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BERLINALE 2021 EFM

French sales agents survive the flames of the pandemic at the EFM

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- BERLINALE 2021: Sales, announcements and awards punctuated the five virtual days spent at the European Film Market by French international sales agents

French sales agents survive the flames of the pandemic at the EFM
Paris, 13th District by Jacques Audiard

Armed with a natural, optimistic enthusiasm, not to mention failproof ammunition, which has enabled them to look towards the future and move beyond the restricted context of the unending global health crisis (which has led to a surplus of films for distributors and increasing caution when it comes to acquisitions), French international sales agents have taken the 71st Berlinale’s (online) European Film Market by storm. Here is a brief and non-exhaustive overview of the main announcements to come out of the event.

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Shining bright among the most dazzling vendors is Luxbox, which backed the right horse in the form of Natural Light [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Dénes Nagy
film profile
]
, the first feature film by Hungary’s Dénes Nagy which walked away with nothing less than the Silver Bear for Best Director. The team also kicked off presales on three titles in post-production: Clara Sola, the first feature film by Swedish-Costa Rican director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén (which triumphed at the Les Arcs Film Festival’s Work in Progress event in January – read our news), I Want To Talk About Duras by France’s Claire Simon (article - in post-production), and Selman Nacar’s first feature film Between Two Dawns (produced by Turkey, alongside French group Arizona Productions, Romania’s Libra Film and Spain’s Nephilim Producciones).

mk2 Films also upped the ante in the wake of Céline Sciamma’s Petite maman [+see also:
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, which went down very well with the foreign press, left the competition empty handed, but which nonetheless racked up some impressive sales at the EFM, notably being bought by Neon for North America. And four hugely tantalising announcements enlivened the pre-sales film slate of the French sales agent, namely the arrival in their line-up of: A Chiara (news) by Italy’s Jonas Carpignano, a co-production involving Italy, France, Sweden and Denmark on which filming recently wrapped; Corsage by Austria’s Marie Kreutzer (news), on which shooting is about to begin (a production steered by Film AG together with German firm Komplizen Film, Luxembourg’s Samsa Film and French group Kazak Productions); the project Women Do Cry by Bulgarian directors Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova (who drew a great many heads in Locarno 2019 with Cat In The Wall [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova
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]
), which is produced by Activist 38 in league with Paris’s Ici et Là Productions; and the Russian-Canadian-German co-production House Arrest by Alexey German Jr. (his most recent film after Dovlatov [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Milan Maric
film profile
]
), which is currently in post-production. The team also continued its labours on behalf of the rest of its line-up, notably racking up pre-sales on various other films in post-production, such as The Worst Person In The World by Norway’s Joachim Trier and The Young Lovers by Carine Tardieu (article).

Playtime mostly made a killing in pre-sales by way of Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District (article). Currently in post-production, the film was bought for territories including the US (IFC Films), the UK (Curzon), Scandinavia (Scanbox), Poland (Gutek Film), the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Aerofilms), the Benelux Union (Cineart), Switzerland (Filmcoopi), the countries of former Yugoslavia (MCF), Japan, South Korea and Canada. Also worth a mention is the new film in the vendor’s vastly ample line-up: Aïssa Maïga and Isabelle Simeonie’s documentary about the film industry Regard Noir.

Wild Bunch International was rewarded with the Encounters’ Special Jury Prize, which went to Lê Bào’s Taste [+see also:
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, and they also kicked off pre-sales on James Huth’s The New Toy, which is a remake of the hit film of the same name, made by Francis Veber in 1976. Shooting is due to commence in spring with Daniel Auteuil and Jamel Debbouze playing lead roles (produced by Eskwad, alongside Sony Pictures International Productions). The team weren’t idle in the pre-sales area either, vis-à-vis post-production titles Deception by Arnaud Desplechin (article), Titane by Julia Ducournau, Incredible But True by Quentin Dupieux (news), Earwig by Lucile Hadzihalilovic (article) and Fire by Claire Denis (article).

For their part, Totem Films took advantage of the trophy won by Alice Diop’s documentary We [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Alice Diop
film profile
]
in the Encounters section, as well as capitalising on the much remarked presence in competition of Ballad of a White Cow [+see also:
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by Iranian directors Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghaddam, which was bought for more than half of the major international territories over the course of the EFM.

Elle Driver distinguished itself with four new films, namely Robot Dreams, which is the first animated film (in production) by Spain’s Pablo Berger, and three French films: Beautiful Minds by Bernard Campan and Alexandre Jollien (in post-production - article), Lockdown Tower by Guillaume Nicloux (news) and Everybody Loves Jeanne by Céline Devaux (news – which will feature Blanche Gardin at the head of the cast), the latter two being in pre-production.

The EFM also saw Pulsar Content launch pre-sales on Lady Nazca by Swiss director Damien Dorsaz. This English-language film set to be shot in the summer and starring Germany’s Paula Beer and French actor Guillaume Gallienne, will plunge viewers into the early 1940s and will revolve around a mathematician researching some mysterious geoglyphs in Peru. Production is in the hands of French group Octopolis, Germany’s 27 Films Production and Switzerland’s PS Production, with distribution overseen by Tobis Film in Germany and Memento Films in France.

Les Films du Losange rode the wave of their film which is competing in Berlin, Fabian – Going to the Dogs [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Albrecht Schuch
film profile
]
by Germany’s Dominik Graf (bought for North America, among other countries, by Kino Lorber), as well as selling Nicolas Maury’s My Best Part [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicolas Maury
interview: Nicolas Maury
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]
for the US.

Memento International likewise clinched a deal with Kino Lorber, who acquired the North American rights for Maltese director Alex Camilleri’s Luzzu [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Alex Camilleri
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]
(which bagged a trophy at Sundance). The film has been bought for a huge number of other territories, including Spain (Wanda), the UK (Peccadillo), Scandinavia (Edge), France (Epicentre), Portugal (Legendmain), Greece (Weirdwave), the countries of former Yugoslavia (Kino Mediteran), Eastern Europe (HBO) and China.

Orange Studio, meanwhile, kicked off pre-sales on Steve Achiepo’s Slumlord (article), which has just wrapped filming, as well as on Sophie Boudre’s dramedy Schoolmates! which is currently being shot, not to mention Finnish-Somalian director Khadar Ahmed’s feature film in post-production The Gravedigger (a product of Cannes’ Cinéfondation residency), which is produced by Finnish group Bufo, together with French firm Pyramide Productions and Germany’s Twenty Twenty Vision.

The EFM also saw France Télévisions Distribution expand its line-up by way of Fabienne Berthaud’s Little Man Tom (news - in post-production and starring Nadia Tereszkiewicz and Félix Maritaud) and Sylvie Audcoeur’s An Ordinary Mother (currently being filmed with Karin Viard leading the cast), which are joining the likes of post-production titles Une jeune fille qui va bien (the first feature film to be directed by actress Sandrine Kiberlain) and Hear Me Out by Pascal Elbé (article), which has notably been pre-purchased for Italy (BIM), Spain (Vértigo) and Germany (Neue Visionen).

As regards Pyramide, the firm launched pre-sales on Tralala by brothers Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu (news), while WTFilms did the same for Tel-Aviv/Beirut by Michale Boganim (in post-production – steered by France via Moby Dick Films and Les Films de la Croisade, in co-production with La Voie Lactée, German firm Twenty Twenty Vision and Cypriot outfit AMP Filmworks). StudioCanal, for its part, thrust Emmanuelle Bercot’s Peaceful back into the spotlight (now in post-production following an epic film shoot, initially delayed as a result of Catherine Deneuve’s health issues and, later, on account of the health crisis).

Loco Films kicked off pre-sales on The Champion by Polish director Maciej Barczewski (revolving around a boxing champion sent to Auschwitz where he joins with a group of resistant deportees), while Best Friend Forever got the ball rolling on Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s Bloody Oranges (in post-production – article), as well as labouring on behalf of two films unveiled in the Panorama section (Souad [+see also:
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trailer
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]
by Egypt’s Ayten Amin and All Eyes Off Me [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Hadas Ben Aroya
film profile
]
by Israel’s Hadas Ben Aroya). Reel Suspects are likewise worth a mention, having negotiated on behalf of a title presented in the Panorama section (Bliss [+see also:
film review
interview: Henrika Kull
film profile
]
by Germany’s Henrika Kull) and having also added Vampir, by Serbia’s Branko Tomovic (in post-production – article), to its line-up.

Last but not least, some impressive sales were achieved by Other Angle Pictures, thanks to Olivier Dahan’s Simone, A Woman of the Century (article), notably for the US (Samuel Goldwyn Films), Spain (Caramel), South America, Australia and Canada. And Le Pacte struck some impressive deals, too, by way of Olivier Peyon’s Tokyo Shaking (article), which was bought for Spain (Alfa Pictures), Germany and Austria (ZDF), the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Mediasquad), and Israel and Canada (Axia Films), to name a few.

In short, it’s an interim assessment which speaks volumes for the dynamism of French sales agents (despite the dampener placed by health restrictions on cinemas in countless countries), and that’s without including the much-anticipated results of vendors along the lines of Pathé International (news), Charades (news), Gaumont, Bac Films and Coproduction Office (who have upcoming works by Ruben Ostlund , Michelangelo Frammatino, Gus Van Den Berghe and Ulrich Seidl jostling in the pipeline).

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(Translated from French)

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