French director keeps busy

Bouchared follows Dubai honor with full slate

LONDON — He’s not yet 50, so it might seem a bit early for a lifetime achievement award. But filmmaker-producer Rachid Bouchareb recently picked up such an honor at the Dubai Film Fest, then carried on juggling numerous new projects.

The French helmer of Algerian descent, who preems his drama “London River,” about the July 7 terror attacks in London, in competition at Berlin, is set to start lensing “Outside the Law” in the summer.

The latter pic is a follow-up to his 2006 Oscar-nommed hit “Days of Glory,” which helped change French law by persuading authorities to bring pensions for war vets from the North African colonies who helped liberate Gaul from the Nazis up to the same level as those of France’s war vets.

The $25 million-budgeted “Law” follows the Algerian fight for independence from France after WWII. The pic is being co-produced by Studio Canal and Franco-Tunisian maven Tarak Ben Ammar.

And while the 49-year-old Bouchareb’s diminutive frame and often hushed tones can come across as unassuming, they merely mask a revolutionary spirit that believes as much in social progress as it does in box office success.

Born in France to Algerian parents, Bouchareb has seen first-hand the costs of struggling for one’s liberty. His uncle was a member of the FLN, the Algerian movement dedicated to overthrowing French colonial rule. Bouchareb made his directorial debut in 1985 with “Baton Rouge,” a poignant drama about three impoverished Parisians who dream of striking it rich in America.

As he approaches his own half century, Bouchareb may get the opportunity to do the same with a planned biopic about Angela Davis. After meeting with Davis personally, he got the greenlight to pen her life story. Bouchareb is hoping to cast Beyonce in the lead role as the iconic African-American civil rights activist.

Together with his U.S.-based agent Jerome Duboz at tenpercentery William Morris, Bouchareb is now in the process of finding a U.S. co-producer for the pic, which he hopes to start shooting in spring 2010.

Tired of struggling to raise financing for his own projects — it would be six years after “Baton Rouge” before he directed another feature — “Cheb,” in 1991 — Bouchareb took to producing other people’s work as well. He has since worked with Gallic helmer Bruno Dumont, whom he would help win the Grand Jury prize at Cannes in 1999 for “L’Humanite” and Lebanese helmer Ziad Doueiri.

Also in the works are “The Fixer,” an Iraq-set thriller he has co-written in English with Joelle Touma; and “Belleville Cop,” another English language pic set in the U.S.

“I want to make at least one film a year from now on,” Bouchareb says. “Lifetime achievement awards are very important, but I feel that my career is only starting now.”

Bouchareb has become a mentor to a number of French thesps of North African descent. Filmmakers including Roschdy Zem (“Go Fast”) and Sami Bouajila (“Les temoins”) are being taken under Bouchareb’s wing as they step behind the camera.

Zem is prepping “Omar Raddad,” a notorious true story about a Moroccan gardener imprisoned in France for murdering an elderly women, before being released years later after tests proved the initial trial evidence was inconclusive.

“It’s an exciting thing to work with the next generation and help them make their movies,” Bouchareb says.

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