The 2016 French Film Festival began with a bang at Alliance Francaise with opening film Les Cowboys. Before the film, we were also treated to a view of the Gaumont Exhibition happening simultaneously, which exhibited iconic film posters of the past 120 years of French cinema.
Les Cowboys is a modern Western that takes its influence from John Ford’s 1956 film The Searchers, with a similar plot involving cowboys searching for a missing family member. In the case of Les Cowboys, Alain (Francois Damiens) and Kid (Finnegan Oldfield) search for their runaway daughter as she disappears in the midst of a festival in a small prairie town east of France.
The journey takes the dynamic father-son duo far from France and deep into the Middle East, less Arabian nights than it is soul searching, desperate road trip with no end in sight. Bidegain captures the emotions of the actors perfectly, able to effectively portray the expressions of pain, loss and fear as the epic journey presses on, seemingly endless.
In a particularly powerful scene, the film shifts focus to another fair, where Kid’s partner, a hijab-donning Muslim woman rides a horse. When she gets off though, a group of people begin to ask her to take off the hijab, strongly recalling the recent French ban on niqabs and burqas, and one cannot help but be reminded of the ridiculousness of the ban and the oppression of the right to express one’s religion via their dressing.
Expertly weaving together post 9/11 Islamophobia, Middle Eastern violence and the ever important reliance on family, Bidegain has crafted a serious film that not only revels in its source material, but breathes new life into it, making it urgently present, and with some starkly beautiful shots of the landscape spanning both France and the Middle East. Over the course of the film, the audience is emotionally bonded to Alain and Kid’s mission, and will not be disappointed by the final reunion, a mix of relief and love signified by a unanimous sigh from the cinema, happy for our heroes.
We managed to get a few words in with Finnegan Oldfield who plays Kid, and was present at the screening. On playing the role and portraying a child forced to rapidly shift into adulthood, Oldfield said: “Yes it was a challenge, but it was doable under the strong direction of Thomas Bidegain and great acting from Francois Damiens.”
As always, the French Film Festival is your one stop shop for quality French Cinema. With such a fantastic opening film, the rest of the fest is also set to sizzle with electricity, and you’ll be kicking yourself for missing a moment of it.