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Docs do well at Deauville

French appetite for factual pics grows

Vendors repping documentaries at the Deauville American Film Festival this week are upbeat about the market for U.S. factual films in Gaul.

“Over the last year I’ve noticed an upturn specifically for documentaries in the French market,” said Laird Adamson, topper of international sales at Magnolia Pictures.

“France has consistently seen the best results for documentaries anywhere outside of the U.S.,” added Works Intl. topper Carl Clifton.

Docus with environmental or political themes make the biggest splash in Gaul, with locally produced “Oceans,” from helmers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, selling nearly 3 million tickets this year.

Imports follow suit: Swiss helmer Jean-Stephane Bron’s mocked up trial about the sub-prime mortgage disaster, “Cleveland Versus Wall Street,”is currently earning respectable figures. After two weeks, it has sold nearly 37,000 tickets on 56 copies.

Deauville also has its share of radical docs. The Works is representing Lucy Walker’s nuclear weapons pic “Countdown to Zero,” which has yet to find distribution in Gaul.

Clifton hopes the screening will give it a boost. “A film that may have been overlooked in Cannes and which plays well in Deauville will be re-visited.”

Meanwhile, French Connection Cinema has picked up Josh Fox’s “Gasland,” about the impact of natural gas extraction Stateside. “We will soon have the same situation in the south of France,” explained topper Yves Chevalier.

After testing the film at Deauville he plans a modest theatrical release. “There is an audience in France for documentaries, and especially this kind of movie,” he said.

Magnolia’s film is less political — Leon Gast’s paparazzo tale “Smash His Camera.” All rights for Gaul were snapped up by Wild Side before the fest.

Also playing the culture card is “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” a tribute to the painter by Tamra Davis. French distributor Pretty Pictures has all rights for Gaul, and is planning to put at least 25 prints in theaters.

“Why such a big release for a documentary? Basquiat is an incredibly well-known figure in France and this is the first documentary to be made about him,” said shingle’s prexy James Velaise.

The release will coincide with a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.

Theme is all-important for Velaise. “Today I would not put the necessary P&A into theatrical distribution unless the subject matter was really well-known,” he said. “I’m not going to release a film about an NFL football player. No matter how good the film is, the market isn’t there.”

The 10-day Deauville fest ends Sunday.