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CULTURE

French film producer tipped for Oscars success

Philippe Rousselet, a French movie producer, is a favourite to win the 'best picture' award at the Oscars on Sunday for his film CODA. It tells the touching story of a deaf family living in America and was adapted from a French film.

French producer Philippe Rousselet is a favourite to win the 'best picture' Oscar for his film CODA.
French producer Philippe Rousselet is a favourite to win the 'best picture' Oscar for his film CODA. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

CODA producer Philippe Rousselet is pleased, but not surprised, that his heartwarming drama about a deaf family is now a hot favorite for best picture at the Oscars on Sunday.

He always knew the story was good — so good he made it twice.

La Famille Belier was a formidably successful comedy, as we like them in France,” Rousselet told AFP, referring to the original on which the Apple TV+ hit is based.

“With CODA, (director) Sian Heder has made it an American film as Americans like them — more of a dramatic comedy.

“I think both films took the best of what we know how to do in each country.”

By domestic French standards, La Famille Belier (The Belier Family) was a hit, with three million people seeing it in theaters after its release in late 2014.

CODA (an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults) had only a limited theatrical run and then went straight to streaming, where it has been an audience hit that has also pleased critics.

Both movies follow the fortunes of a high school teen as she juggles her musical ambitions with her family’s dependence on her to communicate with the hearing world.

In both versions, much of the dialogue is done in sign language.

To make CODA, Emilia Jones, who plays teenager Ruby, and writer-director Heder both learned to sign.

But while La Famille Belier featured hearing stars playing deaf characters, the equivalent roles in CODA went to lesser-known actors who are deaf — the exception being past Oscar winner Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God, The West Wing).

“French films are largely financed by television. To make La Famille Belier, we had to have known and recognised actors,” explains Rousselet.

Ten years later, “it was obvious to us that we had to make CODA with deaf actors.”

Reputation

CODA has gathered a head of steam in recent weeks, its reputation swelling as it picked up awards from the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild of America and the BAFTAs.

It is now neck-and-neck in most predictions for the top Oscars prize of best picture with The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion’s brooding Western about toxic masculinity.

Adding to its momentum is that Troy Kotsur seems to be a shoo-in for best supporting actor honors, for his funny and moving portrayal of Ruby’s eccentric father.

Like its predecessor, CODA was made relatively cheaply, its $15 million budget less than a tenth of the cost of special effects-laden blockbuster Dune — a fellow best picture nominee.

“It’s not really a question of budget; the story is unique and very strong,” says Rousselet.

“This film deserves to be where it is in this period in which we live. It’s an important film, a film that does good.”

And since the second time around is working out so well, the story looks like it’s going to get a third outing.

Rousselet is already working on a Broadway adaptation in the form of a musical, in partnership with a theater company composed of deaf actors.

And success on the New York stage won’t be a surprise to Rousselet either.

It’s all down to the content, he says.

“It touches people and brings them together with its human values.”

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CULTURE

16 of the best festivals and events in France this summer

From old rockers to classic cinema, fireworks to modern theatre, here are some of our favourite French summer festivals.

16 of the best festivals and events in France this summer

JUNE

Festival de Nîmes

Starting mid-June and running through to July 24th, the Festival de Nîmes has brought modern music to the famous Roman Arena. This year, Gorillaz, Deep Purple, Gladiator Live, Kiss, Sting, Black Eyed Peas, Stromae and Sexion D’Assaut are among the headliners.

Fête de la musique

You will scarcely be able to move for musicians in France on June 21st, as villages, towns and cities are alive with the sound of music, celebrating the sheer joy of live performances and the breadth and diversity of musical genres.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the annual national, nationwide midsummer’s night festival. At l’Olympia in Paris, for example, Angèle, Pomme, Franz Ferdinand, Benjamin Biolay and Parcels are all performing in a series of concerts that will be broadcast on France Inter.

Rétro C Trop 

For three days between Friday, June 24th, and Sunday, June 26th, at the appropriately aged Château de Tilloloy, Hauts-de-France, there’s the ‘festival of old rockers’, this year featuring sets by Alice Cooper, acoustic ska band Tryo, Status Quo, Simple Minds, Madness, OMD, The Undertones, and Les Insus – you may know them better as 80s hit-sters Telephone.

Joking aside, previous festivals have featured the likes of Sting, Stray Cats, Tears for Fears, and Scorpions – so they know actually do know how to rock out at the 17th-century chateau. And also how to pace themselves…

Nuits de Fourvière

From the beginning of June  through to July 30th, the spectacular Gallo-Roman theatre at Fourvière hosts 60 equally spectacular performances of theatre, dance, music, cirque. There could surely be no better venue to watch Midnight Oil on July 14th.

JULY

Z’accros d’ma rue, Nevers

Theatre, circus and music are in store at Les Z’accros d’ma rue in Nevers in July, as they have been since the opening event in 1999. Most of the shows are free

The La Rochelle Film Festival

Rugby fans have rediscovered La Rochelle this year, but cinema-lovers should not ignore the Charente-Maritime resort between July 1st and 10th, as it hosts its 50th film festival, which this year pays tribute to the legendary Alain Delon.

Some 21 films featuring the French actor with eyes of ice will be screened during the festival. There’s also a retrospective of the films of the 50s queen of Hollywood, Audrey Hepburn – including Roman Holiday, Funny Face, Sabrina, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Other highlights include a day of Brad Pitt films, five films from Bulgarian pioneer Binka Zhelyazkova – whose works were frequently banned in her home country, and a celebration of the centenary of the birth of Italian visionary Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Festival de Carcassonne

Deep Purple, Orelsan, Rag n Bone Man, John Legend, Sexion D’Assaut, Calogero, and Jack White are among the acts gracing the music, theatre, arts, dance, comedy and cinema festival in the historic city between July 5th and 31st. Comedian Gad Elmalah will also perform, and there are numerous free off-festival performances.

Pause Guitare

Julien Doré, Orelsan (again), Bob Sinclar and Mika headline the four-day Pause Guitare programme. The relatively little-known music festival that routinely punches above its weight, runs from July 6th to 10th in the World Heritage city of Albi, southwest France.

Festival d’Avignon

No rundown of summer events in France would be complete without mentioning the Festival d’Avignon, which runs from Thursday 7th to Tuesday 26th July.

Celebrated Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who’s currently banned from leaving his country, has been chosen to open the theatre festival. Whether he’ll actually be there remains to be seen, but the opening ceremony on July 7th kicks off three weeks of performances from some of the world’s leading stage performers across a range of disciplines.

Pyrotechnic Art Festival

Not satisfied with the bright lights of its Film Festival in May, Cannes turns on the lights again for its summer Pyrotechnic Art Festival, which runs from July 14th to August 24th. 

Nice Jazz Festival

Where would you find sultry chanteuse Melody Gardot, influential bassist Marcus Miller and punk’s grandad Iggy Pop on the same poster? The Nice jazz festival, which runs from July 15th to 19th. 

They’re not the only performers joining in the fun on the Riviera. Some 33 acts are taking part in the Festival proper, while several more are performing in the Off festival programme.

Fête nationale

July 14th marks France’s Fête nationale, known as Bastille Day in the Anglophone world, which is a public holiday. The big military parade is on the Champs-Elysée in Paris but most towns do something to mark the occasion, with concerts, parties and fireworks displays. 

AUGUST

MiMa 

MiMa is the International Festival of Puppet Art, held from August 4th to August 7th in the medieval town of Mirepoix, Ariège. The festival is open to young creators as well as artists who influence and update the recent history of puppet theatre, an inventive art with many faces. The line-up showcases a variety of techniques, with glove puppets, string puppets and marionettes portées.

Festival du Bout du Monde

The darkly named End of the World Festival takes place from August 5th to August 7th at Landaoudec Prairie on the Crozon Peninsula in Brittany, a few hundred yards from the wild Atlantic ocean. The wonderful Ballaké Sissoko is on the programme this year, as is the drum-and-trumpet fusion of Gallowstreet, as well as Julian Marley and Selah Sue.

Rock en Seine

Stromae, Rage Against the Machine, Arctic Monkeys, Jehnny Beth, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, London Grammar, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Crawlers, and Baby Queen are among the numerous acts lined up for this year’s annual and mostly family friendly – if you don’t mind Zack de la Rocha’s swearing – Rock en Seine festival at Domaine national de Saint-Cloud.

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