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“Directors had to completely rethink their films and these reflections are fascinating”

Industry Report: Documentary

Quentin Laurent • Producer, Les Films de l’œil sauvage

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Selected for the 2021 Emerging Producers, the French producer explains what drives him to making documentaries, and how he is dealing with it through the current situation

Quentin Laurent • Producer, Les Films de l’œil sauvage

Selected for the 2021 Emerging Producers, French producer Quentin Laurent, of Les Films de l’œil sauvage, explains what drives him to making documentaries, and how he is dealing with it through the current situation.

Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Quentin Laurent: Since childhood, I have nourished the vain and naive desire to discover the vast world. I studied human geography at university for five years and made a few research documentaries in sub-Saharan Africa. "Geography" literally means "describe the earth", which also seems to be an acceptable definition of documentary cinema to me. This natural filiation in which my curiosity can blossom explains probably a bit why I do this job.

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When a film manages to count in the social or political debate, it's obviously great, but I don't see it as an objective or a driving force in my work. Because the strategies that such an objective induces, which to me seem to concern the field of communication more than artistic creation, don't interest me much and sometimes even seem suspicious to me.

On the other hand, I am sensitive to the documentary approach driven by a desire to bring together, understand and reconcile the filmmaker, his subject and the space around them. This already seems to me to be a major political act in itself and sufficient for me. I willingly leave to others the question of its reception by the public.

How do you deal with the current pandemic situation as a producer? What are your main concerns (or opportunities)?
The pandemic has strongly impacted our productions. Initially, it postponed filming, but with its persistence, several directors have decided to deal with the pandemic within their projects, completely rethinking their film in terms of devices and issues. These reflections are fascinating and can lead to very original formal ideas or unprecedented documentary situations, which would probably never have existed without the advent of the health crisis. I would like to point out that I produce most of my films with partners – often public – which allow a certain freedom of experimentation.

The effects of the pandemic are most harmful in theatrical releases. Five are planned between the end of 2020 and 2021 and all of them have obviously been postponed! For directors, for whom this stage is the crowning glory of a long and trying road, but also the means to move on to the next project, the wait can be very difficult.

On the financial level, I must say that the public partners have been very supportive, speeding up the payment procedures and urgently creating exceptional support funds.

What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
In spite of my short experience (5 years long), I am probably already an "old-fashioned" producer because I am very attached to the physical projection of works in theaters, "the last public transportation space" as a well-known Swiss filmmaker said. Festivals in particular, where everyone comes to discover films together, within a meticulous programme and a framework conducive to exchange. This is for me the future of cinema. This does not prevent me from having a video-projector above my bed, in case of a global pandemic.

What projects do you have underway (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
The day the cinemas reopen, we will release in France Aswang [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Alyx Arumpac (IDFA Award-winning) and Overseas [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Sung-A Yoon (Locarno), both shot in the Philippines, Downstream to Kinshasa [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, the latest film by Dieudo Hamadi (first DRC Congolese film selected in Official Selection at Cannes), Le Kiosque [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the first film by the promising Alexandra Pianelli (presented notably at Sheffield) and our first fiction co-production, Mater [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jure Pavlović
film profile
]
by Jure Pavlović (Tallinn Black Nights).

I have about fifteen projects at different stages. I am particularly interested in foreign narratives and filmmakers and most of my current projects take place abroad: Greece, Chile, Bangladesh, India, Brazil, US, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Togo, Iraq, and soon Japan and Montenegro.

Some of them are ambitious international co-productions such as Kristos the Last Child by Giulia Amati, in co-production with Arte France, Italy and Greece, or Dreaming Walls by Amélie Van Elmbt and Maya Duverdier, a Belgian majority production with France, Sweden and the Netherlands and the support of Eurimages.

Some others are debut films, with a very intimate and homemade approach, like the very poetic Bilkis and Bilkis directed by the Bangladeshi Humaira Bilkis.

Of course, I’m also producing films in France like Ô Castles! by Gaspard Hirschi in Marseille, The Base by Vadim Dumesh and Saint Ouen by Antoine Danis in Paris or Burn to Shine by Patricia Allio in Brittany. But each one of them is driven by a very singular approach that renews our perception of familiar spaces.

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EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2022 edition is 31 March 2021.

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(Translated from French)

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