Lima is the only city I could live in Peru. Why? Because I love the cinema from all over the world. And Lima as the only city in Peru, which very often gives opportunities to see some very good cinema that does not come from Hollywood. Many embassies make showcase of cinema produced in their countries and right now there is a French movie festival sponsored by the French Embassy at PUCP Cine in San Isidro. This comes handy, as I have just finished part 3 of the amazing Pimsleur French course, which I listen to while I run. I get some practice in listening to spoken French by devouring French films for a couple of days.
Sadly, my wife and I were only able to attend to three films at the film festival, all which were VERY GOOD and highly recommended. A fourth film we saw on DVD.
How to see the films?
These films may not be easy to get hold of though. Watch out for the next French Movie Festivals near you and surely some of these will show. Most of them are NOT available on Netflix or Amazon Prime (UK Amazon Prime) right now, but they may be in a near future. If you find them there, go for it. If you are not a member yet, you get a 30 day Free Trial membership on either.
Netflix does not carry any of these titles in Peru, but this is possibly different in North America and Europe. The selection of French films on Netflix in Peru is less than a dozen.
Amazon Prime has one of them for streaming at a modest fee. If you are a regular shopper on Amazon you also enjoy the free two-day delivery if you sign up with Amazon Prime. I signed up for Prime just for the fast delivery so it could coincide with my visit in the US recently, but alas there is little use for Amazon Prime here in Peru. None of the free movies are available outside the US with my account. Grrrr!
Below follows a short synopsis of each film we attended, one film that we saw on DVD and finally three films that I am looking out for and hopefully will be able to get on DVD or streaming.
Aya from Yopocity – Aya de Yopougon.
My wife made the arrangements. I had no idea what we were going to see, so I was pleasantly surprised of being dropped into a cartoon placed on Ivory Coast in the 70s. Even if the cartoon was crude it gave a lot of flavor and touch of Africa. The African music accompanying the film was lively and reminiscent of Caribbean music. A funny touch was that the characters in the cartoon were watching television commercials showing real life humans.
The movie is based on the series of 6 comic album published between 2005 and 2010. They have all been translated into English. The series is one of the few works of African fiction in graphic novel form that has gained exposure globally.
Ok, the story is a bit lame, and quite stereotyped. But we have to remember that this is the 70s. I am sure Ivory Coast is different today. The film portrays a very macho society where there are not a whole lot of options for young girls like Aya and and her friends Adjoua y Bintou. Aya wants to study, while the other girls just like to party and fish for a well off, rich boyfriend and husband to be.
There are some in depth reviews on IMDB. In spite of the “mucho macho”, when you think of it not so remote from how Peru was not too long ago, we liked the film very much.
Serial (Bad) Weddings (2014) “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu?”
This film, which was opening of the festival, was extremely entertaining. A full house attended our screening in the middle of the week.
A conservative French Catholic couple Claude and Marie have 4 daughters, of which 3 are married to a Jew, a Muslim and a Chinese respectively. At first there is a lot of friction between the parents in-law and the spouses of the daughters. And there is also friction between the men themselves. Eventually they all become very good friends.
The fourth daughter is still unmarried and Claude and Marie hope she will marry a catholic, so the wedding will be in a church. But they are in for a surprise, in spite that the groom to be is catholic. The boyfriend is African from Ivory coast, and they just got engaged.
The story plays on racism, intolerance and the comic situations that arises. So while the film is a comedy, it is also one that shows that prejudice is more widespread than people realize.
We loved this film. Possibly our favorite among the ones I recount for here. It is a good chance this film hits the main cinemas. Here are some reviews on IMDB.
The third film we enjoyed at the film-festival was Tavernier’s comedy staged at the time before the invasion of Irak. A young talented man gets a contracted by the French Foreign Minister as speech-writer. The Foreign Minister seems to be on speed and could quite obviously be diagnosed ADD.
The description of the plot on IMDB does a good job.
Alexandre Taillard de Vorms is tall and impressive, a man with style, attractive to women. He also happens to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the land of enlightenment: France. With his silver mane and tanned, athletic body, he stalks the world stage, from the floor of the United Nations in New York to the powder keg of Oubanga. There, he calls on the powerful and invokes the mighty to bring peace, to calm the trigger-happy, and to cement his aura of Nobel Peace Prize winner-in-waiting.
Alexandre Taillard de Vorms is a force to be reckoned with, waging his own war backed up by the holy trinity of diplomatic concepts: legitimacy, lucidity and efficacy. He takes on American neo-cons, corrupt Russians and money-grabbing Chinese. Perhaps the world doesn’t deserve France’s magnanimousness, but his art would be wasted if just restricted to home turf.
Enter the young Arthur Vlaminck, graduate of the elite National School of Administration, who is hired as head of “language” at the foreign ministry. In other words, he is to write the minister’s speeches. But he also has to learn to deal with the sensibilities of the boss and his entourage, and find his way between the private secretary and the special advisers who stalk the corridors of the Quai d’Orsay – the ministry’s home – where stress, ambition and dirty dealing are the daily currency. But just as he thinks he can influence the fate of the world, everything seems threatened by the inertia of the technocrats.
But the trailer works even better. This is a funny movie, high speed and a bit surreal, sometimes even a bit Kafkaesque, but young Arthur eventually comes to the grips how things work and produces the perfect speech for his minister. The French Minister is available with Amazon Prime. In the UK only as dvd. But there is a full copy on YouTube in French.
La Familie Bélier
We got a DVD of a new French film, and being in the French movie mood, we watched it the other day. It is a lovely film about a deaf family, with only one hearing member – the daughter – who discovers she has the voice for singing.
In my point of view, even if it does not portray deafness perfectly, it still makes people more aware of the existence of the deaf community. Anything that can build bridges and attempts to do so is worthwhile. Like the comedy about racism above or films about homo-sexuality, like the one about Guillaume below, these films open people’s hearts and mind to multitude and diversity.
Other films at the festival we wanted to see, but missed.
There were many good films we did not get to see. Hopefully, they will be available sometime for streaming. Since these all are quite new and have had good success internationally, they may be coming to your theaters. Watch out for them.
Me, Myself and Mum / Les Garçons et Guillaume, à table !
French autobiographical coming of age comedy film written, directed by and starring Guillaume Gallienne. Based on his stage show of the same name, it follows Guillaume as a boy as he develops his own identity and his relationship with his mother. More on Wikipedia.
On My Way – Elle s’en va
Catherine Deneuve in a road movie. I would love to see this one.
Bettie (Deneuve) loves a married businessman who always told her he would divorce his wife in order to marry her. He indeed files for a divorce, but Bettie discovers that it is actually because he is also having another affair with another much-younger woman. At about the same time, the bank threatens to close down her restaurant.
When she goes out to run some errands, she impulsively decides to leave her former life behind. She takes her car and just keeps on driving. She discovers other parts of France and makes new friends in the process.
Oscar nominated film about the Jihadist occupation of Tibuktu in Mali. The trailer looks beautiful and is very inviting. There is an interesting article in the New York Times about the film.
Not far from the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, proud cattle herder Kidane lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima, his daughter Toya, and Issan, their twelve-year-old shepherd. In town, the people suffer, powerless, from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists determined to control their faith. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. The women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family are being spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu. But their destiny changes abruptly.
Have you seen any of these films? What did you think? Which was your latest French film?