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Quebec shingle aims to break out

Item 7 targets top creatives for global projects

MONTREAL — Quebec shingle Item 7 is at the vanguard of provincial production companies’ attempts to break out of the Quebecois ghetto, with pics starring international thesps in globally themed pics that have worldwide appeal.

So when Pierre Even and Marie-Claude Poulin set up Item 7 three years ago, it was only natural that one of the first people they turned to was helmer Jean-Marc Vallee, with whom the pair had worked four years earlier on “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” one of the biggest crossover successes to come out of Quebec in the past decade.

Vallee’s current pic, “Cafe de Flore,” a Canada-France co-production that recently opened in select U.S. cities, is among the first productions to hit screens under the Item 7 banner. With a cast that includes Vanessa Paradis playing a single mother with a young son with Down’s syndrome in 1969 Paris, it’s an accessible art film targeted to an international audience — typical of the kind of films Item 7 wants to make.

Also on the slate:

•”The Colony,” a Toronto-shot post-apocalyptic thriller starring Laurence Fishburne, currently in post;

• “Cyanure,” a Swiss-Canadian co-production starring Quebec’s Roy Dupuis;

• “Meetings With a Young Poet,” about a young writer meeting his idol, Samuel Beckett. The pic, which is lensing, is on the leaner end of Item 7’s budget scale, at less than $2 million; and,

• another project or two with Vallee, one of which he might start shooting once he’s wrapped lensing on Matthew McConaughey-Jennifer Garner starrer “The Dallas Buyers Club” for Truth Entertainment.

“The key for us is to work with the top creative talent here and abroad, no matter what budget, no matter what language,” Poulin says.

Item 7’s most recent pic, Montreal helmer Kim Nguyen’s “War Witch,” is the type of movie that shows why Quebec films are increasingly breaking out internationally. The pic, about a girl forced to become a soldier in a civil war in an African nation, stars teen newcomer Rachel Mwanza, a street kid from the Congo, and is entirely set in Africa. Mwanza won actress prizes at the Berlin Film Festival and in Tribeca, where the pic also nabbed narrative feature honors. “War Witch” is Canada’s submission to the Academy Awards in the foreign-language category.

“It’s a Canadian film because the creative is Canadian,” Even says. “It comes from Kim’s sensibility.”

Even and Poulin are also producing Nguyen’s next pic, “Origin of the World,” an ambitious “Babel”-like multi-track, continent-hopping affair that takes place in the U.S., India, and North Africa.

“That’s what we’re going to do,” Even says. “We’re going to follow the story.”

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