Leconte plans Bokassa project

Film and TV series will follow late African dictator

“Carlos” producer Daniel Leconte is developing a film-TV hybrid project about Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the late dictator of the Central African Republic.

The feature film and three-part TV miniseries will be helmed by Barbet Schroeder, who lived in Central Africa as a child.

Scripts are by Pascal Bonitzer, a French vet helmer-scribe who last worked on Jacques Rivette’s “Around a Small Mountain” and has collaborated with some of Gaul’s best-known directors, including Andre Techine.

Project will be Schroeder’s follow up to “Inju, the Beast in the Shadow,” which competed for a Golden Lion at Venice in 2008. He previously directed “Terror’s Advocate,” a 2008 Cesar-winning docu on Jacques Verges, the controversial lawyer and former Free French Forces guerrilla who defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie.

Leconte, founder of Paris-based Films en Stock, said he got the idea for the project after watching “The Last King of Scotland,” and also drew from his own experience as a former war correspondent.

A cruel and eccentric self-proclaimed emperor and military dictator, Bokassa reigned over Central Africa for 13 years, during which there were mass murders of civilians, and was aided by the French government before being overthrown in a coup in 1979.

“As with ‘Carlos,’ I’m exploring our own historical and political heritage to tell compelling stories dealing with contemporary issues,” said Leconte. “That allows us to find international partners.”

Canal Plus’ fiction unit, headed by Fabrice de La Patelliere, is financing the development with the aim of pre-buying the series. Project fits the paybox’s mandate to produce high-quality drama with international appeal and crossover potential, said de la Patelliere.

“We’re very interested in the subject, which is powerful, and the creative forces behind it, Barbet Schroeder and Pascal Bonitzer,” said de la Patelliere.

Leconte is in talks with StudioCanal to handle the distribution and international sales on the series and film.

StudioCanal packaged Leconte’s latest production, Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos,” which unspools out of competition on May 19 and bows the same night on Canal Plus.

The French paybox also pre-bought Leconte’s three-part docu on the Clearstream scandal, which the media dubbed France’s political trial of the decade.

The case brings up political corruption and kickback scandals within Gaul’s highest political spheres and involves President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Leconte said he’s looking for a French distributor to release the three-part docu.

Helmer previously directed Cannes’ out-of-competition docu “It’s Hard Being Loved by Jerks,” about the political and cultural clash sparked by the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The docu was distribbed by Pyramide and aired on Canal Plus.

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