PARIS – KG Productions, the Paris-based production house created in 1973 by Costa-Gavras and Michele Ray Gavras, is diversifying into domestic distribution in France and international sales.
Introduced to foreign distributors at the 17th UniFrance Rendez-vous with French Cinema, which opens Thursday in Paris, KG’s first sales/distrib slate will feature “Graziella,” from Mehdi Charef (“Tea in the Harem”), plus fellow Algerian Salem Brahimi’s “Maintenant Ils peuvent venir” and “A Mon age je me cache encore pour fumer,” directed by Rayhana, also from Algeria.
The slate will also take in restored versions, mostly in 4K, of four Costa Gavras modern classics: “Z,” “The Confession,” “State of Siege,” and “Hanna K,” KG Productions is also restoring Charef’s films.
Screening at the Rendez-vous, and from an original screenplay by Charef, “Graziella,” a kind of love story, turns on two cons from the same hamlet in France: Antoine, an ex-projectionist (Leos Carax muse Denis Lavant), and Graziella, a nurse and dancer (Almodóvar regular Rossy de Palma), both sent down for crimes of passion: She killed her father who raped her, he murdered his wife, who was having an affair. She’s carried a candle for him for 15 years but, Picasso-featured as she puts it, has done so from afar. Then they re-meet at a daytime assignment, at a boarding school, over the summer, near to their home village, their work overseen by a former prostitute.
Selected for the 31st Mons Love Film Festival, which runs Feb. 20 -27, “Graziella” is lensed by Greek cinematographer Yorgos Arvantis (“Total Eclipse,” “Train of Life”).
Starring singer-musician Amazigh Kateb and Rachida Brakni (“The Straight Line”), now in post-production and unspooling during the insurgency of the Islamic Salvation Front from 1991, which claimed the lives of 100,000 to 200,000 people, often civilians, “Maintenant Ils Peuvent Venir” adapts Arezki Mellal’s same-titled novel, which narrates a couple’s forced marriage as Algeria falls under the yoke of fanaticism.
“At the time, nobody could understand why people supported the police and army,” said Ray Gavras. “The story is, unfortunately, highly contemporary.”
Set at the same time, and taking place in an haman in Algeria, “A Mon Age” adapts Rayhana’s stage play of the same name, which unites nine women who, while washing, talk about sex, life and politics, some holding extremist views. Rayhana, who has now worked on films, will direct. It will shoot in an Ottoman haman in Salonica, Ray Gavras said.
Algerians direct all the first three films on KG Productions’ sales slate. That is “a coincidence, but not a total one,” Ray Gavras says. KG Productions’ production relationship with Charef goes back to his debut, “Tea in the Harem,” that won the Youth Award at the 1985 Cannes Festival. Costa Gavras shoot “Z” in Algeria, where it stood in for Thessalonika.
After Algeria’s wrested independence from France, “The French do not have the same feelings for Algeria as Morocco and Tunisia, but I have a different way of thinking from the majority of French people,” Gavras said.
KG Productions’ move into distribution in France comes as paybox Canal Plus insists ever more on films it acquires having significant theatrical distribution in France. “What I don’t want to do is just release a film to receive money from Canal Plus. I want to do the job well,” Ray Gavras said.
Distributing in France, KG Productions, which is currently hiring a distribution team, can look to relations built up over decades: It has held preliminary conversations with Pathe, for example, one of France’s biggest exhibitors. It is also looking for a theatrical bow for the restored copies of Costa Gavras’ films.
That might seem somewhat Quixotic in many countries, but not in France, which boasts a small but vibrant modern classic business. In Spring 2015, Gaumont-Pathé will open in Paris a new five-screen complex, Cinema Les Fauvettes, which will be exclusively dedicated to screening classic films.
Timing is essential for a film’s release, Ray Gavras argued. Implicating the U.S. in Greek’s military coup, “’Z’ “would not have made the impact it did, if it had not been released just after the Paris student protests of 1968,” Ray Gavras argued.
It will now be seen if “Maintenant Ils peuvent venir,” a film which tackles the barbarity of fanaticism head on, has been made at the right time as France tragically experiences terrorism’s reality.