In 2015, one year shy of the Colcoa French Film Festival’s 20th anniversary, festival executive producer and artistic director Francois Truffart decided to join the quiet revolution sweeping film festivals across the globe and bring television into the fold.
Toronto, Sundance and SXSW are among the major festival players who have all added television selections to their lineups in the past five years, a move spurred by cinematic, serial hits including “True Detective” and “Breaking Bad” that have captivated audiences and shattered preconceptions about the boundaries between TV and film. Truffart, who has led programming at Colcoa since 2004, was eager to prove to American audiences that on the French small screen, the content was equally intriguing.
“It’s very important
for the me that the audience understand that television is not something that is under cinema,” says Truffart. “For us, it has the same quality and the same value. At the same time, we wanted to make a distinction between the two competitions.”
The competition encompasses both made-for-television films and serial dramas and is presented in association with TV France Intl. and TitraFilm. Truffart says his decision was made in large part due to the growth of French programs being acquired for the U.S. market, or developed and co-produced between France and the U.S.
Among the selections this year is the world premiere of the second season of “Call My Agent,” a talent-agency-set comedy from French helmer Laurent Tirard; the North American premiere of “Baron Noir,” a high-budget political thriller from veteran TV scribe Jean-Baptiste Delafon and politician-turned-writer Eric Benzekri, helmed by award-winning Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri; the North American premiere of high-concept thriller “Midnight Sun” from Mans Marlind & Bjorn Stein about a French police officer investigating a brutal murder in a remote Swedish mining community; and the North American premiere of “The Frozen Dead,” an intense thriller in which
a small town in the French Pyrenees is caught up in the unraveling of a dark mystery.
“French series today are much more international,” Truffart says. “Some of them are available on platforms like Netflix, and Netflix is also producing French series for an international market, so everything is global and connected now. Colcoa for us is really a platform to launch new series at the festival.”
Festival audiences have enthusiastically received the addition of television into the lineup. The TV dramas are particularly popular, Truffart says, with audiences often remarking that they see no difference between these small-screen films and the features that play in the main competition.
Truffart spends the better part of a year selecting the content for Colcoa. “We want to show everything,” he says. “but we also have to make sure that what we select is appealing for American audiences. The script and the direction is very important to me, as is having a diverse slate, but above all, we have to be sure we are choosing programs that work for Americans as well.”