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Hollywood's French film showcase gets high-tech

LOS ANGELES, April 5, 2017 (BSS/AFP) - The world's largest festival of French film hits Hollywood this month with an innovative line-up embracing the latest technology to showcase the best of the country's filmmaking talent.

COLCOA is offering a record 82 films, television series and shorts, many never seen before in the United States, as well as a handful of international premieres and, for the first time, a web series segment.

There will also be a new "virtual reality corner," said executive producer Francois Truffart, offering an ever more diverse array of formats for enjoying French production.

"While entertainment is still the key word for the program, with a balanced mix of comedies and dramas, several topical issues will cut across all the programs this year, including the environment, discrimination and racism, terrorism, as well as the role of artists and women in society," said Truffart.

COLCOA is nothing if not glamorous and big international names once again sprinkle stardust on the festival in contemporary movies and special screenings of some golden oldies.

The nine-day festival at the Directors Guild of America theater complex in Los Angeles opens on April 24 with the North American premiere of Oscar-winning winning filmmaker Claude Lelouch's "Everyone's Life."

Celebrating a half-decade of cinema, the movie features a high-profile cast of 50 French actors, including Johnny Hallyday -- often described as "France's Elvis" -- Christophe Lambert, Beatrice Dalle and Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin.

- Ecstatic ode -

Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient," "Ghost in the Shell") stars in "Polina," a love-letter to the world of ballet, and "Slack Bay," Bruno Dumont's savage comedy of manners about France's class divide.

Fans will also be able to see her iconic turn in Leos Carax's ecstatic ode to doomed romance, "The Lovers on the Bridge" (1991).

Elsewhere, Omar Sy ("Jurassic World," "Inferno") tackles the ups and downs of fatherhood in the North American premiere of "Two is a Family," a remake of the 2013 Mexican smash "Instructions Not Included."

The line-up features new work from established filmmakers including Marco Bellocchio ("Sweet Dreams"), Nicolas Boukhrief ("The Confession"), Philippe Lachaud ("Alibi.com") and Dany Boon ("R.A.I.D. Special Unit").

There are also newcomers like Nicolas Bedos ("Mr and Mrs Adelman"), Morgan Simon ("Taste the Ink)" and Emmanuel Courcol ("Ceasefire"), and appearances of French stars such as Patrick Bruel and Lambert Wilson.

With the French presidential election entering the final stretch and the US still reeling from the rise of Donald Trump, the political flavor of many entrants should resonate on both sides of the Atlantic.

These include the three-part documentary "Why Do They Hate Us?," which takes an unflinching look at racism in France from the perspective of Arab, black and Jewish filmmakers.

In "Nadia," Swiss filmmaker Lea Fazier departs from her comedy wheelhouse to look at the growing problem of personal indebtedness through the fictional portrayal of a compulsive shopaholic.

- New generation -

Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar's "Heaven Will Wait" tells the disturbing stories of two middle-class teenage girls who fall prey to recruiters from the Islamic State group.

Meanwhile, actress Benedicte Delmas' directing debut "Plessis' Girls" sheds light on a little-known chapter of the struggle for women's rights in France and is one of a number of entries dealing with gender politics.

Alongside the movies, a bigger-than-ever television competition features 11 international and domestic premieres.

Among the highlights is the premiere outside France of the second season of "Call My Agent," a comedy about the madcap world of talent agents which proved to be the country's most popular series of 2015.

"Baron Noir," about an ambitious political operator with eyes on becoming the next head of the Socialist Party, gets its North American bow.

"Midnight Sun," from Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, the creative duo behind "The Bridge" and co-directors of "Underworld: Awakening," brings some welcome Nordic noir to the proceedings.

Some 70 films and television shows are competing for a slew of honors, including the audience award, best documentary, best TV movie, critics award and critics special prize.

The work of Oscar-winning "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle, whose father is French, will be highlighted and there will be an homage to the legendary filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville.

Reflecting the rise of a new generation of indie and studio producers and filmmakers who have made the internet a format in its own right, COLCOA's web series section offers six productions ranging from documentaries to fantasy, drama and comedy.