By Barbara Singer
If you love visiting France and adore watching French cinema like I do, COLCOA, City of Lights-City of Angels in Los Angeles is for you. Strictly French films and TV right in the heart of Hollywood. It’s the largest French film festival in North America.
Top-notch French filmmakers join actors that you’ve seen on the screen, as they talk about themselves and films. If you don’t understand French, no worries all films have subtitles and the translators are the best. So mark your calendars for six days in September, reserve a hotel on the Sunset Strip and head over to the Directors Guild of America, where it all happens. It is definitely worth a trip. I have been covering this film festival for 10 years and love every minute.
COLCOA opening night begins with a red carpet glitter, the gala reception pairing French food edibles, French wines and champagne with a premiere of new film and lots of fun. That night it was announced that award winning French composer Michel Legrand sadly passed away that day; songwriter Paul Williams, President & Chairman of ASCAP tributed the man and his music along with his frequent film collaborator Alan Bergman, who sang a medley songs for films written by Alan & Marilyn Bergman with Legrand, including “Windmills of Your Mind.”
Lots of excitement for the opening film premiere of the 2019 Cannes Jury Prize winner LES MISERABLES brought to the USA by Amazon Studios. It’s the French entry for Academy Award consideration, by co-writer and director Ladj Ly, a modern day infusion of ethic poverty in Paris suburbs, ongoing crime and corrupt police, loosely based on Victor Hugo’s original story, inspired by 2005 Paris riots. Cast members and director were met on the red carpet and a Q & A following the film with director & former DGA President Taylor Hackford.
Every afternoon Happy Hour Talks provide insight into the creative processes of its filmmakers; the 2019 film-line up at Colcoa was dedicated to women filmmakers. A timely focus on writer and director Claire Burger at the Happy Hour Talk following her screening of 2014 award-winning film PARTY GIRL, depicting the true life of a 60-year-old party girl, who deals with her ambivalence for a chance at love.
Ms. Burger, who writes films about her hometown Forbach in Moselle Region near Germany, has received accolades and awards for her latest film REAL LOVE.
These talks to meet and greet directors and actors are followed by wine and champagne receptions.
Catering to a budding group of new French cinephiles, local students from high schools, colleges and universities were invited to experience French film followed by a discussion, while some participate in a Master Class, about 3000 students and teachers are inspired by a French foreign language film, often their first time.
As a long time film reviewer, COLCOA never lets me down with its many French film genres, yet for this festival, it was the closing film LA BELLE EPOQUE from writer-director Nicolas Bedos, which stood out as the most unique. With an amazing cast of Daniel Auteuil, Fanny Ardent and Guillaume Canet, the story weaves a tale that can make memories revive and even a faded marriage return to a once happy time. Canet’s character operates a business that makes it all happen through clever reenactments….this film is bound for an American remake.
Some of the other films that stimulated my curiosity were: ADULTS IN THE ROOM from renowned director Costa-Gavras depicting the politics and financial woes of Greece at fictionalized meetings with Europe and Greece. This grave problem, based on a tell all book, combines fact, fiction and humor.
The film CONVICTION was too intriguing, as it reviewed a real life French court drama of a professor tried for his wife’s disappearance; after a “Not Guilty” verdict, he is tried again. An unlikely character, who actually never existed, provokes the man’s lawyer. This one caught my eye THREE DAYS AND A LIFE based on a psychological novel; it takes place in a small French village, where a small child disappears and only one teenager knows what really happened, haunting him years later. It remains to be seen if these films garner US distribution.
COLCOA’s Los Angeles tradition has never been better. Their program offers a Blind Date with a film, the impact of documentaries, a Mystery Film, clever shorts and classics revisited. Film lovers congregate and chat about films in French and English as they socialize and vote for favorite films.
Visionary Executive Producer of COLCOA Francois Truffart has brought an amazing array of French films to premiere this year direct from Cannes and Venice Festivals. This year’s Critics & Audience Awards went to the animated I LOST MY BODY, Best First feature LES MISERABLES, American Students Award to CYRANO MY LOVE, which recently opened the USA, Best documentary FORWARD, depicting heroic activist children making a difference in the world. The most popular short and Award winner MY LADY OF THE CAMELLIA and Best TV Movie Award went to JACQUELINE SAVAGE, IT WAS HIM OR ME plus Best TV Series THE INSIDE GAME.
Now in its 23rd year, COLCOA continues to bring the best French films to Hollywood every year through the Franco-American Cultural Fund; here’s a reason to visit Hollywood and if you live in California, you can be there in no time. This recent festival welcomed 17,000 French film lovers with 59 films and TV programs screening early morning until late at night. COLCOA Jury members and audiences selected winning films and a lucky ticket holder won a free Trip to Paris for two onboard Air Tahiti Nui.