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CinéSchool’s Recommendations of French WWII Films for Young Cinephiles

Fanny's Journey - Menemsha Films

By Nathalie Charles & Jade Serieys

As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the Liberation of France, and Victory in World War II, discover CineSchool’s curated collection of films offering a poignant reminder of the importance of passing on the history of the Second World War to future generations.

These films provide a unique opportunity for families to explore this pivotal period in history through the lens of cinema, sparking meaningful conversations and fostering a deeper understanding of the human experience during wartime.

Belle and Sebastian © Film Movement

Belle and Sebastian (Belle et Sébastien) 
Directed by Nicolas Vanier, PG, 2013, 1h44, France, recommended for ages 10+ 

In 1943, in the French Alps, the orphan Sébastien lives in a small village with his grandfather César, who is a shepherd, and his aunt Angélina, who is a baker. Sébastien misses his mother and believes she has traveled to America. He expects to get a watch with a compass as a gift from her. The local Dr. Guillaume is a member of the French resistance that helps Jewish refugees flee to Switzerland and the German Lieutenant Peter and troop are hunting down the resistance. When sheep are found slaughtered, César and the other residents believe that a stray dog that has been abused by his owner is the responsible, and hunt it down. Sébastien finds the dog, gives the name Belle to her and they become friends. But the animal is considered a beast by the inhabitants.

Available on Hoopla | tubi | Kanopy | AmazonPrime | YouTube | AppleTV | Plex | Microsoft | GooglePlay | Roku Channel | Cineverse

War of the Buttons © Lions Gate Films

War of the Buttons (La Nouvelle guerre des boutons)
Directed by Christophe Barratier, PG-13, 2011, 1h49, recommended for ages 13+

War of the Buttons follows Lebrac, a pre-teen rebel in WWII-occupied France. Lebrac enjoys leading play “wars” between rival gangs of kids, but once he falls for a young Jewish girl in danger of being exposed by the Nazis, he must put aside petty conflicts to unite the gangs and protect his love. In doing so, Lebrac and the other children confront the very real war happening around them.

Available on Hoopla | GooglePlay | YouTube | Amazon Video

The Long Long Holidays © Les Armateurs / Blue Spirit Studio

The Long Long Holiday (Les Grandes grandes vacances)
By Delphine Maury and Olivier Vinuesa, 2015, 10 x 26 min., France, recommended for ages 8+

The Long Long Holiday recounts the daily life of a brother and sister who are left by their parents at their grandparents’ house near the Normandy coast for a few weeks at the beginning of World War II. As the war rumbles on, those weeks turn into five years. This series sheds new light on a unique historic event; an epic war; patriotic actions; and more, all through the eyes of two young city children, who know nothing of life in the country. Despite the war, they will experience wonderful adventures while exploring nature, making new friends, and even hanging out with farm animals.

Available on TV5Mondeplus (in French) | Amazon Video (in English)

Francofonia © Music Box Films

Francofonia (Francofonia, le Louvre sous l’Occupation)
By Alexander Sokurov, Documentary, 2015, 1h28, France, recommended for 15+

Set against the backdrop of the Louvre Museum’s history and artworks, director Alexander Sokurov applies his uniquely personal vision onto staged re-enactments and archives for this fascinating portrait of real-life characters Jacques Jaujard and Count Franziskus Wolff-Metternich, and their compulsory collaboration at the Louvre Museum under the Nazi Occupation. These two remarkable men – enemies then collaborators – share an alliance which would become the driving force behind the preservation of museum treasures.

Available on Tubi | YouTube | GooglePlay | Amazon Video | Fandango | AppleTV | XumoPlay | Kanopy | Hoopla

Goodbye Children © Janus Films

Goodbye Children (Au Revoir les enfants)
By Louis Malle, PG, 1987, 1h44, France-Allemagne-Italie, recommended for ages 12+

Au revoir les enfants tells a heartbreaking story of friendship and devastating loss concerning two boys living in Nazi-occupied France. At a provincial Catholic boarding school, the precocious youths enjoy true camaraderie—until a secret is revealed. Based on events from writer-director Malle’s own childhood, the film is a subtle, precisely observed tale of courage, cowardice, and tragic awakening.

Available on Max | Criterion Channel

The Children of Chance © France Channel

The Children of Chance (Les Enfants de la chance)
By Malik Chibane, PG-13, 2016, 1h32, France, recommended for ages 14+

In July 1942, a young Jewish boy, Maurice, narrowly escapes a round-up. With his leg broken, he’s taken to the hospital in Garches, where Dr. Daviel diagnoses the young boy with tuberculosis. For two years, he and eight other young boarders live with the hospital staff. Just as he starts feeling safe, Nazi troops suddenly show up and take over the hospital, determined to find hidden Jewish children…

Available on Amazon Video

A Bag of Marbles © Film Movement

A Bag of Marbles (Un Sac de billes)
Directed by Christian Duguay, 2017, 1h52, France-Canada, recommended for ages 12+

After the Nazis invade Paris, 10-year-old Joseph has little understanding of the peril surrounding him and thinks nothing of swapping his yellow star for a bag of marbles. His parents, however, realize that escape may be their only chance of survival, so they send Joseph and his older brother Maurice across dangerous territory into Vichy France in the hopes of finding safety.

Available on Hoopla | Amazon VideoChaiFlicks | Fandango 

Fanny’s Journey © Menemsha Films

Fanny’s Journey (Le Voyage de Fanny)
By Lola Doillon, 2016, 1h34, France-Belgium, recommended for ages 11+

Based on a true story, Fanny’s Journey is an incredible tale of bravery, strength, and survival, a story of a daring young girl who will stop at nothing and fear no one. In 1943, 13-year-old Fanny and her younger sisters were sent from their home in France to an Italian foster home for Jewish children. When the Nazis arrive in Italy, their caretakers desperately organize the departure of the children to Switzerland. When they are suddenly left on their own, these 11 children do the impossible and reach the Swiss border to freedom.

Available on Tubi | AmazonPrime | Hoopla |  YouTube | GooglePlay | AppleTV | Fandango | PlutoTV | ChaiFlicks | Kanopy | KinoNow

Charlotte © Good Deed Entertainment

By Tahir Rana and Éric Warin, 2021, 1h32, France-Canada-Belgium, recommended for ages 16+

Charlotte is an animated drama that tells the true story of Charlotte Salomon, a young German-Jewish painter, who comes of age in Berlin on the eve of the Second World War. Fiercely imaginative and deeply gifted, she dreams of becoming an artist. Her first love applauds her talent, which emboldens her resolve. But the world around her is changing quickly and dangerously, limiting her options and derailing her dream. When anti-Semitic policies inspire violent mobs, she leaves Berlin for the safety of the South of France. There she begins to paint again, and finds new love. But her work is interrupted, this time by a family tragedy that reveals an even darker secret. Believing that only the extraordinary will save her, she embarks on the monumental adventure of painting her life story.

Available on Kanopy | AppleTV | Amazon Video | GooglePlay | YouTube | Fandango | KinoNow | Hulu

D-Day: Normandy 1944 © N3D LAND Films

D-Day: Normandy 1944 (D-Day : Normandie 1944)
By Pascal Vuong, PG, 2014, 43 min, France, recommended for ages 11+

June 6, 1944: The largest Allied operation of World War II began in Normandy, France. Yet, few know in detail exactly why and how, from the end of 1943 through August 1944, this region became the most important location in the world. Audiences of all ages will discover from a new perspective how this landing changed the world. Exploring history, military strategy, science, technology, and human values, the film will educate and appeal to all.

Available on Roku Channel | PlutoTV

The Two of Us © Cohen Media Group

The Two of Us (Le Vieil Homme et l’Enfant)
By Claude Berri, 1967, 1h26, France, recommended for ages 13+

A comically bittersweet coming-of-age story, Claude Berri’s The Two of Us is also a poignant drama of identity and heritage. When an 8-year-old Jewish boy living in Nazi-occupied France is sent by his parents to live in the country with their friends’ Catholic parents, he is faced with a culture clash both religious and generational. As the grandfatherly Pepe, beloved character actor Michel Simon infuses the role with a gruff tenderness, his growing relationship with the boy a touching portrayal of connection in a broken world.

Available on KanopyAmazon VideoYouTube | GooglePlay | AppleTV | KinoNow | Microsoft

Django © Under The Milky Way

By Étienne Comar, PG-13, 2017, 1h57, France, recommended for ages 14+

Reinhardt, elegantly interpreted by Reda Kateb, is the toast of 1943 Paris, thrilling audiences with his distinctive brand of “hot jazz” and charming his admirers including his muse played by Cécile de France. But even as the rise of Nazism forces Reinhardt — whose music is considered degenerate under the Third Reich — to make a daring escape from Paris, he refuses to be silenced as his music becomes a form of protest. Reda Kateb’s performance is simply impressive and will certainly please all fans of Django. A spirited biopic that will keep audiences tapping their toes.

Available on AppleTV | TubiTVGooglePlay | YouTube | AmazonPrime | Hoopla | Fandango | Kanopy | PlutoTV | OVID

Once in a Lifetime © Menemsha Films

Once in a Lifetime (Les Héritiers)
By Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, 2016, 1h45, France, recommended for ages 15+

A dedicated history teacher at a French high school, Anne Gueguen, is determined to give the best education she can to her underprivileged inner-city pupils. Overcoming their apathy, however, is proving to be more difficult than expected. Frustrated but undaunted, Anne tests her multicultural classroom with a unique assignment: a national competition on the theme of child victims of the Nazi concentration camps. The project is initially met with extreme resistance, until a face-to-face encounter with a Holocaust survivor changes the students’ attitudes dramatically. Despite their odds of winning, these once-rebellious teens soon begin to see one another – and themselves – in a whole new light. Once In A Lifetime demonstrates the enduring impact of the Holocaust in transforming future generations.

Available on AppleTV | TubiTV | Amazon Video | Fandango | Kanopy | ChaiFlicks

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