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Young French Cinema

The YOUNG FRENCH CINEMA 2020 FILM SELECTION listed below is available to art house cinemas, film societies, the Alliance Française network and American universities.

 Full brochure available here.

Feature Films

Image: "The Bare Necessity" by Erwan Le Duc


Director: Alain Raoust
Screenplay: Alain Raoust, Cécile Vargaftig
Cast: Salomé Richard, Yoann Zimmer, Estelle Meyer
Details: 2019, France/Portugal, 92 min, Drama

Synopsis: While this is only his third feature, writer-director Alain Raoust has a solid reputation as a gifted and poetic outsider in French cinema. His experience shows in this subtle yet ambitious portrait of contemporary France through the encounter between a few young people trying to make the most of their lives in a country that may have left them behind: Salomé, who returns to the village in the South of France where she lived ten years ago as a teenager to run a remote waste center; Jessica, a motor-mouthed fireball who washes up at the waste center after being eliminated from a Survivor-style reality show, terrified she’ll have to go back to working at a supermarket; and Clément, a local young man mourning the killing of his brother by a police stun grenade during a demonstration. While Raoust is now in his early fifties, his spot-on dialogue captures the expressions and concerns of contemporary youth with an ear for the humor and unexpected lyricism in everyday slang. But it is in the silences that we feel the tenderness of his gaze, a perfect complement to the political indignation that drove him to make this poignant and unusual film.

Selected in the 2019 Cannes ACID Program


Director: Erwan Le Duc
Screenplay: Erwan Le Duc
Cast: Swann Arlaud, Maud Wyler, Fanny Ardant
Details:  2019, France, 100 min, Romantic Comedy

Synopsis: The Bare Necessity is an ebullient high point in the recent spate of eccentric French films by young directors distinguished by an ability to use comedy to express their generation’s uncertainty in the face of an increasingly crazy world. And the world of The Bare Necessity is as crazy as it gets: here in the idyllic woods of the Vosges Mountains, one runs into revolutionary nudists, obsessive earthworm scientists, explosive reenactments of World War II battles, and a host of other weirdos. Possibly the only regular guy around is police officer Captain Pierre Perdrix, whose buttoned-up life starts to come unbuttoned when out-of-towner Juliette turns up after having her all her earthly possessions stolen by a militant nudist. Naturally, the upstanding policeman and the itinerant young woman are fated to become an item, but they’ll have to climb mountains, dive into freezing lakes, and dodge overenthusiastic war reenactors before they fall into each other’s arms. Starring rising stars Swann Arlaud and Maud Wyler and the great Fanny Ardant as Captain Perdrix’s oddball mother, The Bare Necessity is a marvel of deadpan comedy, cinematic quirkiness, and genuine romance.

Selected in the 2019 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight


Director:  Stéphane Batut
Screenplay: Stéphane Batut, Christine Dory and Frédéric Videau
Cast: Thimotée Robart , Judith Chemla and Saadia Bentaïeb
Details: 2019, France, 104 min, Fantasy, Romance

Synopsis:  As an astonishingly gentle and strikingly original reflection on death, loss, and love, Burning Ghost takes its place in that rare category of poetic classics such as Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s After Life, films that redefine our thinking about mortality. The story begins in a Paris park when Juste, a lost young man who appears to be invisible to all, is rescued by a mysterious drifter. We learn that Juste has died but that Death has granted him a furlough of sorts, allowing him to serve as a guide into the afterworld to those recently deceased. And so, he continues to exist among the living, just another anonymous face in the crowds of Parisians. Until the day he is recognized by Agathe, a woman who loved him when he was alive. With this first fiction feature, Stéphane Batut, one of French cinema’s best casting directors, tells a unique love story that is both luminous and melancholy, anchored in the shadowy romance of the Paris night. Burning Ghost received the 2019 Prix Jean Vigo, the prestigious French film award that recognizes independence of spirit and stylistic originality.

Selected in the 2019 Cannes ACID Program


Director: Callisto McNulty
Screenplay: Callisto McNulty, Alexandra Roussopoulos, Géronimo Roussopoulos
Cast: Carole Roussopoulos, Delphine Seyrig, Chantal Akerman
Details: 2019, France/Switzerland, 69 min, Documentary 

Synopsis: This revealing portrait of the friendship between screen icon Delphine Seyrig, known for her work with Chantal Akerman, Luis Buñuel, Marguerite Duras, Jacques Demy, and François Truffaut, among others, and documentary filmmaker Carole Roussopoulos, a pioneer in the use of video to make political films, serves as an invigorating reminder of the struggles and triumphs of 1970s feminism, perfectly timed to our current moment of renewed activism for equality and accountability. Initially developed at the request of the late Carole Roussopoulos, Callisto McNulty’s sensitive film uses present-day interviews and rich archival material to tell the story of these two women’s collaborations on epochal videos that combined outrage and humor to bear witness to the Women’s Liberation Movement’s joyful, creative, and untiring efforts to combat systemic misogyny and support the rights of women. Featuring generous excerpts from Seyrig and Roussopoulos’s rarely screened video archives side by side with truly jaw-dropping examples of sexism in mainstream media, the film serves as a primer of a kind of activism born of a true democratic impulse. Look for archival interviews with luminaries including Simone de Beauvoir, Jane Fonda, Marguerite Duras, and Chantal Akerman.

Selected at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival


Director: Hadrien La Vapeur and Corto Vaclav
ScreenplayHadrien La Vapeur and Corto Vaclav
Cast: Apostle Medard
Details: 2019, France, 70 min, Documentary

Synopsis:  Kongo begins by plunging viewers into the everyday life of a witch doctor in the slums of Brazzaville, Congo, following Apostle Jean Ménard as he treats patients with a variety of rituals and attempts to cast off evil spells by visiting cemeteries to implore the dead to protect the living. But when two children are killed by a bolt of lightning, Ménard is accused before a court of law of having commanded the lighting. The ensuing depiction of the persistence and practice of ancient beliefs in a contemporary society would alone be an impressive accomplishment, in line with the trance films of the great ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch, but this fascinating first documentary feature by experimental filmmaker Hadrien La Vapeur and anthropologist Corto Vaclav goes further by providing a rich, nuanced picture of life in the Congo, while recognizing the shadow of the colonial past and the outside forces affecting this Central African nation today. In one of the most arresting sequences in the film, Apostle Ménard returns to a waterfall allegedly inhabited by sacred mermaids to discover that the entire river has disappeared, diverted by a Chinese construction company. Rarely has the clash between local customs and global capital been so poignantly illustrated. 

Selected in the 2019 Cannes ACID Program


Director: Blaise Harrison
ScreenplayBlaise Harrison & Mariette Désert
Cast: Thomas Daloz, Néa Lüders, Salvatore Ferro
Details: 2019, France/Switzerland, 98 min, Fantasy Drama

Synopsis: The buzz young Swiss filmmaker Blaise Harrison generated with documentaries that discover strangeness in the everyday is confirmed with this assured fiction debut that takes the familiar genre of the coming-of-age story and turns it into an undefinable tale pulsing with big ideas, fragile emotions, and entrancing atmospheres. The film centers on Pierre-André, a shy teenager living in the sticks a few miles from the French-Swiss border. At first glance, his life couldn’t be more banal: the tedium of high school, band practice with his friends, camping trips and drug experimentation, awkward mooning over girls. But little by little, Pierre-André’s reality starts to slip: he sees lights in the forest, the soil seems to be breathing, and his best friend disappears into the woods. Could this be related to the massive particle collider lying 500 feet beneath the ground? Is any of it really happening? Harrison seamlessly blends pitch-perfect observations of teenage life with haunting elements of science fiction to express the momentous changes of adolescence and the wonder of life itself.

Selected in the 2019 Cannes Directors' Fortnight


Director: Claire Burger
Screenplay: Claire Burger
Cast: Bouli Lanners, Justine Lacroix, Sarah Henochsberg
Details:  2018, France, 98 min, Family Drama

Synopsis: After his wife of twenty years leaves the family home, Mario remains alone to care for his teenage daughters Niki and Frida. While the father struggles to accept this separation, his daughters are facing their own milestones: Niki is about to turn eighteen, thinking about striking out on her own, and fourteen-year-old Frida is in love with one of her girlfriends. After winning the Caméra d’Or for best debut at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for Party Girl, co-directed with Marie Amachoukeli and Samuel Theis, writer-director Claire Burger follows in the same vein of tender social realism with her stunning solo debut Real Love. Shot in the director’s hometown of Forbach, a small working-class town in the northeast of France, Real Love is a film grounded in a deep knowledge of its setting and close observation of human relations, but occasionally surprises the viewer with an astonishing twist (witness the way the initially distressing scene where Frida spikes her father’s tea with strong party drugs turns into the film’s most uplifting moment). Belgian actor Bouli Lanners brings a moving warmth and vulnerability to the part of Mario, while young actresses Sarah Henochsberg and Justine Lacroix deliver revelatory performances as Niki and Frida.

Selected at the 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam  |  Winner of Giornate degli Autori Director’s Award at the 2018 Venice Film Festival


Director: Marie-Sophie Chambon
Screenplay: Marie-Sophie Chambon and Anaïs Carpita
Cast: Laure Duchêne, Angèle Metzger, and Pauline Serieys
Details: 2019, France, 88 min, Drama 

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old physics whiz Lois wants only one thing: to travel into space. But heavy set people like Lois don’t get to be astronauts… Though she has a genetic predisposition to be overweight, Lois starves herself to trim down—and winds up in a clinic after a series of fainting spells. Here, she meets three girls facing their own stiff challenges: Amélie suffers from gender dysphoria, Stannah is in a wheelchair, and Justine is so terrified of electromagnetic waves that she destroys whatever appliances she can get her hands on. The girls form a motley crew, but they have one thing in common: they want to get out of the clinic. And when Lois reveals her plan to make it to Toulouse to compete at a national science competition for the grand prize of a zero-gravity flight, the girls band together to break free and make a dream come true. Acclaimed screenwriter Marie-Sophie Chambon’s charming blend of a heartfelt coming-of-age story and a zany road movie is an inventive and uplifting paean to accepting yourself without letting go of your dreams, lifted by stirring performances by its four young leads.


Director: Nadège Trébal
Screenplay: Nadège Trébal
Cast: Bouli Lanners, Justine Lacroix, Sarah Henochsberg
Details: 2019, France, 111 min, Social Romantic Drama

Synopsis: When Frank loses his livelihood scamming customers from a local junkyard, he and his partner Maroussia quickly realize the only way for their couple to survive and maintain its fierce sexual bond is for him to leave in search of a job that will allow him to make as much money as she does: twelve thousand euros a year, and not a penny more or less. With that ice-cold pact formed in the heat of passion, writer-director Nadège Trebal sets forth the program of her exhilarating, sharply political first fiction feature: an analysis of the relationship between sexuality and economics, exploitation and freedom. Grounded in the sensual reality of bodies and the hard truth of money, Twelve Thousand goes further than one could ever hope to imagine, lifting the French social realist drama into a kind of mythology for container yards and industrial landscapes populated by hustling Amazons and dancing factory workers, a reflection of a world of transience and transaction in which love is constantly at risk of being corrupted. This modern-day, working class odyssey establishes Nadège Trebal—who also delivers a searing performance as Maroussia—as a major new voice in French cinema.

Selected at the 2019 Locarno Film Festival


Director: Hassen Ferhani
ScreenplayHassen Ferhani
Cast: Malika, Chawki Amari, & Samir Elhakim
Details: 2019, France/Algeria, 100 min, Documentary

Synopsis: For the follow-up to his rightly celebrated feature debut Roundabout in My Head (2015), Algerian director Hassen Ferhani places his camera in a tiny teahouse on the edge of the Trans-Sahara highway and introduces audiences to Malika, the venerable owner of this open-air hut deep in the desert, frequented by long-haul truck drivers, the occasional intrepid tourist, and “locals” in an area where “local” might range anywhere within a 200-mile radius. As is immediately clear, Malika is an extraordinary woman whose isolated living circumstances have done nothing to dull her sense of humor or her singular spirituality. Taking his cue from his subject’s playfulness, Ferhani creates an unforgettable film portrait that skirts the fertile border between fiction and documentary and toys with genres like the Western and the road movie without ever leaving the confines of this small parcel of desert land. Despite its geographical limits, this is a profoundly expansive film that has a great deal to tell us about present-day Algeria. Ferhani was awarded the prize for Best Emerging Director at the 2019 Locarno Film Festival for 143 Sahara Street.

Winner of Best Emerging Director Award at the 2019 Locarno Film Festival | Selected at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival

Short Films



Director: Foued Mansour
Cast: Bilal Chegrani, Laurent Maurel, Modeste Maurice
Details: 2018, France, 30 min, Drama/Portrait

Synopsis: One day Ahmed, employed at the public baths and nearing retirement, encounters Mike, a teenager adrift. Between the bath house walls, in a place on the point of disappearing, a strange relationship will develop between these two fractured souls.

Brive Film Festival | Winner of Bridging the Borders Award at the Palm Springs International ShortFest 2019


Director: Vasilis Kekatos
Cast: Nikolakis Zeginoglou, Ioko Ioannis Kotidis
Details: 2019, France, 9 min, LGBTQ Romance

Synoposis: Two strangers meet for the first time one night in a remote gas station. The first one fills up his car, while the second one lacks a few euros necessary to get home. The two men will haggle over the price of what separates them from a story.

Winner of Short Film Palme d'Or and Queer Palme at Cannes 2019


Director: Benjamin Crotty
Cast: Alexis Manenti, Antoine Cholet, Caroline Deruas, Pauline Jacquard
Details: 2018, France, 26 min, Portrait

Synoposis: During his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award, Nicolas Chauvin - farmer soldier, veteran of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and the father of chauvinism - embarks on a grand monologue, sending him back in time and space. Until, at a bend on a moonlit road, a spectral encounter changes the course of his non-existence.

Selected at the 2018 New York Film Festival | Winner of Mantarraya Award at the 2018 Locarno International Film Festival


Director: Marine Levéel
Cast: Gilles Vandeweerd, Victor Fradet, Xavier Clion
Details: 2018, France, 24 min, Romantic Comedy

Synoposis: In close up, Mickaël seems to move in a nebula of desires : find his lost pig, get his organic farming certification, stop being lonely in a rape desert. But from afar, Mickaël looks more like a magnet attracted to Paul.


Director: Gabriel Abrantes
Cast: Alexis Manenti, Caroline Deruas, Liza Lapert
Details: 2019, France/Portugal, 20 min, Comedy/Animation

Synoposis: Tired of being a banal architectural ornament, a sculpture runs away from the Louvre to confront real life on the streets of Paris.


Director: Marion Lacourt
Details: 2019, France, 12 min, Animation

Synoposis: At night, while family members indulge in curious rituals before sleeping, a child invokes a wolf from the bottom of a box hidden under his bed. Disturbing sheep then besiege the door of his bedroom…

Selected at the 2019 Locarno Film Festival 


Director: Clémence Poésy
Cast: India Hair, Sabine Timoteo
Details: 2019, France, 25 min, Drama/Portrait

Synoposis: Florence is an actress. Preparations for her new role will challenge her in a way she could never have seen coming…

Selected at the 2019 Venice Film Festival


Director: Cecilia de Arce
Cast: Chainez Dehchar, Rebecca Finet, Big John de Paname
Details: 2019, France, 26 min, School Drama

Synoposis: Névine, a secondary school monitor, is fully committed to her somewhat thankless day job, dealing with teachers, administration and students. Logan, a pupil she is fond of, insists on getting a cap back from lost and found. She has no idea of the consequences of her gesture.

Selected at the 2019 Cannes Critics Week