COL-COA Showcases the Best in French Film

Like the variety of films presented, the crowd at the City of Lights, City of Angels (COL-COA) Film Festival was an eclectic mixture—the young and the old, college students dressed down and adults dressed up, and fleeting whispers in both French and English.

The annual French film festival took place Apr. 19 to 25 at the Directors’ Guild of America in Hollywood. Throughout the festival, over 50 French films (subtitled in English) were shown. Traditionally, the festival is used as a platform to premiere French movies and film shorts released within the past year, often for the first time in the United States or at least on the West Coast. The festival is also designed to showcase the diversity of French cinema and its talented stars. However, all the films are offered to the public at affordable prices.

COL-COA was founded in 1996 by The Franco-American Cultural Fund and always takes place shortly after the Academy Awards but before the Cannes Film Festival. COL-COA Awards are also given out to deserving films and are often used by directors and producers to promote their films. More often than not, directors host question-and-answer sessions following screenings, and other panel discussions happen throughout the week. The festival has attracted famous directors and actors French and American alike.

This year, the festival expanded to include classes for high school and college students and showcased many French classics as a means to promote foreign films and educate young adults about them.

On Wednesday, Apr. 21, the French department at Scripps College took a handful of interested students to the COL-COA master class and evening film.

The first film, part of the class, was a classic called Pierrot le Fou, directed by Jean-Luc Godard and released in 1965. A famous classic (at least among those savvy about film), the film follows Ferdinand and Marianne, two reunited lovers who leave Paris partly because of Marianne’s involvement with arms smuggling and partly to leave Ferdinand’s boring social scene behind. On the run, the two end up on a crazy journey without money, stopping to live on the beach near Marseilles for a while. Godard and the film’s lead actress, Anna Karina, were scheduled to lead a question-and-answer session directly after the screening but could not make it to Los Angeles because of airport shut-downs in Europe caused by the volcanic ash.

The second film, Le Vilain directed by and starring Albert Dupontel, was well worth the wait for the students who had been there all day. The recently released movie is a comedy surrounding an infamous, wanted bank robber’s return home to his mother, who is at first unaware of her son’s crimes. Once she discovers a hiding spot in his bedroom filled with stolen items and documentation of the wrongdoings of his childhood, she begins trying to make amends. Eventually the two unite to ward off a bank that is trying to buy the neighborhood.

Overall, COL-COA was a great experience. Not only does it sound impressive to friends and family at home to say you’re going to a film festival in Hollywood–we go to school near Los Angeles, we have to brag every once in awhile–but the experience of watching foreign films, especially in a language you are studying, is invaluable. As COL-COA makes its impact year after year, media attention and attendance continues to rise. More and more people recognize this film festival’s importance in bridging the pond—and the gap—between American audiences and the French film industry.

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