Category Archives: FEATURED SELECTION

A peine j’ouvre les yeux / As I Open my Eyes

Tunis, 2010. Fresh out of high school, eighteen-year-old Farah is butting
heads with her mother over her all-night, beer-fueled outings with a new
boyfriend and her refusal to enroll at medical school so she can pursue her
dream of singing in a band. All this would be chalked up to growing pains if
the setting were not Tunisia in the last months of the Ben Ali dictatorship and
Farah’s irrepressible thirst for life and justice did not come out in politically
charged concerts that draw the attention of the country’s notoriously corrupt
authorities. As such, Leyla Bouzid’s powerful debut feature is not only a
striking portrait of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, but a deeply
insightful, complex look at life under a repressive political regime, with its
compromises, commitments, and corrosive effects on personal relationships.
While the film does not directly refer to the events of the Tunisian revolution of
December 2010, Farah clearly embodies the spirit of youthful revolt that drove
the Arab Spring. As portrayed by beginner Baya Medhaffar, who performs her
own vocals in several riveting concert sequences, Farah is utterly relatable,
a fragile but seemingly unbreakable young woman as eager for fun as she is
committed to honesty.

DIRECTOR
Leyla Bouzid

SCREENPLAY
Leyla Bouzid & Marie-Sophie
Chambon

CAST
Marwen Soltana
Youssef Soltana
Deena Abdelwahed
Lassaad Jamoussi
Aymen Omrani
Montassar Ayari
Ghalia Benali
Baya Medhaffar

DETAILS
Drama, Musical
Arabic
102 min.
Belgium, France, Tunisia, 2015
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
$500

Avril et le monde truqué / April and the Extraordinary World

This one-of-a-kind animated adventure film ushers the viewer into an
alternate reality in which the Bonapartes still rule France, electricity was
never discovered, trees are a distant memory, and a steam-driven cable car
connects Paris to Berlin. In this dystopic steampunk landscape, scientists
have mysteriously disappeared for decades and April Franklin, the brilliant
young descendant of a long line of chemists is in danger of being next. With
the help of a shady drifter called Julius and her talking cat Darwin, April sets
off to find her missing parents, while trying to keep the “invincibility serum”
she has developed out of the hands of the imperial police—and those of a
nefarious group of intelligent Komodo dragons! Based on the unmistakable
blend of urban grit and historical fantasy found in the drawings of Jacques
Tardi, one of France’s most influential graphic novelists of the last half
century, April and the Extraordinary World is not only an engrossing, wildly
imaginative entertainment for the whole family but a slyly feminist statement,
an ode to science, and an earnest plea for world peace. It is also one of the
finest showcases for the visionary work being done in contemporary French
animation.

DIRECTOR
Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci

SCREENPLAY
Franck Ekinci & Benjamin Legrand

CAST (Voices)
FRENCH Version:
Marion Cotillard
Jean Rochefort
Oliver Gourmet
Marc-Andre Grondin
Bouli Lanners

ENGLISH Version:
Angela Galuppo
Tony Hale
Paul Giamatti
Susan Sarandon
JK Simmons

DETAILS
Adventure, Animation, Family
French
103 min.
Belgium, Canada, France, 2015
Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
GKIDS

PRICE RANGE
$300

Dernières nouvelles du Cosmos / Latest News from the Cosmos

Hélène Nicolas is a severely autistic thirty-year-old woman who cannot
communicate verbally or hold a pen, let alone use a laptop. Yet she is also
an extraordinarily gifted writer under the pseudonym Babouillec, composing
startlingly original, lucid poetic texts with a set of cardboard letters provided
by her mother. This compelling documentary is an intimate portrait of Hélène
in everyday life and in rehearsals for a play based on her writings and directed
by major French theater director Pierre Meunier. It is also a portrait of her
mother, a woman who chose to give up her career as an equestrian to teach
her daughter to communicate and discovered when Hélène was twenty that
she could write perfectly grammatical, deeply poetic sentences despite the
fact that she had never been to school or read a book. Asked by a journalist
how she learned to write, Hélène answers: “By playing with each of the secret
places in my pickle of a brain.” While this heartening personal story is a deeply
enlightening study of autism, it is above all an endlessly fascinating meditation
on a mystery of cosmic proportions. Following School of Babel (Tournées Film
Festival 2016/2017), Latest News from the Cosmos confirms Julie Bertucelli’s
place as one of the great humanist documentary filmmakers of the moment,
a director committed to making ethical decisions while allowing the viewer
remarkably revealing access to her subjects.

DIRECTOR
Julie Bertuccelli

SCREENPLAY
Julie Bertuccelli

CAST
Hélène Nicolas

DETAILS
Documentary
French
105 min.
France, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

PRICE RANGE
$200 discounted Tournées Film
Festival rate for one screening

Elle

The first French film by Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch provocateur behind such
sneakily subversive Hollywood fare as Robocop and Basic Instinct, Elle is a work
of startling moral complexity, a constantly surprising narrative that provides
an in-depth, occasionally uncomfortable portrait of a well-do-do Paris woman
with more than a few secrets. The film begins when Michèle Leblanc, the coowner
of a successful video game company, is sexually assaulted by a masked
man in her own home. Through Michèle’s unusual response to her assault and
eventual discovery of the culprit, the viewer learns about her past and comes
to understand what has shaped her blunt, sometimes shocking personality.
Elle explores the dark, mystifying sides of the psyche, but with a light touch
and fast pace that allow Verhoeven to make the most of his characters’ comic
foibles. One only has to compare Elle’s bumbling men to its powerful heroine
to realize that this is a feminist film, one that furthers the discussion on rape
and trauma, but, most importantly, portrays women in positions of strength.
Nominated for a 2017 Academy Award for her work in Elle, Isabelle Huppert
delivers another brave, illuminating performance. As Verhoeven has stated
in interviews, one always sees what Michèle is thinking in Huppert’s eyes.
In a film that plumbs the depths of human complexity, this access to the
intricacies of the mind is nothing short of riveting.

DIRECTOR
Paul Verhoeven

SCREENPLAY
David Birke
Based on the novel Oh…
by Philippe Djian

CAST
Isabelle Huppert
Laurent Lafitte
Anne Consigny
Charles Berling
Virginie Efira
Judith Magre

DETAILS
Psychological thriller
French
130 min.
France, Germany, 2016
DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Sony Pictures Classic

PRICE RANGE
$500

Examen d’État / National Diploma

In the Congo, passing the national baccalaureate exam can save a young
person from a life of manual labor and open the doors to university and a
career. To fail the exam is to be fated to struggle for survival through menial
work. As Congolese filmmaker Dieudo Hamadi’s documentary National
Diploma so powerfully shows, the path to success in the national exam is
full of challenges. We see a school principal come into a prep classroom and
summon those students who have not paid their fees to pay up now or leave.
Those who stay aren’t much better off: the teachers are striking because they
haven’t been paid. So an enterprising group of students rents a house to cram
for the exam. Yet Hamadi’s fly-on-the-wall camera reveals study methods that
are as surprising to Western eyes as they are endemic in the Congo: students
visit marabouts for medicinal plants, get preachers to bless their pens or
exorcize them, and, most importantly, pay recent graduates for cheat sheets.
Working in classic cinema vérité style, Hamadi follows the group of students
through the exam to the nerve-wracking announcement of the results,
providing an indelible portrait of the role of education in Congolese society.

DIRECTOR
Dieudo Hamadi

SCREENPLAY
Dieudo Hamadi

CAST
Joël, Jonathan, Roger, Florence,
Honoré

DETAILS
Documentary
French
92 min.
Congo, France, 2014
Blu-Ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

PRICE RANGE
$200 discounted Tournées Film
Festival rate for one screening

Fatima

Writer-director Philippe Faucon’s long-running project of making films
about those members of the French population traditionally left off-screen
reaches a state of grace in Fatima, perfectly balancing sharp observation
of the harsh realities of the immigrant experience with an inspiring story of
individual resilience. Fatima is a middle-aged, divorced Algerian woman living
in a French suburb, cleaning houses and offices from dawn to dusk to provide
her spirited teenage daughters with a better future. It takes a workplace
accident for Fatima to finally pay attention to her own needs and discover a
powerful means of expressing them through poetry. Working with tremendous
economy, Faucon brings the eye of an anthropologist and the feeling of a
true artist to a story that touches on a variety of essential issues: everyday
racism, illiteracy, the challenges of the French university system, and the
clash between traditional, older immigrant generations and their assimilating
children. Loosely based on a true story and featuring a superbly crafted, stoic
performance by real-life cleaning lady Soria Zeroual, Fatima was awarded the
French film industry’s two highest distinctions for 2015, the Prix Louis Delluc
and the César for best film of the year.

DIRECTOR
Philippe Faucon

SCREENPLAY
Philippe Faucon, Aziza Boudjellal,
Mustapha Kharmoudi, Yasmina
Nini-Faucon, Fatima Elayoubi

CAST
Chawki Amari
Kenza Noah Aiche
Zita Hanrot
Soria Zeroual

DETAILS
Drama
French & Arabic
79 min.
France, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
$500

Le Fils de Joseph / The Son of Joseph

American-born, Paris-based, and French through and through, eccentric
auteur Eugène Green follows his international breakthrough La Sapienza
with another story about the passing of knowledge and strength from one
generation to another—from older to younger, but also, and most importantly,
from younger to older. The Son of Joseph is a loose retelling of the Nativity set
in modern-day Paris, in a literary milieu depicted with a fiercely satirical touch.
Teenager Vincent lives alone with his mother Marie and has never known his
father. One day he discovers that the man who impregnated his mother is
Oscar Pormenor, a dissolute, elitist publisher played with comic gusto by the
great Mathieu Amalric. In trying and failing to approach his biological father,
Vincent meets Joseph, Oscar’s brother—the black sheep of the Pormenor
family, and a man of deep natural goodness. Vincent resolves to serve as
matchmaker to Joseph and his single mother Marie, thereby turning Joseph
into his father and creating an inspiring allegory that indicates that the man
can be made by the child and the family based on values rather than blood. The
Son of Joseph introduces the captivating Victor Ezenfis as Vincent, who joins
Eugène Green regulars Fabrizio Rongione and Natacha Régnier in performing
in Green’s signature affectless style, opening their faces to the viewer’s gaze
with a generosity that this spiritual filmmaker and warrior against cynicism
would certainly suggest is a view into their souls.

DIRECTOR
Eugene Green

SCREENPLAY
Eugene Green

CAST
Victor Ezenfis
Natacha Régnier
Fabrizio Rongione
Mathieu Amalric

DETAILS
Comedy, Drama
French
115 min.
France, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
$500

Fort Buchanan

Equal parts gender-bending and genre-bending, Fort Buchanan is the first
feature by Benjamin Crotty, a Paris-based American director who promises
to be a major voice in contemporary cinema. The film follows the loves and
losses of a group of army wives and husbands over four seasons, from the
autumnal grays of a French forest to the burning sun of a Middle Eastern
desert. Everything about this community of army spouses defies expectations:
American soldiers speak perfect French, their barracks look like boutique
hotels or utopian architectural experiments, a daughter beats her father,
and the male officers’ husbands seamlessly blend in with the army wives. Yet
underlying this fanciful remix of reality are subtle but steady reminders of
darker truths: American wars in the Middle East, global financial crisis, and
loneliness in the era of teleconferencing. Crotty achieved his delirious blend
of melancholy and camp comedy, soap opera narrative and arty conceit by
compiling and translating dialogue from American reality shows and shaping
it into a love story and character study influenced by great French naturalists
like Eric Rohmer. The result is genuinely one-of-a-kind, an inspiring indication
of the way ahead for queer cinema in an ever-more scrambled world.

DIRECTOR
Benjamin Crotty

SCREENPLAY
Benjamin Crotty

CAST
Andy Gillet
Iliana Zabeth
Mati Diop
Judith Lou Lévy

DETAILS
Comedy, Drama
65 min.
France, Tunisia 2016
Blu-Ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Grasshopper Film

PRICE RANGE
$250

Frantz

Shortly after World War I, in a provincial German town conspicuously devoid
of its young men, Anna discovers a stranger at the grave of her late fiancé
Frantz, one of the thousands of young Germans killed in the war. The stranger
soon introduces himself to Anna and Frantz’s parents as Adrien, a French
friend of the dead soldier. Growing fond of Adrien, Anna begins to come out of
mourning for Frantz and once again embraces her future. Then Adrien makes
a terrible confession and disappears, forcing Anna to go searching for him
in Paris. With this stirring adaptation of Ernst Lubistch’s classic melodrama
Broken Lullaby, François Ozon, a master of cinematic dissemblance, delivers
a sumptuous period piece that asks whether a lie can ever be healthier than
the truth. Coming at a time when the European Union appears at its most
vulnerable, Frantz is also a meditation on Europe: Anna’s journey to France
mirrors Adrien’s to Germany, bridging the bloody differences between the
two nations in 1919 to show how much they have in common—as well as the
nagging strains of nationalism and xenophobia. But this lush romance filmed
in black and white and color is above all a profoundly unusual and effective
pacifist film, which—aside from one brief but devastating flashback—takes
place entirely after the war, surveying the human damage both on the winning
and the losing sides.

DIRECTOR
François Ozon

SCREENPLAY
François Ozon

CAST
Pierre Niney
Paula Beer
Ernst Stötzner
Marie Gruber
Johann von Bülow
Anton von Lucke
Cyrielle Clair
Alice de Lencquesaing

DETAILS
Drama
French, German
113 min.
France, Germany, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Music Box Films

PRICE RANGE
DVD or Blu-Ray : $350
DCP : $500

Homeland: Irak année zéro / Homeland: Irak Year Zero

No matter how much they have read or seen about the situation in Iraq
since the US invasion in 2003, it is unlikely most American viewers will have
encountered anything like French-Iraqi director Abbas Fahdel’s Homeland:
Iraq, a monumental but startlingly intimate look at life in Baghdad and the
Iraqi countryside before and after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Filming his own
brothers and sisters and, most memorably, his vivacious young nephews and
nieces, Fahdel provides an unforgettable documentary portrait of everyday life
in the shadow of war. The film is divided into two feature-length parts: Before
the Fall follows the middle-class family’s preparations for war, while After
the Battle finds the director’s family members serving as guides through the
chaos of a post-invasion city in which ordinary citizens are caught between
a trigger-happy occupying force and unbridled violent crime. Fahdel is at his
most masterful in seamlessly weaving in history and providing context for the
tragedy of the Iraqi people: in the first part, the memory of the first Gulf War
is omnipresent, while in the second part, tongues are loosened by the fall of
Saddam and the terrible human cost of his regime is revealed. A heartrending
reminder of cinema’s ability to create empathy and understanding across
borders, Homeland: Iraq is as close as the movies come to providing the viewer
with a moral obligation to watch.

DIRECTOR
Abbas Fahdel

DETAILS
Documentary
Arabic
334 min.
Part 1 – Before the Fall: 160 min.
Part 2 – After the Battle: 174 min.
France, 2015
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
$500