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Capture the zombie

Shingle takes genre pics beyond Gaul

Part of a new crop of Gallic filmmakers who don’t have the French New Wave as a point of reference, Benjamin Rocher, Raphael Rocher and Yannick Dahan, the founders of French outfit Capture the Flag, aren’t afraid to tackle genre fare — even if that means being dismissed by most of the French film industry.

Dubbed the first Gallic zombie film, “The Horde,” was a risky bet for debuting helmers Raphael Rocher and Dahan, who previously had worked on only docus via their TV production shingle Empreinte Digitale.

“We struggled to finance it in France because local film institutions like the CNC don’t consider genre films as an art form and most people think we can only make pale copies of what’s being done in the U.S.,” says Rocher, whose tastes range widely from James Cameron to George A. Romero and Jean-Pierre Melville.

Even local auds have been slow to embrace the home-grown genre film trend. The flurry of French horror films released in the past two years — including Pascal Laugier’s “Martyrs” and Belgian writer-helmer Fabrice du Welz’s “Vinyan” — have failed to electrify the B.O.

But on the international level, Gallic suspensers in the vein of “The Horde” have proved far more attractive.

Per Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, founder of Films Distribution, a leading purveyor of Gallic scare fare, which sold “The Horde” in more than 30 territories, “French genre films travel well when they’re director-driven, visually compelling and professionally assembled on a tight budget.”

Apart from Films Distribution, the filmmakers have at least two other strong allies: Jean Labadie, whose outfit Le Pacte handled French distribution on “The Horde,” and Manuel Alduy, the head of Canal Plus’ film division, which pre-bought the film and still considers it one of its best acquisitions.

“At Canal Plus, we make room and encourage these directors who venture off the beaten paths,” Alduy says.

But the difficulties they experienced on “The Horde” drew the Capture the Flag team to produce the shingle’s second feature, Olivier Abbou’s horror film “Territories” in English, in order to tap into international financing sources.

Repped by Gallic minimajor SND, “Territories” is a French-Canadian co-production. And it shares with “The Horde” a political undercurrent that Capture the Flag likes to cultivate. While “The Horde” subtly tackles race relations and police corruption in Paris’ under-privileged suburbs, “Territories” is set in a creepy prison camp reminiscent of Guantanamo Bay, where two American soldiers torture their prisoners.

The French outfit is developing a humor-laced zombie pic, “Goal of the Dead,” a $4.4 million two-part feature being scripted by Nicolas Peufaillit, who co-wrote Jacques Audiard’s drama “A Prophet.” Pic focuses on a major French soccer team playing in a small town when a violent disease starts spreading, turning the village locals into zombies.

The shingle also has more mainstream projects on its production slate: Eric Valette — who’s directing “Prey,” a serial killer suspenser for StudioCanal — will helm “The Snake With a Thousand Cuts,” based on a novel penned by up-and-coming Gallic author DOA. And the outfit is developing “GIGN,” an action-adventure following French soldiers who toughen up in a basic-training camp to prepare for their first mission in the special forces. Pic is co-produced by Paris-based Radar Films.

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