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Cinéfranco Film Festival: Different Flavours of French w/English Subtitles (March 25-April 3)

Cinéfranco International Francophone Film Festival of Toronto opens tonight with two films festival featuring Rémy Girard, Impasse du desire (Switzerland) and Y'en aura pas de facile/Tough Luck (Canada). I recently saw the well-know Québecois actor in the Oscar-nominated, Genie award winning film, Incendie. I’ve been enjoying his performances on screen since seeing him in The Decline of the American Empire. Kudos to Cinéfranco for having him in attendance at tonight’s screenings so that Toronto audiences will have the opportunity to participate in a Q & A with him.

I’ve been busy screening some of the entries to this year’s festival. Here are my thoughts on this week-end's offerings.

Les Conspirationnistes (Canada)
Dir. Fadel Saleh
March 26, 2:00pm
NFB, 150 John Street (at Richmond)

It’s easy to laugh off conspiracy theories as far fetched, and even some of the subjects in this documentary admit that some people go too far, but what you cannot dismiss in watching this film is the fact that we are not always given the complete truth about incidents that take place around us or around the world. Whatever you believe happened on September 11, 2001, you can’t help but wonder about the gap in time between bombings, why immediate action wasn’t taken by the United States, and why passports of the attackers were found on-site in pristine condition when everything around them was burnt beyond recognition. Can we handle the truth? Who is delivering the messages that we receive as truth? The filmmaking is rudimentary, but the content is worth considering and discussing after viewing.

L’épopée de Sumbu Kalambay (Canada)
Dir. Vital Kasongo
March 26, 3:30 pm
NFB, 150 John Street (at Richmond)

Boxer Sumbu Kalambay is one of the nicest guys around and his friends can’t believe he was such a powerhouse in the boxing ring. Kalambay is compared to Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard in the documentary and you can definitely see the similarities: the backwards dancing, the personality. Kalambay was a highly successful boxer and decorated athlete for Italy, yet despite his International and World boxing titles, he was never asked to assist in Italy’s Olympic boxing training. Fans, friends, boxers and coaches share their views on Kalambay the boxer while his daughters and second wife talk about him as a father and husband. Sumbu Kalambay is a fascinating man and this film is an equally fascinating rise-to-fame story that is not just for boxing fans. Thanks to Toronto-based, Vital Kasongo for bringing Kalambay’s story to light.

Il rested u jambon?/Bacon on the side? (France)
Dir. Anne Depetrini
March 26, 6:00 pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox (corner of King and John Streets)

This film is bound to offend some, delight others or offend and delight at the same time. That’s just the way things are in this film about race relations and romance. Justine (Anne Marivin), blonde, white-skinned, Parisienne, and Djalil (Ramzy Bédia), dark haired, brown-skinned, Nanterre resident meet and fall in love after she has an allergic reaction to eating dog food (she’s a lowly journalist) and he (charismatic doctor) treats her in the Emergency room. The film plays with race and racism in an open no holds barred manner that is rarely seen in comedies. Too often questions about inter-ethnic romances are told in a dramatic fashion, never in a high comedic style and never with such frank dialogue. Everyone in the film has to confront their own biases, including the two main characters, who are not as accepting as they think they are.

My favourite characters in the film are the mothers: Nicole played by Marie-France Pisier and Houria played by Biyouna. Pisier does a lot of French television so I rarely get a chance to see her in film, and Biyouna is a discovery that I will not soon forget. Pisier plays the perfect Parisienne woman, chic-ly dressed with a collection of dogs that she adores. She flips flops from hyper acceptability of the Arab culture to insulting them the next by serving wild boar for dinner. Biyouna’s Houria is an interesting woman in her own right, an immigrant woman who is proud of learning English with grade-school children, but who refuses to speak French to Justine at a family gathering. Would love to hear your feedback on this film!


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