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Distribs, exhibs flock to Paris

Unifrance Paris Rendez-Vous 2012

Sylvie Testud’s “La Vie d’une autre,” Lucas Belvaux’s “38 Witnesses” and Philippe Lefebvre’s “Paris by Night” will screen at the 14th Unifrance Paris Rendez-Vous, which will run Jan. 11-16.

A marriage-on-the-rocks dramedy, the Kinology-sold “Vie” stars Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Kassovitz.

Films Distribution’s crime drama “Witnesses” opens January’s Rotterdam fest. With Roschdy Zem and Sara Forestier, “Night,” which tracks a night-shift vice-squad cop, is one of multiple Rendez-Vous thrillers. TF1 Intl. also brings four.

The Rendez-Vous also testifies to France’s ongoing comedy boom, showcasing Gaumont sales hit “The Chef,” with Jean Reno, and Other Angle’s potential B.O. juggernaut “Would I Lie To You? 3.”

Among debuts: EuropaCorp’s romcom “Love Lasts Three Years,” starring Louise Bourgoin (“Adele Blanc-Sec”) from writer-turned-helmer Frederic Beigbeder; Films Distribution’s thriller “Paris Under Watch,” by Cedric Jimenez and Arnaud Duprey; and Pathe’s “Sunday Dads” from helmer Louis Becker. Studiocanal will unveil “Cloclo,” a biopic of famed French singer Claude Francois.

It seems every year, two or three films break out at the Rendez-Vous. Candidates for 2012 include Studiocanal’s 2D toon pic, “Ernest and Celestine,” warmly received as a work-in-progress at Annecy, and Pyramide’s “Here Below,” from Jean-Pierre Denis (“Murderous Maids”), the true story of a nun’s love for a French Resistance fighter.

Under Regine Hatchondo’s direction, the Rendez-Vous will invite a delegation of 30 exhibitors from arthouse and multiplex theaters to sample upcoming releases. “The diversity of multiplexes in France is exceptional,” Hatchondo says. “Overseas distributors are faced with a completely different situation.”

Hatchondo notes that since 2010, the number of screens has multiplied in places such as China and India, but “this has not benefited arthouse European cinema” and distributors are focusing instead on Americal films and local features.

Unifrance will also invite seven European TV channel toppers to participate in a workshop during the Rendez-Vous. “The place of French cinema on European channels has changed,” says Hatchondo. “The sales volume has remained roughly the same, but European pictures are seldom programmed for primetime; as a result acquisition prices have gone down.”

For the second edition of its online experiment, My French Film Festival — set for Jan. 12 to Feb. 1 — Unifrance teamed with Allocine and attracted new partners: China’s Youku, U.S.’s SnagFilms, Germany’s Filmstarts.de, and Brazil’s Terra.TV, in addition to Mubi, Filmin, KT in Korea and J.Com in Japan.

Lineup boasts titles that are still available in most territories, notably Valerie Donzelli’s goofy feature debut “The Queen Of Hearts” and laffer “Back To Square One,” directed by comics Thomas Ngijol and Fabrice Eboue.

“We think that the VOD market will eventually prove highly complementary to theatrical activity. And in many instances, a VOD release doesn’t impact negatively the theatrical rollout,” Hatchondo points out. “The idea behind the online festival is not only to analyze the different VOD markets, but also to bump up the international exposure of emerging French directors to help them for their next films.”

Hatchondo is optimistic about next year’s B.O. prospects for French films. Citing “The Artist,” “Intouchables,” “Declaration of War” and “A Gang Story,” she thinks there’s a good chance many Gallic titles will translate to international auds.

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