EVER since she could remember, Paula Bélier (Louane Emera) plays a requisite role to her family, not because she’s the eldest child but because there’s no one else to do it for them.

At 16, Paula is a typical teenager. She goes to high school, gets bored in between classes, shares secrets with her best friend and fidgets on infatuation.

Coping with adolescence is one thing. But Paula is not your normal girl at home. She attends to the family dairy farm, sells milk and cheese at the market and above all, painstakingly translates for her deaf parents and brother—an indispensable job which drains her energy almost every waking hour. As if that’s not enough, Paula’s father runs for mayor and her brother loses his virginity to Paula’s best friend.

One day, Paula discovers she can sing. Her music teacher, determined to shake her off from mediocrity, pushed her to audition for an esteemed singing competition in Paris. Her rendition of a Michel Sardou classic, Je Vole (I Am Flying) touched the judges all the more as she related the lyrics to her handicapped family in the audience. Paula gets in. A promising future is at stake. But what about her family? Paula has to decide.

Directed by Éric Lartigau, the 2014 French dramedy (drama and comedy) film La Famille Bélier was a highlight at this year’s French Film Festival in Cebu on June 23 and 24 at the Cinema 4 of the Ayala Center Cebu. The event has been celebrated for 20 years now in Manila, while Cebu adopted it some seven years ago.

“Domestic struggles, self-confidence and love are themes Filipinos can’t resist. Although delivered in a foreign language, French movies are more relatable to us. Rather than being a hassle, I think subtitles engage the audience to a deeper, more interactive immersion with the story,” said Martin Macalintal, audiovisual attache of the cooperation and cultural affairs section of the Embassy of France to the Philippines.

During the festival launch, Macalintal invited the public to the two-day screening of French movies to understand that France is not all about elite perception, wines and sophistication.

“What Filipinos generally miss out are the morals and life lessons that are reflected by French culture especially in their movies. We Filipinos think we’re very American in psyche but actually, our values are closer to France. We have to look beyond the barriers,” Macalintal encouraged.

A blend of drama, comedy, romance and thriller is served at Cebu’s French Film Festival. There’s something for everyone. Last Tuesday was the showing of exemplary titles—La Famille Bélier, Eden, Les Garcons et Guillaume a Table, Lulu Femme Nue and La Jalousie. The next batch that followed on Wednesday included La Prochaine Fois Je Viserais Le Coeur, Chante Ton BAC D’abord, Le Havre, L’amour est Crime Parfait and Hippocrate. All 10 movies were free of admission and came with English subtitles.

Macalintal underlined that film is one of the most efficient ways of communicating with a movie-loving society like Filipinos. Not only that, it projects cultural exchange but more importantly, it’s an extension to awaken the deeper sense of friendship between nations, thus increasing interests for the common good.

The French Film Festival was organized in Cebu by the Alliance Francaise de Cebu in partnership with the Embassy of France to the Philippines.