By Valery Carnoy | Drama
A teenage boy gets ready to join a gang -- with a strange initiation ritual.

Omeleto is partnering with Unifrance as part of their annual MyFrenchFilmFestival event, which showcases the formidable range of contemporary French cinema. From dark dramas to absurdist comedy to gritty social realism to thoughtful reverie, all the films are distinguished by the excellence of quality and a commitment to cinema as a vital, visionary art form, nourished by a supportive, innovative industry.

Titan is a 13-year-old boy growing up in a small town and village. Small yet scrappy and aggressive, he's eager to join a gang of older, bigger local boys, led by one boy named Malik. On one sunny day, he sets out with his friend for his initiation.

The initiation rite is a strange and brutal one, involving taking bullets shot by an air gun. But as the rite progresses, taking strange twists and turns towards an escalating level of violence and menace, Titan reveals that he wants and needs much more than belonging.

Directed and written by Valery Carnoy and captured in a naturalistic style that's both gritty and poetic, this powerful short drama details the frightening, harrowing coming-of-age of a young boy as he inches his way toward manhood. Titan is skinny, small and scrappy, especially compared to his older brother. Despite his meager size, he's volatile, boastful and macho, especially among his peers. But he faces the ultimate test of strength and power when he attempts to join a gang.

The storytelling is both attentive to Titan's characterization and to the quickening pace of the action, which heats up when the initiation starts in earnest. The unfolding events are tense, horrifying and harrowing in equal measure, not just for what they are but also for the matter-of-fact, jaded way the pre-teens go about them. As Titan reveals the frightening lengths that he'll go to prove himself, actor Matheo Kabati unfurls a complex, remarkable performance that's riveting in its commitment and emotional range.

As a portrait of a young boy going awry as he approaches adulthood, "Titan" is a powerful examination of manhood, violence and belonging. As Titan himself notes early on in the film, small dogs pee higher than his size to make other dogs think they're bigger, and that applies to Titan as well. But the storytelling never forgets that Titan is still a child, still in need of love, belonging and comfort at his lowest points. Its ending is breathtaking for its tenderness and vulnerability, and all the more remarkable for what's come before it -- and what it portends for Titan's future.

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