French producer Humbert Balsan, chairman of the European Film Academy, committed suicide Feb. 10 in Paris. He was 50.
He was found in the offices of his production company Ognon Films. Balsan, who produced over 60 films in his career, had carved out a niche for himself in France producing pics by Arab filmmakers. Known for a close working relationship with helmer Youssef Chahine, for whom he produced “Adieu Bonaparte,” “The Other,” “The Destiny” and “Alexandria…New York” among others, Balsan also co-produced a number of Merchant Ivory productions including “Surviving Picasso,” “Jefferson in Paris” and “Quartet.”
His films won numerous prizes over the years, including a Silver Lion at the 2003 Venice film fest for “Le Cerf-Volant” by Randa Chahal Sabag, and the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2002 for Elia Suleiman’s “Divine Intervention.”
Born in Arcachon, France, Balsan started his career as an actor in Robert Bresson’s “Lancelot of the Lake,” which won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes in 1974, and went on to work with helmers Jacques Rivette, Maurice Pialat and Pierre Granier-Deferre before turning his hand to producing.
He continued, however, to play bit parts in films from time to time, most recently that of the lawyer Maitre Doisneau in pic “Le Divorce.” Balsan served as V.P. of the board of the Cinematheque Francaise and V.P. of Unifrance.
Balsan had three films in production: “Travaux” by helmer Brigitte Rouan, “The Man from London” directed by Bela Tarr, “Un Ami Parfait” by Francis Girod; and Sandrine Veysset’s “Il Sera une Fois.” Colonna said that “the CNC will make sure that the works by Humbert Balsan, notably ‘The Man from London’ and ‘Un Ami Parfait’, will be carried out.”