Films Distribution Takes ‘Zebras,’ ‘Type,’ ‘Weekends’

Leading French sales company bows seven movies at Unifrance Rendez-vous

PARIS – Planting its flag in the mid-ground between high-brow arthouse and popcorn fare – positioning increasing favored by top-echelon sales agents in France – Paris-based Films Distribution has acquired worldwide sales rights to “Not My Type,” “Scouting For Zebras” and Berlin animation player “Wolfy, the Incredible Secret.”

Accompanied by other new acquisitions – femme drama “Weekends in Normandy” and Emanuel Naccache’s espionage comedy “Kidon” – plus screenings of the now complete “The Crocodiles of Botswanga,” helmed by Fabrice Eboue and Lionel Steketee, and “Vandal” (both presented in promo reels at the AFM), the new pick-ups form part of one of the biggest sales slates of market premieres presented by any sales agent at the 16th Unifrance Rendez-vous With French Cinema in Paris, which runs Jan. 10 to Jan. 20.

Co-produced by Patrick Sobelman’s Agat Films and Artemis Productions, “Type” marks director-thesp Lucas Belvaux’s follow up to 2012’s crime drama “38 Witnesses” and 2009’s abduction thriller “Rapt,” both Rendez-vous hits.

Like them it mixes character-driven narrative and social overtones, telling an across-the-tracks tale of love between a Paris philosophy professor and a hairdresser in Arras.

Cannes best actress winner Emilie Dequenne, who has won two best actress awards at Cannes – in main competition (“Rosetta”) and Un Certain Regard  (“Our Children”) – plays the coiffeuse.

Set between Africa and Belgium, and a dark-humored drama from another Belgian name director, Benoit Mariage (“The Missing Half”), “Scouting” stars Benoit Poelvoorde (“Nothing To Declare,” “Coco Before Chanel”) as a wheeling-dealing soccer agent who discovers a new Lionel Messi in the slums of Abidjan. Or so it seems.

Films Distribution saw robust sales on the Oscar-nominated toon feature “A Cat in Paris,” a GKids U.S. pick-up. It hopes to see repeat business with “Wolfy, the Incredible Secret,” another exquisitely drawn toon pic, co-directed by Eric Ormond and Gregoire Solotareff, a distinguished children’s book author whose characters and designs inspired the film.

Selected for the Berlin Festival’s Generation K, “Wolfy” was released Dec. 18 in France by Diaphana Distribution on 256 screens, punching a sturdy first week Euros 510,940 ($705,608).

Film Distribution’s line up is composed of “crossover movies from all over the world,” Films Distribution partner Nicolas Brigaud-Robert told Variety in the run-up to the Unifrance Rendez-vous.

“They are sometimes very artsy but usually we try to keep at an arms length’s distance from both purely commercial fare which, when it is not in English, has a hard time to travel, and very artistic films which only have festival potential: We try to stay in the middle-ground.”

Selling films by both Celine Sciamma (“Wild Lilies,” “Tomboy”) and Katell Quillevere (“Love Like Poison,” “Suzanne”), Films Distribution has carved out a rep for its support for young French distaff helmers. Co-written by Quillevere, Helier Cisterne’s “Vandal,” a teen drama set in the world of Strasbourg grafitti artists, won France’s prestigious Delluc Prize for best first film. “I’ve tried to hint that the graffiti artists, invisible and masked, are in a way the super heroes of our time,” he has said.

Boasting top-notch femme leads – Karin Viard, Noemie Lvovsky – and the feature debut of Anne Villaceque, “Weekends” turns on the vicissitudes of two couples, set against their getaways to Normandy.

Plenty of Films Distribution’s movies play and indeed win festivals: Rithy Panh’s “The Missing Picture,” one of nine titles on the foreign-language Oscar nomination shortlist, topped Cannes’ 2013 Un Certain Regard, for instance.

That said, Films Distribution’s large Rendez-vous presence marks its attempt – successful in the past – to leverage the unrivalled visibility for French films at a time when, such is the slew of U.S. projects being brought onto the market, smaller films risk getting lost in the big festival crush.

“Lucas Belvaux has a track record, is known to buyers, but makes crowd pleasers. He does have a festival career ahead of him but, launching at the Rendez-vous, he will get far greater attention than badly programmed at a big festival sidebar,” Brigaud-Robert argued.

He added: “Animation can get lost at festivals with red carpet movies which are enhanced by cast. At the Rendez-vous, where buyers are focused on the market premieres, they will hopefully have more time to see it.”

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