In a city where film festivals often struggle for stability and longevity, the City of Lights, City of Angeles (Colcoa) French Film Festival has long been a happy outlier, scheduling a week of French film premieres in Los Angeles every April, year after year. That makes it all the more disorienting to see the fest’s 23rd edition kick off tonight, deep into September.
Though prompted by the renovations to its longtime home at the DGA – whose refurbished theater, now tricked out with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, will see its grand reopening tonight – Colcoa’s move to fall nonetheless comes with plenty of advantages.
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Previously scheduled before the start of the Cannes Film Festival, Colcoa now has the benefit of picking and choosing from several months of festival lineups. Tonight’s opening film, Ladj Ly’s “Les Miserables,” won the jury prize at Cannes on its way to becoming France’s foreign language Oscar entry, joining Nicolas Bedos’ closing night film “La Belle Epoque,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Young Ahmed” and Jeremy Clapin’s “I Lost My Body” among the fest’s several Croisette-approved features.
“It’s always challenging to change the date of a very well established event, but so far we are very happy with it,” Colcoa’s executive producer and artistic director Francois Truffart says. “We were very impressed that sales companies and distributors decided to follow us and to support us with their films. … People wanted to be part of this new event.”
Perhaps the most notable change in programming is the abundance of auteur names in the lineup. In years past, Colcoa was notable for booking the types of French titles that rarely otherwise get much play on the international festival circuit – romantic comedies, family films, and other more populist fare. Truffart acknowledges that this year’s fest doesn’t have any of the broad, Dany Boon-style French comedies that Colcoa has often programmed, but still sees the festival offering a wide-angle view of French filmmaking.
“The strength of this program has always been that it is very eclectic, and we will continue to show the diversity of French cinema,” Truffart says. “We do have a lot of drama this year, but not only drama. On Saturday we have several family films. Our closing film, ‘La Belle Epoque,’ is a comedy. We also have the U.S. premiere of ‘Cyrano, My Love,’ which is a pure comedy.”
In addition to French Oscar entry “Les Miserables,” Algeria’s foreign language selection, Mounia Meddour’s “Papicha,” will play at the fest, as well as “Adults in the Room,” the latest from Costa Gavras. Claire Burger will be under the spotlight for the fest’s Focus on a Filmmaker program on Thursday, with a screening of her first solo feature, “Real Love,” as well as a panel discussion and a free screening of her 2014 feature with Marie Amachoukeli and Samuel Theis, “Party Girl.”
As Truffart is keen to point out, 40% of the titles playing this year were directed by women. “And in competition, it’s actually 50-50.”