After completing a Master’s degree in politics in Paris, François Truffart was Cultural Attaché in charge of cinema promotion at the French Embassy in Hungary, Japan, and the United States (Los Angeles) successively, from 1991 to 2001. In 2002, he was Director of the Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival and then represented Le Marché du Film of the Cannes Film Festival in the US. He has been in charge of programming for COLCOA since 2004 before being assigned as Director and Programmer in 2007. He is a consultant for film finance and acquisitions for the Japanese market, through his LA-based company Sorry Angels, Inc.
BijanTehrani: We are close to another year of the City of Lights, City of Angels Festival. French cinema is becoming increasingly exciting and interesting in recent years. Will COL•COA be a good reflection of French Cinema in 2007 and 2008?
François Truffart: I hope so, as our program of 48 films including 28 features has been made to underline the diversity of French production. Among the 200 films produced or co-produced by France each year, some of them have a real potential overseas and particularly in the U.S. In fact, I think that French cinema, like many other European film industries, has always been exciting and creative. What is now new – and we take advantage of it – is the increasing interest of U.S. Audiences for foreign films and foreign talents and not only from elite. I am using plural for audiences on purpose, as we strongly believe that foreign films can target various audiences in the U.S. We have two theaters at COL•COA; one is more dedicated to art house style of films, the large one to more mainstream films. Both theaters are packed. But contrary to French audiences, most of the Americans attending are open minded and want to see both kinds of films! (laugh)
Bijan: Do you have any U.S. premieres of new French films this year during the festival?
François: Exclusivity is still the rule at COL•COA, as our public is mainly composed of people working in the film industry. They want to see new films. Half of our program is made of films released after January 2008 in France. Our opening comedy, Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis, has broken all box-office records for any French film since its release (almost $100 M in one month). Our competition will close with the world premiere of a much-anticipated film, Behind the Walls, 11 days before its release in France. We will also show the U.S. premiere of acclaimed new Florent Siri epic Drama, Intimate Enemmies with Benoit Magimel and Albert Dupontel.
Bijan: Please tell us about the festival’s high school screening program and its goals.
François: We are proud to support a new generation of foreign film viewers with this new program that involves twelve American high schools of Los Angeles County. More than one thousand French language students will have the opportunity to be the first to discover a North American premiere of a new French film. For a lot of them it will be the first time to see a foreign film on the big screen. We are hoping that this experience will encourage them to see more foreign films.
Bijan: Who are the French guests of the COL•COA 2008? Is there a chance for the public to meet them?
François: Several filmmakers are now confirmed for COL•COA: Claude Lelouch for Roman De Gare. (Audrey Dana, a Franco-American actress who leads in the film will also be in Los Angeles). Cedric Klapisch for Paris, Jean-Paul Salome for Female Agents, Anne Le Ny for Those Who Remain, Eric Guirado for the Grocer’s Son, Florent Siri for Intimate Enemies, Christian Faure for Behind the Walls, and Cedric Anger for the Killer.
Bijan: What are some different events of the festival?
François: As COL•COA continues to grow we offer a new series this year called COL•COA CLASSICS, including a World premiere of the Fritz Lang film, Secret Beyond the Door, restored with the support of the Franco American Cultural Fund, producer of COL•COA. People will also have the opportunity to discover “late show” films with our AFTER 10 series. We will celebrate one of our guests this year with a FOCUS ON FLORENT SIRI on Thursday. And of course our HAPPY HOUR TALKS Panel Series is back by popular demand.
For the first time in the history of the festival, we will offer an exclusive trailer program of upcoming French films that will be shown for the first time one month later at Le Marche du Film in Cannes. This program is called AN EYE TO THE FUTURE of French cinema.
Bijan: How can film fans attend the festival screenings?
François: It is easy. The full program is available on www.colcoa.org and the box office is now open. All films and panels are at the Directors Guild of America on Sunset Blvd. Ticket prices are still the same. We offer a half price to students and parking is free with validation.
Bijan: Are U.S. film distributors interacting with COL•COA? Does the festival help the French films with finding a distribution channel in U.S.?
François: Absolutely. All distributors are invited to COL•COA and they can test films still available with a local audience. Actually, thanks to our screenings, we want them to think about new opportunities of business. COL•COA is also a unique platform to promote films to be released in the U.S. Six U.S. distributors will show eight films at COL•COA in 2008, including Strand Releasing for Claude Miller’s A Secret, Samuel Goldwyn for Roman De Gare and Paris, Koch Lorber for Water Lilies and Romance of Astree and Celadon, Film Movement for The Grocer’s Son or Music Box Films for Oss 117.
Bijan: Are there any award-winning films among the films that will be screened at COL•COA?
François: There are a lot. I would just mention the multi César 2008 winner, including best film, the Secret of the Grain by Abdellatif Kechiche. Besides, in addition to the COL•COA Audience Award, we will create this year a Critics Award in association with LAFCA. Both winners will be rescheduled on Sunday for free. We will also have a special Short Film Award for our exclusive program of 20 shorts. Finally, some of our screenings will be officially registered as HFPA screenings for a possible nomination to the Golden Globes in 2009.