audience Short Film Special Prize: MILLIONS OF TEARS & ENEMIES WITHIN

– COLCOA Jury Short Film Special Mentions: OUR FALLEN HEROES

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Barbara Singer

Barbara Singer is a veteran travel and entertainment journalist based in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. She has been a columnist for Beverly Hills Today, Passions International, Boulevard Magazine, Irish Arts & Entertainment and more. She has attended many film festivals, including Cannes, Montreal, Deauville, Santa Barbara, and L.A. Film Festival, and also contributes to many online travel magazines. She is a member of Film Independent, IWOSC, IFW&TWA and NATJA.

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