Reluctant to try a foreign film? Don't be. Cinéfranco, the international French film festival (March 26th - April 3rd) that will help you ease your fears. I've screened a few of the films and have selected some that I think might be a good fit for first time foreign film viewers. Here's my tip: when you are choosing a film, choose a genre that is close to what you would normally watch in English.
The Coach/Le Coach
Saturday, March 27, 7:30 pm
I wish I had a different photo for this film because this one doesn't let you know how entertaining this film really is. When a life coach (Chène) with a gambling debt and a soon-to-be ex-wife takes a job secretly coaching the inept nephew (Marmignon) of a large corporation, you know the contrast in characters is going to make for a funny film. What I did not expect is the sweet love story that develops between the bumbling Marmignon and the pretty HR department head.
What makes this film a good choice for a first-timer venturing out to a French film, is the fact that that you know where the film is headed, so there is no need to invest too much thought into “reading” the movie--a complaint I often hear from people who think they don’t like foreign films. The plot may be predictable, but it doesn’t matter because the acting is good, the action is well paced, and the ending is satisfying.
Little Nicholas/Le petit Nicholas
Sunday, March 28, 5:15 pm
Based on the well-know children’s book by René Goscinny, this picture is a great choice for people who enjoy good storytelling and the innocent, funny ways in which children interpret the adult word around them. The film is narrated by Nicholas and split between his life at school and his life at home with his parents. At school, he is friends with the greedy kid, the kid who gets sent to the corner (a lot), the rich kid, and several others-but not the brainy kid who he wishes he could beat up, but can’t because “he wears glasses”; at home, Nicholas gets along with his parents (a father who is trying to get a raise, and a mother who is trying to impress his boss’s wife) but this soon changes when he thinks he is about to get a baby brother! A classmate told Nicholas that his baby brother was a result of his Papa doing chores around the house without his Maman asking him to. When Nicholas sees his father taking out the garbage, he panics because he knows the next step will be his mother going to the hospital and bringing home a baby. He thinks they will no longer need him and that they will abandon him in the woods. Desperate to avert this disaster, Nicholas and his chums come up with some ingenious schemes that I won’t give away; suffice it to say that a “hit man” is involved. This family film had me laughing out loud—and I was watching it by myself!
Monday, March 29, 7:00 pm
Dairy farmer, Nicholas Montcalm, a gym teacher, Édith Monpetit, and a mental health worker, Caroline Sangaré journey from Québec to different parts of Africa. I was reluctant to screen this film because I though it was just going to be the same old same old of people in the West going to beleaguered Africa to assuage their First World guilt (been there, done that in many, many documentaries); however, I was pleasantly surprised by this documentary, in the fact that the subjects that we follow are interesting in their own right, and become even more so as we travel along with them and absorb, as they do, the similarities and differences in culture and quotidian life.
It was refreshing to see a dairy farmer connect with a rice farmer in Burkina Faso; a young bi-racial woman connecting with her Malian roots in Bamako, and a wife and mother connecting with other women in Dakar, Senegal. For Nicholas, he thought he would be perceived as an “alien” but because he speaks French and understands the life of a farmer, he fits in better in Bobo-Dialossa than he would if he had gone to volunteer in Germany. The outspoken Caroline learns that Malian women must defer to males, but that the society is trying to change this aspect of their society as well as improve relations between youth and elders through mentoring. As she trains women in Dakar to become better lobbyists for aid, Édith comes to appreciate the bonds that women form regardless of country of origin and the daily. Favourite scenes incluce Nicholas walking 4 kilometres to dump manure; Caroline meeting her relatives for the first time, and Édith’s conversation with a “taxi sister” (female cab driver).
Female Agents/Les femmes de l’ombre
Tuesday, March 30, 7:00 pm
This film is for those who enjoy war/spy thrillers, except in this one, the spies are all women! I have never seen a film like this: women parachuting into occupied France to rescue a hospitalized British spy before he can be interrogated by the Nazi; women snipers picking enemy soldiers, women plotting with resistance fighters in an attempt to assassinate an important Nazi official…wow! Starring Sophie Marceau, Julie Despardieu (yes, Gerard’s daughter), Marie Gillain, Déborah François, and Maya Sansa, this drama brings to the screen the a little rembered aspect of World War II: the women of the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E). The film is inspired by, but is not an biography of one of its decorated heroines, Lise de Baissac and other women in the S.O.E. This film is an unexpected surprise, a hidden gem that should have warranted more notice in North America that Tom Cruise’s dull interpretation of Valkyrie.
Canadian Shorts/Courts métrages Canadiens
Wednesday, March 31, 7 :00 (directors in attendance)
Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Avenue
Short films are a great way to break into watching foreign films, or if you just love short films in general. With films as short as 4 minutes and only as long as 13 minutes, if you don’t like one of the films programmed in this section, you know the next one will come along in a matter of minutes.
I happen to enjoy the brevity and the focus that goes into making a good short film and this section has fims that will appeal to every taste. Oh Tannenbaum is a cute film about the holidays that will have you smiling at the end; Losing It will have you considering if you really need to be as busy as you think; Next Floor will make you wonder about our consumer society; Sodade will appeal to the horse lover in you; and In Between will make you think about how you interpret what you see.
Since most of the directors will be in attendance, you will get a chance to ask them about their work. Can’t do that by staying at home watching television.
Tickets (surcharges apply to online and telephone orders)
$8.50 Seniors Students (with ID)
$5.50 High School Students
Visit www.cinefranco.com for complete details.