Highlights of the 2019 COLCOA French Film Festival

COLCOA French Film Festival returns to Los Angeles on September 23rd with 59 new feature films, documentaries, classics, TV Dramas, TV comedies, and short films to the DGA Theater in Hollywood. COLCOA is the acronym of “City of Light, City of Angels” the original name of an event celebrating relationships between filmmakers from two capital cities of cinema. Since 2015, the festival’s name has officially become COLCOA French Film Festival. The festival is committed to promoting new French films in the U.S. and to showcasing in Hollywood the vitality and the diversity of French cinema, television, shorts, web series and VR program. I go every year and it is a festival not to be missed, complete with worldwide premieres, films sure to generate Oscar buzz, and happy hour screenings with wine and cheese receptions.

Below I’ve selected a few notable highlights, but be sure to visit COLCOA for the complete schedule and ticket details.

Opening Night Film: Les Misérables
Majestic, stirring, gripping and compassionate, with a musical score that is, at once, moving and thrilling, Les Misérables follows an upright cop on his first day on the job, as he learns the ropes and struggles to hold onto his principles. It opens with a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise and a joyous eruption of fraternité, and concludes with a resounding eleventh-hour alarm and powerful plea to diffuse the tinderbox and somehow resolve all this (justified) anger and violence.

In Your Hands
In Your Hands is a coming-of-age tale about nurturing talent, believing in oneself, redemption and the transcendent power of music. Ace actors Lambert Wilson and Kristin Scott Thomas bring depth and nuance to their powerful characters. Mathieu Malinski, a small-time hood from the banlieue, walks past a piano in the Gare du Nord train station in Paris and can’t resist tickling the ivories. It turns out that, unbeknownst to his friends, he’s a musical prodigy. At that very moment, the director of the National Conservatory of Music, rushing to catch a train, pricks up his ears… and the rest is history.
Adults in the Room
Monumental filmmaker Costa-Gavras returns to familiar themes in this intricate political intrigue based on Greek economist and former Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis’ memoir of the same name. A Greek tragedy of the highest order, the film offers an insider’s view into the humanitarian crisis and dictatorship of austerity that entrapped the Greek people, and the brutal European tug-of-war that led to the 2015 Greek bailout referendum.

Our Wonderful Lives
Our Wonderful Lives is a trip down the harrowing path to healing that each of our protagonists must cross — especially the taciturn Margot, who, like an onion, slowly peels away layers of pain, shame and the unspeakable in her effort to confront her inner demons and finally get clean. The film illustrates the forging of deep bonds, extraordinary compassion, unconditional love and solidarity, and incandescent hope.

It Was Him or Me
After 47 years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her perverse, out-of-control husband — Jacqueline Sauvage loaded three shells into a shotgun and shot Mr. Sauvage as many times in the back. Finally. It was the end of one kind of hell and the beginning of another. And gave rise to a murder trial that garnered massive media coverage, controversy and a public outcry against domestic violence in France in the years that followed.

The Freshmen
Doctor-turned-filmmaker Thomas Lilti completes his highly successful trilogy of social realist dramedies in the medical world with The Freshmen, an intelligent, up-close-and-personal examination of the daunting first year med school program in France. Not for the faint of heart, the cutthroat “closed number” system — whereby some 2500 students compete for the 329 spots available in year two — has been so controversial that President Macron’s government plans to abolish it in 2020. While the film is coolly analytical of that extreme selection process and its implicit social inequities, at its heart, it is a beautiful, restrained portrait of friendship, solidarity and extraordinary moral courage, gracefully brought to life by the film’s two engaging leads, Vincent Lacoste and William Lebghil.

The Silver Forest
Roxana, a Romanian student working her way through school as a nanny in France, is flattered when David, her employer, drops a golden opportunity into her lap. An ambitious financier at the Council of Europe Development Bank in Strasbourg, David has pitched a project to build a highway across Romania, and Roxana’s inside info and connections can be invaluable to landing that very lucrative contract. Based on Gaspard Koenig’s novel Kidnapping, the narrative of The Silver Forest unleashes a battle between East and West. Tradition and trust versus modernization and greed… But, in the end, who will kidnap whom?

Closing Night Film: La Belle Époque
Nicolas Bedos’ ingenious, gleeful, thoroughly entertaining second feature is both a clever throwback to the uproarious French farce tradition and an intelligent meditation on our own (perhaps more bewildering) age. The time-traveling romantic comedy — in which an inventive theatrical troupe meticulously orchestrates historical reenactments — is infused with wit and devoid of the slightest technological gimmickry.

View the line up of films, plus happy hour talk panels followed by a wine and cheese reception each day at 3pm, and other red carpet events at COLCOA’s site.

Hope to see you there!

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