Since its creation in 1996 by the Franco-American Cultural Fund, the French film festival COLCOA has cultivated a loyal following.
"Every year we have people coming from all parts of the country," said Francois Truffart, executive producer and artistic director of the festival, which opens its 19th edition Monday at the Directors Guild of America.
Truffart estimates this year's festival will attract more than 20,000 Francophiles. "People go on vacation to come to the festival, which is amazing to me," he said.
The festival has added a ninth day of programming and will screen a record 68 feature films, including three world premieres, seven international premieres, 14 North America or U.S. premieres and 16 West Coast premieres as well as 20 shorts.
And for the first time, COLCOA will have a television element. The TV fare screening in competition includes three French series — "Chefs," "Spiral" and "Templeton" — as well as the TV movie "White Soldier."
"There was a time in France where people considered cinema as art and television as something minor," said Truffart. "It has changed a lot because like in the U.S. producers, filmmakers, writers work in cinema and television at the same time. It became obvious that we had to promote this part of our creativity."
The festival opens with the North American premiere of the psychological thriller "A Perfect Man," co-written and directed by Yann Gozlan and featuring the rising star Pierre Niney, who won a César this year for the title role in "Yves Saint Laurent." The director and Niney will attend the screening.
"We always want to introduce new talent," said Truffart. Eight years ago, the festival introduced American audiences to Marion Cotillard when she appeared in "La Vie En Rose." She went on to win the lead actress Oscar as singer Edith Piaf.
The festival will feature films from such veteran directors as Jean Becker ("Get Well Soon"), Patrice Leconte ("Do Not Disturb!"), André Téchiné ("In the Name of My Daughter") and Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache ("Samba"), as well as representatives of the new generation of directors such as Jean-Paul Rouve ("Memories") and Thomas Cailley ("Love at First Fight").
This year's Focus on a Filmmaker director is Oscar-winning Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), who will be in conversation after the screening of his 2006 comedy "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" and before his latest film, "The Search."
Though female directors are underrepresented in Hollywood, that isn't the case so much in France.
"We have a lot of women filmmakers in France," said Truffaut. "It is a reality that we want to show to the film industry here."
Among the female filmmakers represented at the festival are Anne Fontaine ("Gemma Bovery"), Alix Delaporte ("The Last Hammer Blow") and Sabrina Van Tassel ("Silenced Walls").
Delaporte first came to the festival with her 2010 debut film, "Angela and Tony," and is returning with "Last Hammer Blow," which opened last month in France. The plot revolves around a young boy trying to connect with the orchestra conductor father he has never met. Besides doing a Q&A after the screening, she and Fontaine will conduct a master class for college students.
"It's a very special audience," said Delaporte. "It's such an honor to come."
The festival may be the only chance to see this intimate family drama in the U.S. Though many films in the festival have distribution, neither of Delaporte's two films have been picked up by U.S. distributors. Delaporte noted that she was told "Last Hammer Blow" was "too arty."
The festival also has documentaries, including "Of Men and War." Directed by Laurent Bècue-Renard, "Of Men and War," which is in English, revolves around a dozen Iraq war veterans who are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder in California. The film is the second in the director's "Genealogy of Wrath" trilogy chronicling the effects of war.
"Before shooting any images I spent five years on a daily basis sitting with the [veterans] in their sessions," said Bècue-Renard, who will be making his first appearance at the festival. "I have a kind of moral contract with each and everyone of them saying that I will be here until they are done talking."
COLCOA French Film Festival
Directors Guild Theater Complex
7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
Through April 28
General admission $12; several screenings are free