Feature docu follows botanist Francis Halle

LA ROCHELLE, France — Following their collaboration on “March of the Penguins” and “The Fox and the Child,” French documentary shingle Bonne Pioche has boarded Luc Jacquet’s large-scale doc, “Il Etait une foret” (Once Upon a Forest), an exploration of tropical forests in Africa and South America, which was announced at the Sunny Side of the Doc event in La Rochelle on Wednesday.

Disneynature will distribute in France. Wild Bunch has taken international sales rights.

The doc follows botanist and biologist Francis Halle as he travels to tropical forests in Gabon and Peru. It will also look at the birth and evolution of a tropical forest through seven centuries.

Emmanuel Priou is producing along with his Bonne Pioche partners Yves Darondeau and Christophe Lioud.

“Jacquet will let audiences discover how a tropical forest comes to life and grows, and will shed light on the unique bond between animals and plants,” Priou said. “It’s a fascinating process.”

Jacquet penned the doc, based on an idea by Halle.

It is being co-produced by environmental org Wild Touch, recently launched by Jacquet and backed by thesp Marion Cotillard. Wild Touch will organize a cross-media campaign — including a web series chronicling the day-to-day events on the expedition — to raise awareness and fight for the preservation of tropical forests.

Lensing kicks off this week and will wrap in October for delivery in late 2013.

“March of the Penguins” won the doc Oscar and grossed $127.4 million worldwide. “The Fox and the Child” grossed $29.6 million worldwide.

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