Hit comedy to open City of Lights fest

The 12th annual City of Lights, City of Angels French film festival continues to expand in scope, with 27 features and 20 shorts skedded for its April 14-20 run at the Directors Guild of America. The 48 films represent a 20% increase over last year’s program.

Highlights include the world preem of Fritz Lang’s restored noir thriller “Secret Beyond the Door”; the North American premiere of recent French B.O. sensation “Welcome to the Land of Shtis,” which opens the fest and stars Dany Boon, who also directs; the world premiere of Christian Faure’s “Behind the Walls”; as well as writer-director Abdellatif Kechiche’s “The Secret of the Grain,” which dominated the Cesar kudos last month with four top awards, including film.

Part of the festival’s appeal is the large contingent of French film luminaries who descend on Los Angeles. Last year, Marion Cotillard appeared for fest opener “La Vie en rose.”

This year, the talent roster includes writer-directors Claude Miller (“A Secret”), Claude Lelouch (“Roman de gare”), Cedric Klapisch (“Paris,” starring Juliette Binoche and Romain Duris), Jean-Paul Salome (“Female Agents”) and Florent-Emilio Siri (“Intimate Enemies”), as well as actors Fanny Ardant, Sophie Marceau, Carole Bouquet, Andre Dussollier, Benoit Magimel and Jean Dujardin.

The festival’s cultural outreach — a stated aim of fest sponsor Franco-American Cultural Fund and festival programmer-director Francois Truffart — is being expanded this year to include an educational program for 1,000 high schoolers who are studying French; they will be shown Boon’s film in an exclusive daytime screening.

Also added to this year’s lineup is After 10, a latenight series devoted to mature themes; the Film Noir series; and a featured documentary, “Her Name Is Sabine,” the directorial debut of actress Sandrine Bonnaire, who chronicles her relationship with her autistic sister.

The fest will also continue its Happy Hour Talks, a panel series introduced last year in association with Variety, with such topics as “Meet the Delegation,” “New Audiences for Foreign Films” and “The Art of the Remake” on tap.

“With the expanding globalization of the film industry,” said Truffart, City of Lights, City of Angels “becomes more relevant each year, which is reflected in the increasing participation of U.S. distributors.”

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