In director Alain Gomis' Felicite, the title character (Vero Tshanda Beya Mputu) is a barroom singer in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She's a single mother and makes a living singing through the night in a lively bar, occasionally disrupted by drunken patrons.
It's enough of a setback when her fridge breaks and she has a handyman try to fix it, but then more troubling news arrives. Her son has been in a motorcycle accident. At the hospital, the doctor says the teenager will recover, but Felicite needs to pay for the operation before it can be scheduled.
Felicite leaves the hospital determined to raise the money to help her son recover. She tracks down bar owners who owe her money and asks friends for help. The effort forces her to seek assistance from everyone she knows, including family members with whom she's become estranged. There are suggestions that her independence has cost her with some people who have been judgmental about her life and choices, and Gomis builds his story around both her strength and her difficulty in letting her guard down. Much of the film is shot in a naturalistic way, and the pacing doesn't try to mimic the urgency of her plight. She encounters setbacks and kindness in unexpected situations.
The band in the film is made up of members of Congo's Kasai Allstars.
Gomis was born and grew up in France, but he has roots in Senegal. The film was shot in Kinshasa and Senegal, and its submission to the Oscars was representing Senegal.
The French Film Festival has several daytime screenings left, and it concludes at 8 p.m. March 1 with L'amant double (Double Lover), a thriller in which a vulnerable woman falls in love with her therapist and realizes that there's much about him that she does not know.