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May 18
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Talk: Maylis de Kerangal and Jessica Moore ONLINE EVENT The Center for Fiction 15 Lafayette Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11217

Young French Cinema

The YOUNG FRENCH CINEMA 2021 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: “Faithful” by Hélier Cisterne

THE END OF LOVE (À COEUR BATTANT)

Director: Keren Ben Rafael
Screenplay: Elise Benroubi, Keren Ben Rafael
Cast: Judith Chemla, Arieh Worthalter, Noémie Lvovsky
Details: 2019, France, 90 min, Drama

Synopsis: It’s unlikely that Israeli writer-director Keren Ben Rafael had any idea how universally relatable her film about two people trying to maintain their connection via video chat would become following the pandemic of 2020. Yet while so many of us have now faced the experience of only seeing our loved ones in the virtual sphere, Ben Rafael’s second feature The End of Love manages to find fresh perspective and a welcome hint of levity. When the film begins, Yuval has returned to his homeland of Israel to apply for a permanent French visa while his French wife Julie remains in their Paris apartment juggling childcare for their one-year-old and a demanding job as an architect. Yuval tries to be a daily part of his young family’s life, cooing, dirty-talking, and backseat-driving from the computer screen, but as time passes and bureaucracy fails, the couple’s relationship starts to fray. Served by beautifully raw performances by Judith Chemla and Arieh Worthalter, The End of Love essays an up-to-the-minute formalism in its commitment to telling a story nearly exclusively through the video chat window, but reaches emotional fullness through a deeper insight into age-old problems in gender relations. 

Selected at Venice 2019 

FAITHFUL (DE NOS FRÈRES BLESSÉS)

Director: Hélier Cisterne
Screenplay: Katell Quillévéré, Hélier Cisterne
Cast: Vincent Lacoste, Vicky Krieps
Details: 2020, France, 96 min, Historical Drama

Synopsis: On February 11, 1957, Fernand Iveton, a young communist worker devoted to the struggle for Algerian independence, became the only Algerian of European background to be executed as a political prisoner by the French authorities during Algeria’s War of Independence. Though his lawyers had appealed to the highest ranks of the French government, including future socialist president François Mitterrand, then Minister of Justice, Iveton’s case held too much symbolic weight to allow for leniency. He was guillotined for planting a bomb that did not go off, in a location where he had made certain the explosion would harm no one. With his second feature, writer-director Hélier Cisterne recreates the tragic true story of a young man who died for his ideals, leaving behind a loving wife and adoptive son, as a sweeping film whose passionate love story, suspenseful flashback structure, and immaculate period detail evoke a largely bygone era of sophisticated, meaningful popular entertainment. Moving smoothly between Paris and Algiers, Cisterne plunges us into the heart of a conflict that continues to resonate in contemporary France, North Africa, and beyond, providing a chilling reminder of colonial tyranny, as well as a hopeful example of a man who chose humanity over politics and profit. 

Selected at Rome 2020

GOLD FOR DOGS (DE L’OR POUR LES CHIENS)

Director: Anna Cazenave Cambet
Screenplay: Anna Cazenave Cambet, Marie-Stéphane Imbert
Cast: Tallulah Cassavetti, Ana Neborac, Corentin Fila 
Details: 2020, France, 99 min, Drama

Synopsis: Summer at the beach. Eighteen-year-old Esther is in love for the first time. On shaky terms with her family and with no immediate prospects, she decides to follow her summer love to his home in Paris—unannounced. Writer-director Anne Cazenave Cambet’s strikingly singular feature debut starts where many French films begin and end, creating an achingly sensitive portrait of a young woman simultaneously discovering her sexuality and heartbreak. With its revelatory performance by newcomer Tallulah Cassavetti as a guileless, open-hearted girl in a hypersexualized world, Gold for Dogs could leave it at that and still remain in our memories. But the movie takes an extraordinary left turn when Esther is left adrift in Paris and seeks shelter in a convent, entering an oasis of calm that entirely reconfigures the film’s form and atmosphere. In this silent, bright realm of women, captured with a documentarian’s eye for detail, ritual, and routine, Esther gradually comes to understand herself through her fascination for a beautiful novice who has taken a vow of silence. Described by its director as a reverse coming-ofage movie, Gold for Dogs is above all a brave and entirely successful experiment in breaking the mold of a classic French film formula.

Selected at Cannes Label 2020

JOSEP (JOSEP)

Director: Aurel
Screenplay: Jean-Louis Milesi
Cast: Sergi Lopez, Valérie Lemercier
Details: 2020, France, Spain, Belgium, 74 min, Animation 

Synopsis: The animated feature Josep takes a strikingly original approach to the story of Josep Bartolí, a Catalan artist who fought Franco in the Spanish Civil War and later went into exile in Mexico City and New York. The film focuses on a relatively little known but particularly dark episode in European history: after the fall of Barcelona to Franco’s troops in January 1939, 500,000 refugees escaped to France, only to be detained in French concentration camps. One of these refugees was Josep Bartolí, who created a visual record of the abysmal conditions in which he and his fellow Republicans were kept. But the focus here is primarily on the unlikely friendship between the Catalan artist and Serge, a rookie French police officer charged with guarding the camp. Told in flashback by the elderly Serge to his teenage grandson, Josep combines an illuminating attention to historical detail and flights of the imagination that carry Serge from the South of France to Mexico to reunite with Josep and meet his (real-life) mistress Frida Kahlo. With his feature debut as a director, prominent French cartoonist Aurel reveals his affinity for the power of drawing, combining standard animation techniques with haunting sequences conceived to capture the feel of Bartolí’s prison sketches. 

Selected at Label Cannes 2020 + Annecy 2020 + European Animated Feature Film Award at the EFAs 2020

THE MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE (UN PAYS QUI SE TIENT SAGE)

Director: David Dufresne 
Details: 2020, France, 86 min, Documentary

Synopsis: Journalist David Dufresne’s first theatrical feature is a devastatingly timely investigation of the place of police in democracy and the legitimacy of violence. Primarily composed of smartphone images filmed at recent demonstrations in France, the film presents a viscerally shocking picture of police brutality and protests transformed into scenes of urban warfare. But Dufresne also allows us a deeper engagement with what we see by confronting a wide variety of participants in one-on-one conversations, a diverse assortment which lends the film several levels, ranging from cinéma-vérité to a meticulous examination of the nature of law enforcement, where anger and cruelty aren’t supposed to interfere in “the requirements of the particular circumstances”. Highly methodical as it asks the question “who has the legitimacy to say someone is violent?”, and it analyses the dangerous state of affairs that emerges when “legality is erased by the suspicion of illegality”, this compelling approach, intellectual yet never Manichean, is further underpinned by powerful emotional components. A shattering and intelligent documentary, The Monopoly of Violence is nothing short of essential viewing, notably as it reminds us that “democracy isn’t but dissensus” and that we should build bridges rather than walls…

Selected at NYFF 2020

MY DONKEY, MY LOVER AND I (ANTOINETTE DANS LES CEVENNES)

Director: Caroline Vignal
Screenplay: Caroline Vignal
Cast: Laure Calamy, Benjamin Lavernhe, Olivia Côte
Details: 2020, 97 min, Comedy

Synopsis: On an impulse, Paris schoolteacher Antoinette decides to follow her married lover Vladimir and his wife and daughter on a six-day summer hike along the trail described by Robert Louis Stevenson in his outdoor classic Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. But Antoinette soon realizes this impromptu vacation is more than she bargained for: Vladimir is nowhere in sight, her romantic misadventure tickles all the gossips on the hiking circuit, and her traveling companion is a recalcitrant donkey called Patrick. Caroline Vignal’s second feature delightfully reinvigorates the old French film trope of the lovelorn vacationer with a gentle comic touch, the occasional slapstick flourish, unblemished landscapes, and a starmaking turn by Laure Calamy, long a magnetic supporting actress in films by leading directors like Alain Guiraudie and Justine Triet. With perfect timing, a hint of eccentricity, and a beguiling emotional openness, Calamy manages to find both the pain and the humor in the universal experience of being alone when you had something— or someone—else in mind. Special mention must be made of Patrick the donkey, who delivers a winning performance as the stoic beast of burden who proves to be Antoinette’s occasional therapist and steadfast friend.

Selected at Cannes Label 2020

RED SOIL (ROUGE)

Director: Farid Bentoumi
Screenplay: Farid Bentoumi, Samuel Doux, Audrey Fouché, Gaëlle Macé
Cast: Zita Hanrot, Sami Bouajila, Céline Sallette
Details: 2020, France, 90 min, Ecological Thriller

Synopsis: After losing her job as an emergency room nurse, Nour Hamadi (Zita Henrot) returns to her small hometown and takes a position as a nurse at the chemical plant where her father Slimane (Sami Bouajila) has worked for 30 years. As she settles into her new job, Nour becomes aware of multiples irregularities in the treatment of hazardous waste and the protection of workers. While her own father turns a blind eye in order to defend the factory that provides him with employment and serves as the region’s economic engine, Nour meets an investigative journalist (Céline Sallette) and finds herself compelled to become a whistleblower, at the risk of alienating her entire family. With his second feature, AlgerianFrench director Farid Bentoumi takes a nuanced look at the conflict between idealism and pragmatism in a complex political, economic, and environmental context sadly familiar to those who read the news (the film is based on true events). Co-produced by legendary Belgian filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne and featuring their stalwart actor Olivier Gourmet, Red Soil establishes Bentoumi as a worthy heir to the Dardennes’ brand of socially relevant films in which regular people face the thorniest moral questions of our era.

Selected at Label Cannes 2020

SHOULD THE WIND DROP (SI LE VENT TOMBE) 

Director: Nora Martirosyan
Screenplay: Nora Martirosyan, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivier Torres, Guillaume André
Cast: Grégoire Colin
Details: 2020, France, Armenia, Belgium, 100 min, Drama

Synopsis: When French auditor Alain Delage (Grégoire Colin) is sent to the remote breakaway state of Nagorno-Karabakh to make an official recommendation about the feasibility of a new airport that would open this troubled region in the South Caucasus to air traffic after decades of war and international isolation, he is drawn into the struggles of a proud and willful people living on hope alone and begins to defy his regulations to help them achieve their goals. Armenian-born writer-director Nora Martirosyan’s extraordinary debut combines a precise, subtle depiction of a complex geopolitical situation with a poetic, sensual evocation of life in a place where the outside world is little more than a threat of gunfire but the dream of a better future is inextinguishable. With its gleaming new airport waiting for airplanes that may never arrive and an invisible but lethally dangerous border lying somewhere over the hills, the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh appears caught in such painfully absurd circumstances that some viewers might think—or hope—that it is a fictional state. Sadly, Nora Martirosyan’s captivating first feature is as factual as it is timely: in the fall of 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the region, leading to thousands of deaths and mass displacement.

Selected at Cannes Label 2020 + ACID 2020

SKIES OF LEBANON (SOUS LE CIEL D’ALICE)

Director: Chloé Mazlo
Screenplay: Chloé Mazlo, Yacine Badday
Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Wajdi Mouawad
Details: 2020, France, 90 min, Drama

Synopsis: Celebrated animator Chloé Mazlo makes her feature debut with this strikingly original film inspired by her family’s life in the years leading into the Lebanese Civil War. We begin in the 1950s with Alice, a young Swiss woman eager to escape her strait-laced home in the Alps by becoming a nanny in Beirut. She soon falls in love with Joseph, a local astrophysicist dreaming of putting the first Lebanese national on the moon. As the lovers marry and start a family, Mazlo combines meticulously designed live action sequences with the occasional offbeat stop motion scene to create an irresistible picture of the glory days when Beirut was known as “the Paris of the Middle East.” Unfortunately, the civil war soon sucks the joy out of Alice and Joseph’s relationship. Yet Mazlo seeks neither to elicit pity nor to edify: her considerable achievement here is to convey the quotidian strain of life during wartime while maintaining a nearly bubbly tone through her attention to detail, distinctive compositions, inventive approach to character, and obvious fondness for eccentrics. Far from denying the horror of kidnappings, army raids, and forced exile, Mazlo underlines the tragedy by contrasting these hardships with the exuberance of a place and society that exudes love of life.

Selected at Cannes Critics Week 2020 


Short Films

AND THEN THE BEAR (L’HEURE DE L’OURS)

Director: Agnès Patron
Details: 2019, France, 14 min, animation

Synopsis: That very night, houses will burn. Men and women will tremble. Hordes of children will come together and howl as they dance alone on the ashes like wild bears. It only takes one shout to wake them all from their slumber!

Selected at Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, Aspen

BY A HAIR (PILE POIL)

Director: Lauriane Escaffre, Yvonnick Muller
Cast: Grégory Gadebois, Madelaine Baudot
Details: 2018, France, 21 min, fiction

Synopsis: In three days, Élodie will sit the hair removal exam of her beautician diploma. Her father, Francis, a butcher, would prefer it if she helped him more in his butcher’s shop.

Selected at Clermont-Ferrand, Palm Springs, César du meilleur court métrage de fiction

GENIUS LOCI (GENIUS LOCI)

Director: Adrien Mérigeau
Details: 2019, France, 16 min, animation

Synopsis: One night, Reine, a young loner, sees within the urban chaos a mystical oneness that seems alive, like some sort of guide.

Selected at Annecy, Clermont-Ferrand, Berlinale

HAUTE CUISINE (NOUVELLE SAVEUR) 

Director: Merryl Roche
Cast: Joséphine Japy, Sébastien Houbani, Philippe Résimont
Details:  2019, France, 24 min, fiction

Synopsis: Since Marie has joined the team at multi-starred chef Bruno Mercier’s restaurant, all she thinks about is improving herself. But Thomas, the sous-chef, is wary of this possible rival. During her shift, Marie cuts herself, letting a few drops of blood fall into and mix with her sauce. Bruno tastes Marie’s dish and considers it perfect.

Selected at Clermont-Ferrand, Palm Springs, BogoShorts

OLLA (OLLA)

Director: Ariane Labed
Cast: Romana Lobach, Grégoire Tachnakian, Jenny Bellay
Details: 2019, France, 27 min, fiction

Synopsis: Olla replied to an advertisement on a dating website for women from Eastern Europe. She has just moved in with Pierre who lives with his elderly mother. But nothing goes as planned.

Selected at Sundance, Clermont-Ferrand, London BFI

SO WHAT IF THE GOATS DIE  (QU’IMPORTE SI LES BÊTES MEURENT)

Director: Sofia Alaoui
Cast: Fouad Oughaou, Saïd Oughaou, Oumaïma Oughaou
Details: 2019, France, 23 min, fiction

Synopsis: High in the Atlas Mountains, the young shepherd Abdellah and his father are hemmed in by snow at their goat pen. Their animals are wasting away. Abdellah must go to find supplies at a market village more than a day's walk away. When he arrives with his mule, he finds the village abandoned due to a strange event that has wreaked havoc on the lives of all believers.

Selected at Sundance, Clermont-Ferrand, Palm Springs

SUKAR (SUKAR)

Director: Ilias El Faris
Cast: Walid Rakik, Nisrine Benchara, Mustapha Bamad
Details: 2019, France, 10 min, Fiction

Synopsis: On the beach of Casablanca, the desire of two adolescents keeps a low profile. Children like adults keep an eye out. A fight distracts attention. 

Selected at IndieLisboa, Oberhausen, Uppsala