Free Men

5 films to watch at Cinefranco 2012

Running from Friday, March 23 to Sunday, April 1, Cinefranco takes over TIFF Bell Lightbox screens for its 2012 edition. The longstanding French language film festival is an opportunity to practice your français and catch recent films from Ontario, Quebec, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Morocco.

Cinefranco has a hefty lineup, and with 28 features, 2 documentaries and 11 shorts, there's something on the menu for everyone. Need some help narrowing it down? After screening this year's picks, here are five of my favourites.

Free Men (Les Hommes libres)

There have been plenty of fantastic films set in Nazi-occupied France (Army of Shadows, Inglourious Basterds). And Free Men is certainly a part of this club. It's fairly conventional in terms of plotline for a historical drama, but the story is set apart by its concern with Muslim North African immigrants involved in the French Resistance, a little-known angle in the history of the movement. It also stands out with Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) in the lead, as an Algerian black market trader-turned-freedom fighter (with heartthrob-like good looks).

The Disintegration (La Désintégration)

On the outside, The Disintegration is an account of how three young men from a housing bloc get indoctrinated by the charismatic leader of a terrorist cell. On the inside, the tension builds as one of the characters struggles to find a good internship to complete his studies. There are moments in the film where you feel his frustration, you realize that those feelings are being nurtured and manipulated, and you find yourself understanding how he takes a bad turn. Chilling.

La Sacrée

In which a conman well on his way to marrying a wealthy woman hits a roadblock: his low sperm count. With a fiancée intent on getting pregnant before the wedding, François is motivated to track down La Sacrée, a beer rumoured to have once upon a time increased fertility in his hometown. Desperate to get his hands on the secret recipe, he cooks up a plan start up a micro-brewery in the village and get everyone involved. Simple and enjoyable, Dominic Desjardins' La Sacrée is Cinéfranco's opening night film and the first ever Franco-Ontarian comedy.

My Worst Nightmare (Mon Pire cauchemar)

Turns out the 'worst nightmare' the title refers to is actually just an unlikely hookup and that this film is a rom-com romp from Paris. The most notable element here though is the truly mismatched leads, a boisterous jack-of-all-trades played by Benoît Poelvoorde (Man Bites Dog) and an icy gallery director played by Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher).

The First Man (Le Premier homme)

Adapted from the last unfinished novel by Albert Camus, The First Man follows a writer born to French parents on a visit to his homeland, Algeria. It's 1957 and there are political tensions in the country between some wanting to remain a part of France, and others wanting independence. The visit inspires memories of his childhood, and the story of his surprisingly humble upbringing is told through flashbacks set in the colonial period. The film picked up the FIPRESCI (Critics) Prize at TIFF.

Cinéfranco screens new French Cinema from Friday, March 23 to Sunday, April 1, 2012 @ TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tickets $10/$12, Festival Pass $99 available online or at the TIFF box office, 350 King Street West.

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