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‘Rock ’N Roll,’ ‘Ava,’ ‘Into the Forest’ Compete at 2018 MyFrenchFilmFestival

Online French film fest, a showcase for emerging French talent, launches Jan. 19

PARIS — Guillaume Canet’s mid-life crisis faux documentary “Rock ’N Roll,” Léa Mysius’ “Ava,” a coming-of-age drama-thriller, and Gilles Marchand’s eiree family psycho-thriller “Into the Forest” are among 10 features competing at the 8th MyFrenchFilmFestival.

This year’s edition runs online from Jan. 19 through Feb. 19.

Launched in 2011 by French film promotion org UniFrance to target a primarily young millennial audience – more than half MFFF’s viewers are under 40 – MFFF focuses primarily on emerging directorial talent from France: There is also a large emphasis on short films from almost inevitably little or unknown young directors.

That said, the most common characteristic of the movies presented Tuesday morning in Paris by UniFrance president Serge Toubiana and managing director Isabelle Giordano is their robust diversity.

“We want to show young French cinema in all its diversity,” said Simon Helloco, MFFF co-director with Quentin Deleau.

MyFrenchFilmFestival is screening to an ever-wider audience. earning 560,000 film views in 2015, but 6.4 million in 2016 and 6.7 million last year as distribution channels grew. In 2018, 50 VOD platforms, including iTunes (accessible in over 90 territories), Amazon, Mubi and Google Play will screen the movies carried by MFFF.  The festival will no longer be accessible in China because of the censorship issues, but will be made available in South Korea for the first time, Giordano said at the MFFF presentation.

Right holders will receive about €15,000 ($17,700) in revenues from each movie playing on MyFrenchFilmFestival, she added.

“Undeniably, the festival gives a significant visibility to the shorts’ directors. Not a lot of young directors can say that their short film has been watched more than 500,000 times,” Helloco said.

He added: “Sometimes, some feature films are even watched more on MyFrenchFilmFestival than in theaters. It gives a good opportunity for a film to be seen after its theatrical release.”

Co-starring Marion Cotillard as his comically method actress partner, “Rock ’N Roll” weighs in as a fictional but increasingly outrageous self-portrait of actor-director Canet (“Tell No One,” “Little White Lies”), chronicling his mother of all male mid-life meltdowns.

Also a pained coming-of-age drama, “Into the Forest” follows a small but excruciatingly sensitive French son who is carted off to the wilds of Sweden – endless horizons of pine forests and lakes – by his estranged and deranged father.

A bold – visually, sexually – coming of age tale from ex-Femis film school student Léa Mysius, which she also wrote, “Ava” charts one 13-year-old girl’s headlong rush to experience love, sex and teenage rebellion before she goes blind.

CREDIT: MyFrenchFilmFestival

Following in the footsteps of 2017’s Pablo Trapero and 2016’s Nicolás Winding Refn, Paolo Sorrentino, an Academy Award winner for “The Great Beauty,” will serve as MFFF jury president. Jury members take in directors Kim Chapiron, Nabil Ayouch, Julia Ducournau and Brilliante Mendoza.

“They are all auteurs, artists, contemporary creators often also with a foot in series and Virtual Reality,” Toubiana said.

12 of the 14 directors of the 10 MFFF competition movies are first or second-time feature helmers. Of possibly standout debuts beyond “Ava,” “Willy the Ist” is a directorial four-hander from twenty-something Luc Besson Ecole de la Cité alums which plays like “Delépine and Kervern meet the Dardenne brothers,” Helloco said. The belated coming of age story turns on Willy, 50, barrel-bodied, maladjusted, sheltered, who reacts to his twin brother’s suicide by finally abandoning his parents’ home to set up on his own. He soon falls victim to local bullies.

Directed by Mohamed Bourokba and Ekoué Labitey, best known as French rappers Hamé and Eboué, “Paris Prestige” – a “James Gray movie in Pigalle,” said Helleco – stars Reda Kateb (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “Django”) as an ex-con who attempts to turn his brother’s down-at-heel bar into a hot nightclub for high-rollers and deep-pocketed tourists.

When it comes to shorts, MFFF simply selects the 10 top-of-their class majority-French productions made in the two years prior to the Festival, Helloco said.

Among shorts, standouts may include “Chasse Royal,” about a troubled young girl cast in a film, “The Death, Dad and Son,” a stop-motion story about Death’s ambitious son, and “No Drowning,” a picturesque look at a coin-operated society. MyFrench FilmFestival will also feature the world premiere of “The Stroke,” a musically playful look at OCD from Morgane Polanski who first came out from under her father’s large shadow as a model and actress, and just last year made her short film directorial debut. “The Stroke” is her second film.

In terms of festival profile and overseas sales, MyFrenchFilmFestival films vary widely. Some – “Rock ’N Roll,” “Ava” – have clocked up substantial distribution deals. (Movies still under distribution deals in territories are naturally geo-blocked).

Stephan Streker’s Belgian feature competition entry, “A Wedding,” about a spirited Pakistani girl (Lina El Arabi, outstanding) grating at an arranged marriage, played Toronto and Rome, and won at Angoulême and Namur in France.

Starring the often-underrated Virginie Efira (“Second Chance”) as a hot-shot divorced lawyer put through the ringer – professionally, romantically – Justine Triet’s “In Bed With Victoria” opened Cannes’ 2016 Critics’ Week.

Most of 2018’s field of short films in competition are reaching the end of award-winning festival runs. “Birth of a Leader” earned writer-director Antoine de Bary both the Canal Plus Award and the Small Golden Rail at Cannes; “The Summer Movie” took home the Grand Prix at 2017’s Clermont-Ferrand Festival, one of the most prestigious short film festivals in the world.

Bucking the cliché of French movies as rarefied high art films, the only reason why any of the MFFF feature this year would be classed as straight art-house outside France is their language. Most mix mainstream, genre and arthouse tropes, a melange which may appeal more to MFFF’s targeted millennial audiences.

Canet’s “Rock ’N Roll” has stars, an empathetic lead, but pushes an ever more radical narrative from the pathetic into the challengingly grotesque.

“Into the Forest” is a genre movie that resolves the young son’s competing love for and fear of his father, hinted at in the film’s opening scene, not so much by an action finale as a climactic touching sequence of genre-tinged fantasy seen through the young son’s eyes.

“In Bed with Victoria” was “what is pretty much the closest thing French cinema will produce to a Hollywood-style romantic comedy this year,” Variety’s Peter Debruge wrote in a 2016 review. Yet some scenes – such as a monkey and dog being called as key witnesses in the film’s central trial – are plain cooky-weird.

Among features, MyFrenchFilmFestival is rounded up by three more or less mainstream outings: Antonin Peretjatko’s “Struggle for Life,” a madcap Amazon-set satirical adventure included in Cahiers du Cinéma’s Top 10 movies worldwide for 2016; “Crash Test Aglae,” the debut feature of Eric Gravel, a comedic all-women road movie, set between France and India; and Olivier Babinet’s doc-feature “Swagger,” about a group of young adolescents growing up in France. But, as Helloco observed, all these features say something: About the encroachment of an absurd civilization in the Amazon; outsourcing; and one of France’s grimmest council housing projects.

This melange of style or film type, often even in the one and same sequences, is likely to grow.

“Last year, Nicolas Winding Refn said France had invented cinema. I think we could say that MyFrenchFilmFestival, being the first online film festival, is inventing the future of cinema,” said Giordano. In its films’ style, it is also show the future as well.

Jamie Lang contributed to this article

8TH MYFRENCHFILM FESTIVAL, JAN. 19 – FEB. 19, 2018 

(All films from France unless otherwise noted)

COMPETITION 

FEATURE FILMS

“A Wedding,” (Stephan Streker, Belgium)

“Ava,” (Léa Mysius)

“Crash Test Aglaé,” (Eric Gravel)

“In Bed with Victoria,” (Justine Triet)

“Into the Forest,” (Gilles Marchand)

“Paris Prestige,” (Hamé, Ekoué)

“Rock’n Roll,” (Guillaume Canet)

“Struggle for Life,” (Antonin Peretjatko)

“Swagger,” (Olivier Babinet)

“Willy the 1st,” (Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma, Marielle Gautier, Hugo P. Thomas)

SHORTS

“Birth of a Leader,” (Antoine de Bary)

“Chasse Royale,” (Romane Guéret, Lise Akoka)

“Delectable You,” (Axel Courtière)

“Lazare,” (Tristan Lhomme)

“Long Live the Emperor,” (Aude Léa Rapin)

“No Drowning,” (Mélanie Laleu)

“Please Love Me Forever,” (Holy Fatma)

“The Death, Dad and Son,” (Winshluss, Denis Walgenwitz)

“The Screenwriter,” (François Paquay, Belgium)

“The Summer Movie,” (Emmanuel Marre)

OUT OF COMPETITION

FEATURES

“Before Summer Ends,” (Maryam Goormaghtigh, Switzerland)

“1:54,” (Yan England, Canada)

“The Last Metro,” (François Truffaut)

“Man Bites Dog,” (Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde, Belgium)

SHORTS

“A Taste of Vietnam,” (Pier-Luc Latulippe)

“A Summer Dress,” (François Ozon)

CREDIT: MyFrenchFilmFestival

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