David Thion • Producer
"A remake of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Fassbinder"
by Fabien Lemercier
- The French producer David Thion talks about Danielle Arbid's Suzanne & Osmane and the latest news from Les Films Pelléas at the Cinemed Meetings
A producer, alongside Philippe Martin, belonging to the very active Parisian company Les Films Pelléas, David Thion pitched Danielle Arbid's Suzanne & Osmane project at the 40th Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival (having attended the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes in 2004 and 2007 with In the Battlefields [+see also:
film profile] and A Lost Man [+see also:
Cineuropa: What attracted you to Danielle Arbid's film Suzanne & Osmane, after producing her previous film Parisienne [+see also:
film profile] (2016) and her current project Simple Passion (based on Annie Ernaux's novel)?
David Thion: The project is a remake of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It will take place in Lebanon, in contemporary times, but with the exact same story. It’s about a woman, who is not German, but Lebanese, from the small Christian bourgeoisie, who meets a black man, an immigrant, probably of Sudanese origin, working on a construction site in Lebanon. This is an interesting context because due to the war in Syria, Lebanon is facing a huge migration crisis. There are one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon in addition to the 300,000 to 400,000 immigrant workers of African descent, and from Sri Lanka and elsewhere, in a country about as large as Corsica, with has four million inhabitants. Danielle Arbid, who is Lebanese, not only loves Fassbinder’s original work, but thought it might be interesting to remake a film about this important current affair, given what is happening in her country right now. For the moment, we have a fairly successful version of the script, although it may not be the definitive version, and if all goes well we plan to shoot in the autumn or winter of 2019.
How would you define Films Pelléas’ editorial line?
We’re sort of becoming more of a publisher in the sense that we are following specific directors. I wouldn’t say that we really have an editorial line in the sense that we only want to produce genre films or politically or socially-engaged films, etc. We’ve adopted more of a filmmaker approach, working with directors we think are talented enough to collaborate on not just one or two films, but four, five, six, or even more, accompanying them in their development. It is in this sense that we are getting closer to the editorial line of publishers such as POL or Gallimard, who follow directors who may be very different from one other, but who all have a very strong style.
You won the Cinemed Development Grant in 2015 with Until the Birds Return [+see also:
interview: Karim Moussaoui
film profile] by the Algerian director Karim Moussaoui. This time you're back with a Lebanese project. Do you have a particular liking for Mediterranean cinema?
When I find a talented filmmaker, if they are Algerian, I shoot in Algeria, and if they are Romanian I shoot in Romania. Danielle Arbid's last film was set in France, but before that she shot films in Lebanon and she’s currently in the process of adapting Annie Ernaux's Simple Passion, which is set in France, then there’s Suzanne & Osmane, which is set in Lebanon. When I work with her, I follow her logic of desire. Everything originates from meetings with filmmakers, and who knows, maybe I’ll produce a film in Mexico or elsewhere in the future. Depending on the nationality of the filmmaker, I then look at how I can accompany them from a French point of view. It's more that sort of thing that animates me, rather than suddenly becoming interested in a specific geographical area or saying I’m only going to produce filmmakers from Latin America, for example.
What is the latest news from Films Pelléas?
2018 is full of releases for us: three films have already been released (Mrs. Hyde [+see also:
interview: Serge Bozon
film profile] by Serge Bozon, Sorry Angel [+see also:
Q&A: Christophe Honoré
film profile] by Christophe Honoré and Our Struggles [+see also:
interview: Guillaume Senez
film profile] by Guillaume Senez, which was released by Haut et Court on 3 October). The Trouble With You [+see also:
interview: Pierre Salvadori
film profile] by Pierre Salvadori (unveiled at the Directors' Fortnight, with a very large combination of copies being distributed by Memento) will be released in cinemas on 31 October, while Maya [+see also:
interview: Mia Hansen-Løve
film profile] by Mia Hansen-Løve (which premiered at Toronto and will be distributed by Les Films du Losange) is due to be released on 19 December. The new film by Justine Triet (still without a definitive title) is in post-production, Jean-Stéphane Bron is currently shooting the documentary Le Cerveau, and we will be filming Danielle Arbid's Simple Passion (starring Laetitia Dosch) early next year, as well as Musique de chambre by Christophe Honoré and Lisa Redler (provisional title) by Nicole Garcia in the first quarter.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.