Why We Hope NaFF Smash The Intouchables Does Well at Green Hills

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The Intouchables, the French smash that made more than $300 million before it even opened in the U.S., won the audience award at this year's Nashville Film Festival with one of the highest scores in the fest's history — something like a 4.9 out of a possible 5. It's a sweet, sentimental story (loosely inspired by real events) about a wealthy quadriplegic (Francois Cluzet) and his friendship with the Muslim immigrant (Omar Sy) who becomes his caretaker. People loved it. The fest's second screening was even more crowded than the first.

I didn't enjoy The Intouchables much — the scene where Sy teaches a roomful of uptight white folks to shake their booties to Earth Wind & Fire signaled it was exactly the kind of movie people kept telling me it wasn't — but I hope for its success when it opens at Green Hills today. Its U.S. distributor, The Weinstein Company, did something smart I'd love to see others copy: It made the movie available to film fests in the heartland, where audiences were more likely to embrace it.

If distributors really want to broaden audiences for foreign films, that's a good way to grow them — by generating word of mouth in smaller but notable markets, instead of major cities logjammed with product. The national ads trumpeting the NaFF's audience award can't hurt next year's selections if it does well. Bon chance, Les Intouchables!

Also opening today: the Bollywood action comedy Rowdy Rathore, with a dual role for Akshay Kumar (at Hollywood 27); and the American Indian lacrosse family drama Crooked Arrows. Continuing: Diane Keaton in Lawrence Kasdan's missing-dog drama Darling Companion, and Andy Garcia in the Mexican period epic For Greater Glory.

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