Film Series

Coming of Age in French Film

Mondays at 7pm; February 11, 18 and 25

Images Cinema

Titled Transitions: Coming of Age in French and Francophone Adolescent Film, this year's Williams College French Film Festival offers three films of personal growth and change.

Admission is free and open to all. All films will be presented in French with English subtitles.

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The Man by the Shore

Starring: Jennifer Zubar, Toto Bissainthe, Jean-Michel Martial

Set in Haiti in the early '60s during the outset of Francois Duvalier's reign of terror and ineptitude, The Man by the Shore (L'homme surle quais), the third feature written and directed by acclaimed international Raoul Peck relates the dreamlike yet tension-filled remembrances of Sarah, then eight years old. Her father, an ineffectual military officer, has fled the country with his wife, leaving Sarah and her two sisters in the care of their grandmother. Sarah's hometown is now controlled by Janvier, the ruthless leader of the local militia, and the three sisters spend much of their time hiding in their grandmother's attic while she tries to find a way to get them safely out of Haiti.

The semiautobiographical storytelling by the Haitian-born, Zaire-reared Peck has an authentic feel to it, from the keenly observant child's point of view to the pastel-colored buildings fronting the streets that incongruously evoke tropical cheerfulness. Understated yet forceful, it personalizes universal themes of free will versus oppression without resorting to political rhetoric, making one girl's experience of a brutal time bracingly immediate.

Presented on our Main Screen

  • Director: Raoul Peck
  • Runtime: 1 hour 46 minutes
  • Genre: Drama

“★★★★! A touching portrait of disturbed childhood mixed with stern political polemic. This is a gripping, beautifully composed and acted treatment of a terrifying era.”

– Empire

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Tomboy

Starring: Zoé Héran, Malonn Lévana, Sophie Cattani, Mathieu Demy, Jeanne Disson

Named one of the top five LGBTQ films of the 21st century by IndieWire, this award-winning film tells the story of 10-year-old Laure, played by the amazing Zoe Heran, who moves to the suburbs and decides to pass as a boy amongst the pack of neighborhood kids. As "Mikael” she catches the attention of leader of the pack Lisa, who becomes smitten with her. At home with her parents and younger sister Jeanne, she is Laure; while hanging out with her new pals and girlfriend, she is Mikael. Finding resourceful ways to hide her true self, Laure takes advantage of her new identity, as if the end of the summer would never reveal her unsettling secret.

Writer-director Céline Sciamma brings a light and charming touch to this contemporary coming-of-age story which deftly explores relationships between children and their peers; between children and their parents; and the even more complicated relationship between one’s heart and one’s body.

Preceded by the short film Mother(s)/Maman(s), directed by Maïmouna Doucouré

Presented on our Main Screen

  • Director: Céline Sciamma
  • Rating: NR
  • Runtime: 1 hour 22 minutes
  • Genre: Drama

“Moving. Sciamma deserves great praise for what she has accomplished with a simple film addressing a complex subject."”

– Toronto Star

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Polina

Starring: Anastasia Shevtsova, Niels Schneider, Juliette Binoche, Jérémie Bélingard, Aleksei Guskov

A gripping insider’s look at the world of ballet and contemporary dance, this is the story of a young Russian ballerina whose lifelong dream of joining the Bolshoi Ballet is derailed when she discovers modern dance. Beautifully capturing the sacrifices, competition, and physical pain of the dance world, as well as the thrill of stepping on stage, Polina is also, most importantly, a coming of age story, the tale of a young woman forging an artist’s path by learning to look at the world in her own way.

The first feature by leading French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, written and directed in tandem with documentarian Valérie Müller, Polina mixes professional actors such as Academy Award-winner Juliette Binoche with leading dancers such as Anastasia Shevtsova, a nineteen-year-old ballerina from Saint Petersburg who learned French to play the titular part, and Jérémie Bélingard, a former danseur étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet. Together, the filmmakers and actors pull off the rare feat of telling a fictional story that feels documentary in its detail and sweepingly romantic in its heart.

Presented on our Main Screen

  • Director: Valérie Müller, Angelin Preljocaj
  • Rating: NR
  • Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes
  • Genre: Drama

“The creative process is always an elusive thing for filmmakers to capture, but amid all the startling visuals and the splendid acting, Polina rises, gloriously, to the challenge.”

– Wall Street Journal

This festival is made possible with the generous support of the Williams Department of Romance Languages and the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.