City of Lights, City of Angels: Milestones in Franco-American Cooperation

April 20, 2016

Monday night the MPA helped celebrate the 20th anniversary of LA’s fabulous French film festival, and with it the 20th anniversary of the Franco-American Cultural Fund.

The theater at the Directors Guild of America was packed for the birthday of the COLCOA (“City of Lights, City of Angels”) festival and the North American premiere of Chocolat, with its star Omar Sy and director Roschdy Zem in attendance.

In brief remarks before the film, I recalled that this isn’t the only milestone of Franco-American cooperation that we will mark this week.

In fact, it was exactly one hundred years ago this week, on the 20th of April 1916, that a group of American pilots broke the official neutrality of their government, taking to the skies of the French Republic.  The Escadrille 124 came to be known as the Lafayette Escadrille, honoring with its name the earlier French role in the American Revolution.

One of the Americans who flew for France in the Great War was William “Wild Bill” Wellman, who went on to direct several films about the Lafayette Escadrille, of more than 80 he worked on over a prolific career that earned him many honors, including a lifetime achievement award from the DGA.

The years after World War I saw a rapid deepening of the relationship between French and American Cinema, including, for example, the 1931 deal between Marcel Pagnol and Paramount France to distribute Marius, which is screening at this year’s festival.

This history reminds us that culture and freedom are inextricably linked in the Franco-American partnership, and makes the MPA proud of the small part we play in strengthening the bonds of Franco-American cultural collaboration.  Jack Valenti was proud of this partnership in his time. Senator Chris Dodd is proud of it today.  And we’re all eager to see what it brings tomorrow.