Magazine article Variety

Colcoa Parlays Social Scene to Slate

Magazine article Variety

Colcoa Parlays Social Scene to Slate

Article excerpt

The colcoa french Film Festival (April 18-26), otherwise known as City of Lights, City of Angels festival, turns 20 this edition with a lineup rich in socially minded films reflecting the turmoils that France has faced in the past year.

The French-language showcase's opening film, Roschdy Zem's "Monsieur Chocolat," a Belle Epoque biopic of Cuban artist Rafael Padilla, will set the tone. The Gaumont pic stars °mar SY 35 Padilla, the first celebrated black clown in France and who faced prejudice his entire life, leading to his downfall.

Chocolat is in line with the rest of the selection, which is meant to initiate Colcoa audiences to a variety of topics that are shaping French society today," says Francois Thiffart, Colcoa programmer and its longtime exec producer/artistic director. "Although it is a period film, 'Chocolat' addresses the presence and representation of minorities in the arts, which is a current issue that has been hotly debated here in Hollywood."

The recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels will be reflected in the North American premiere of Nicolas Boukhrief s prophetic thriller "Made in France," which centers on a journalist infiltrating a cell of jihadis plotting a terror attack in the French capital. The movie, which was pulled from its scheduled theatrical release following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, has been sold by WTFilms to most major territories and is in negotiations to close a U.S. deal.

Colcoa will also shed light on the place of Muslim women in France and the Arab world through films such as Nabil Ayouch's controversial drama "Much Loved," centering around prostitution in Marrakesh; Philippe Faucon's immigration drama "Fatima," about a Moroccan single mother raising two daughters in France; and Leyla Bouzid's "As I Open My Eyes," about the coming of age of a young Tlmisian rock singer during the runup to the Arab Spring.

War is also a recurring theme across the selection, notably in Robert Guédiguian's "Don't Tell Me the Boy Was Mad," dealing with the Armenian genocide; or serving as backdrop in Lola Doillon's WWII-set "Fanny's Journey"; Anne Fontaine's Sundance-premiering "The Innocents," taking place in 1945 Poland; and Christian Carion's 1940-set "Come What May."

In light of recent events that have shaken Europe, a handful of mid-level U.S. distributors - including Kino Lorber, Cohen Media Group and Strand Releasing - are increasingly willing to take risks and introduce different, daring movies showing gritty aspects of French society to American audiences.

Richard Lorber, founder of Kino Lorber, which acquired "Fatima" before it won the best film at the Cesar awards (France's equivalent to the Oscars), says his company is more than ever embracing "thought-provoking, artfully topical and socially penetrating works (like 'Fatima') that can also Inspire and delight. …

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