Berlin: Films on Charlie Hebdo, Terrorism Draw Interest at Festival

Berlin: Films on Charlie Hebdo, Terrorism

BERLIN – Like several of the Oscar best-picture nominees, the highest-profile — and among the bestselling – projects at this year’s Berlin European Film Market were based on real-life events: IM Global’s Mel Gibson-directed “Hacksaw Ridge”; FilmNation’s Nicolas Cage starrer “Army of One”; and “Gold,” with Matthew McConaughey, from Sierra/Affinity.

One all-too-real event, however, may be creating a niche market of its own: January’s Charlie Hebdo slaughter. It will take months for serious movie projects about the event to hit the pre-sales market. But, compounded by the decapitation of two Japanese citizens, one a journalist, by Islamic State militants days before the EFM’s Feb. 5 kickoff, the murders gave a suddenly tragic relevance to titles already made or just coming onto the market.

In early trading, Kino Lorber closed U.S. rights to Daniel Leconte’s 2008 docu-feature “It’s Hard Being Loved by Jerks,” offered to distributors for a second time by Pyramide Intl.

Two pubcasters, Germany’s Phoenix and Denmark’s DR, have requested the film. There is also U.K. acquisition interest.

A chronicle of Charlie Hebdo’s passionate defense of freedom of speech in 2007 as it fought a legal battle in a French court with Islamic organizations over its publishing cartoons portraying Muhammad, in retrospect “It’s Hard…” also explains why Charlie Hebdo became a fundamentalist target.

Also at the EFM, BAC Films announced pre-sales to Italy (Rai Cinema) and Japan (Nikkatsu) on Nicolas Saada’s “Taj Mahal,” a thriller set against the backdrop of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, focusing on the true case of young woman (Stacy Martin, “Nymphomaniac”) trapped in a suite during the assault. Germany and the U.K. are now under negotiations.

“If the Charlie Hebdo drama hadn’t happened, we would never have re-issued ‘It’s Hard…’ or sold it abroad. It would have stayed in our library,” said Pyramide’s Eric Lagesse.

Films Distribution is selling Assad Fouladkar’s “Halal Love,” now in post, presenting four stories about Muslims juggling their love life and desire with religious rules.

“I had a conversation with a Japanese buyer about ‘Halal Love,’” said FD’s Nicolas Brigaud Robert. “They said there’s a curiosity about understanding the Muslim world, to see if these types of movies could interest in their country.”

Nobody’s trying to make a quick buck out of Charlie Hebdo. Grosses from the French re-release of “It’s Hard…,” which sold 40,000 admissions by early February, will be donated to Charlie Hebdo, per Lagesse.

But “There is a big question mark: ‘Will the public be curious, repulsed, angry?’ about films portraying fundamentalism or the Muslim world, asked Brigaud Robert.

A second question:  Will exhibitors screen such fare?

“I would think twice before buying a militantly anti-Islamic film, partly because I don’t think some exhibitors would screen it,” said one foreign distributor.

In the U.S., where “It’s Hard” premieres at March’s New York Rendez-Vous With French Cinema, Richard Lorber has few doubts: “The bottom line is that we are dealing with a community of very courageous arthouse cinemas. We already have indications that an ample number of theaters will be willing and courageous to present a film that does not inflame issues but elevates discussion.