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One of the great joys of a film festival is uncovering a hidden gem among the big hitters on the programme, a film you had never heard of before the festival and can’t stop talking about after.
We asked festival director Fergus Grady for his list of under-the-radar gems at this year’s French Film Festival Aotearoa. The list is a mix – comedy, cabaret, family feel-good, conflagration and coming-of-age. Something for everyone.
The French Film Festival Aotearoa features 23 of the best films to come out of France in the past year. The festival opens in Christchurch and runs till Sunday 11 June before visiting 16 other centres around the motu, from Kerikeri to Dunedin. The Auckland season runs from 31 May to 21 June; the Wellington season from 7 to 28 June.
Indiana Jones meets Monty Python in this hilarious comedy adventure. Having found fame as a modern-day Robinson Crusoe by seemingly surviving alone on the desolate tropical island of Val Verde, French action adventurer Jack Mimoun, (Malik Bentalha, Employee of the Month) has made a name for himself as an adventure star. With a best-selling book, television show and stellar reputation, Jack appears to be the man of the moment. Unfortunately, his on-screen persona, the Survivor of Hell, is all a giant fabrication.
Sometimes hard work and big ideas aren’t enough. David’s dairy farm is on the brink of liquidation. When he chances upon a dazzling nightclub performance by Bonnie Starlight, inspiration strikes. What if he turned his big old barn into a country cabaret? Not just for entertainment but to promote local food producers, including his mother’s delicious cheese. A crazy plan, for sure, which is exactly why he loves it! Everything seems on track for the big opening night, until David’s traditionalist grandpa steps in, hell-bent on putting an end to their follies. Can they save the show and save the farm? Based on a fabulous true story.
10-year-old Sebastien reluctantly spends his holidays in the mountains with his grandmother and aunt. He is to help them with the sheep, hardly an exciting prospect for a city boy like him ... but that is without considering his encounter with Belle, a huge dog mistreated by her owner. Ready to do anything to fight injustice and to protect his new-found friend, Sebastien will spend the craziest summer of his life.
Upon agreeing to be the brand ambassador for a famous cognac celebrating their bicentennial, novelist Stéphane Belcourt returns to his hometown for the first time in many years. Once there, he meets his first love’s son, Lucas. Memories come rushing back to him: irrepressible attraction, bodies becoming one in the heat of desire, a passion that can never be revealed ... His first love’s name was Thomas. They were 17.
A blow-by-blow recreation of the gripping events that took place on April 15, 2019, when Notre Dame Cathedral suffered the biggest blaze in its history. The film shows heroic men and women putting their lives on the line to accomplish an awe-inspiring rescue. From Jean-Jacques Annaud, director of Seven Years in Tibet and Enemy at the Gates.
Featuring a career-best Virginie Efira, award-winning writer/director Rebecca Zlotowski’s enchanting and profoundly moving new romantic drama follows a woman whose outlook on life is up-ended when she starts a passionate relationship with a single father-of-one. 40-year-old Parisian high school teacher Rachel (a radiant Efira) loves her life: she’s inspired by her work and is close to her friends, sister and widowed father. When she meets a man in her community guitar class, the charming and recently separated Ali (Roschdy Zem), Rachel commences a relationship not only with him but also his four-year-old daughter, Leila. Gradually, she’s drawn into their world, helping Ali by collecting Leila after school and looking after her on the nights she stays with them; the three start to share holidays together. But there can be no denying Leila already has a mother (Chiara Mastroianni), and Rachel’s yearning for a family of her own is only growing stronger. Utterly involving and insightful, Other People’s Children thoughtfully revolves around questions of belonging, connection and emotional risk to depict not only one woman’s search for fulfilment but what constitutes a rewarding and meaningful life.
Every summer, 10-year-old Dune goes with her parents to the south-west coast of France, where she meets her best friend, Mathilde. Together they explore pine forests, contemplate the shape of clouds, follow teenagers and crash their parties, and secretly watch horror films. But this one summer is special for Dune – last year, the family skipped their usual holiday without her knowing why. She feels that something has changed. As childhood becomes a little more distant, she begins to see adults and teenagers differently and understand their secrets.
Literally born and raised with horses, Zoe leads a happy life at her parents’ racehorse stables, driven by the dream of someday becoming a jockey like her father. To Zoe, nothing beats being with horses, especially her best friend, Beautiful Intrigue, the stable’s prize mare, who taught the child how to walk. When Beautiful Intrigue gives birth to a foal, Zoe is the first to see in him the champion her parents have been waiting and working for all their lives. But Zoe’s dreams are shattered when the panicked foal accidentally injures her, leaving her permanently disabled