Set in Odessa in 1979, this uniquely emotional political thriller recreates meticulously the deep-freeze of the Soviet Union at the crest of the Cold War while following a pair of French cousins in their clandestine effort to reach out to the so-called refuseniks — Jews repressed by the Brezhnev regime.


Contemporary World Cinema

Friends from France

Anne Weil, Philippe Kotlarski

Odessa, 1979. Carole and Jérôme, a young French couple, arrive on vacation to celebrate their engagement. At least, that is their story: in fact, Carole and Jérôme are cousins — and, more importantly, Jewish — and have slipped into the USSR undercover to make contact with local Jews, the so-called refuseniks, in an effort to get them out of the country and free of further persecution.

With Les Interdits, Anne Weil and Philippe Kotlarski employ a light-hearted premise to explore the Cold War deepfreeze of Brezhnev's Soviet Union. By day, Carole and Jérôme are tourists, travelling to see the sights; by night they are activists, reaching out to help. When they scratch the carefully controlled surface, managing to evade the bugs in their hotel rooms, they find a different kind of reality: drugs, sex, people who have spent time in the gulag. And it is not long before they meet a man with an especially powerful story.

Les Interdits meticulously recreates the hotels, restaurants, apartments, and streets of the Brezhnev era — a time of grey, grim uniformity, when people constantly looked over their shoulders and trusted no one. But Carole and Jérôme infiltrate this icy world, and the ways in which their effort plays out provides the film's substance. A reminder of a past that's not so distant, Les Interdits balances the personal against broader issues, and demonstrates that matters of the heart can provide deeper experiences than imagined.


Contemporary World Speakers

Due to a scheduling conflict Michael Ignatieff will not be participating in the Contemporary World Speakers extended Q&A on Friends from France on Tuesday, September 10 at 12:15 pm. The Festival is pleased to welcome Randall Hansen, Director of the Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, to lead an extended post-screening discussion. Visit to find out more. Special thanks to the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.


Fri Sep 06

Scotiabank 10

Sun Sep 08

Scotiabank 13

Tue Sep 10

Scotiabank 7

Tue Sep 10

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Fri Sep 13

Scotiabank 13