Planting his flag as one of the most cosmopolitan of producers working in Europe today, Thierry Lenouvel has confirmed an eight-title 2015-16 production slate at his Paris-based shingle Cine Sud Promotion.
There will be few more cosmopolitan production portfolios in the world. Movies include co-production of Amir Naderi’s high-profile Italian movie “The Mountain” and Anup Singh’s “The Song of Scorpions, with Bollywood international star Irfan Kahn (“Jurassic World”) and Golshifteh Farahani (“Exodus: Of Gods and Kings,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”).
But Cine Sud titles also take in “I Will Cross the Border Tomorrow,” from Iranian Sepideh Farsi, two debuts – from France’s Fejria Deliba and Brazil’s Beatriz Seigner – plus a film shot in Chile – Christopher Murray’s “The Blind Christ” – as well as Yahya Alabdallah’s Palestinian/Jordanian “Me, Myself and Murdoch” and a title from one of Lenouvel’s favorite co-production territories: Colombia, where Cine Sud is producing Carlos Osuna’s “The Contestant.”
Co-producing three films with Colombia’s Diana Bustamante, Lenouvel saw their latest, Cesar Acevedo’s “Land and Shade,” win Cannes Camera d’Or this May.
“I have chosen the projects I like to make with the people I like: the human side is important,” said Lenouvel who co-founded France’s Montpellier Festival, then created a script fund at its Amiens Fest and oversaw San Sebastian’s Cinema in Motion Maghreb showcase, which became Venice’s Africa-focused Final Cut pix-in-post showcase from 2013.
But most of Cine Sud Promotion’s movies frame human stories set against broader backgrounds: Of displacement, poverty, domestic servitude.
Shot in Italian, “The Mountain,” from U.S.-based Iranian Naderi (“The Runner”), is set in a semi-abandoned hamlet in the lap of an Alpine peak where a farmer battles with the fact that sunlight never reaches his crops. He evolves a desperate, and highly symbolic, solution.
“The Mountain” is also co-produced by Italy’s Citrullo Intl., the filmmakers’ collective comprising Carlo Hintermann, Gerardo Panichi, Michele Petochi and Jerome Caltagirone, with Italy’s Zhivago Media and New York-based restoration-preservation company Cineric, in association with Zomia, with financing from RAI Cinema, the BLS fund (which backed “Everest”) and the Friuli Venezia Giulia Film Fund.
Lead-produced by Geneva-based Saskia Visher, and set to shoot December/January, Lenouvel said, with sales and distribution under discussion, “The Song of Scorpions” – helmed by Singh, whose “Qissa” was co-produced by Lenouvel – is a contempo folk tale set in the Rajasthan Desert with Farahani playing a singer and scorpion-bite healer.
“I Will Cross the Border Tomorrow” is particularly timely, dealing with the issue of migrants within the context of the Greek financial crisis. Described by Lenouvel as “not exactly a love story,” it involves a Greek policewoman who asks for a transfer when her domestic situation in Athens becomes overwhelming. “She goes to the island of Lesbos,” he explains, “where she meets a Syrian immigrant and something happens between them. It is the story of a Greek woman who’s living in a country in crisis, where the people are completely lost, and a guy who has already lost everything. It’s really about Europe, for sure. The background is political, and the film will be a political reflection on the frontiers of Europe. We’ve worked on this project for two years, and since last month it’s becoming so intense that we may have to completely update the script.”
Lenouvel’s slate is also marked by a strain of dark humor. “Me, Myself And Murdoch,” co-produced with Jordan’s Rula Nasser, a leading Middle East producer, is a black comedy in which a young Palestinian refugee wakes up after a car accident speaking Hebrew, making his family and friends suspicious. Yahya Alabdallah has made two films already, the first, “The Last Friday,” presented in Cinema in Motion at the San Sebastian Festival; the second, “The Council,” was about a school in Jordan.
Similarly, “Los Silencios” is also a tale of economic striving, switched identities, economic instability and displacement. “I’m very proud of this project,” said Lenouvel. Shot in the Amazon’s Manaus, where the waterfront houses are subject to the vagaries of the levels of the Amazon, it turns on a Colombian family who move to Manaus after a mining accident. Taking advantage of the fact that her husband has been declared dead, the mother spins an elaborate yarn for their children, claiming that their late father has a twin brother in Brazil – a charade that not all of her brood accepts willingly. Lenouvel describes the story as “a drama – but with a lot of humor”. “It’s light,” he says, “but the situation is dramatic.”
Lead produced by Cine Sud with Didier Diaz’s Transpalux facilities company, one of France’s largest, “Kill Two Birds With One Stone” marks the feature debut of France’s Fejria Deliba. Described by Lenouvel as “part little road movie and also a journey of self-discovery,” it turns on a 70-years-old woman of Algerian descent who sets off across Paris to collect a box left by her deceased employer, whom she worked for in Algeria. Meanwhile, in parallel scenes, her 10 children, unused to their mother’s leaving the house without notice, gather, worried about her disappearance.
Subtly, the film weaves a vision of a woman’s domestic servitude where her identity has been subsumed in her family role. “A human comedy,” “Kill Two Birds” is in post-production: distribution and world sales are under discussion, Lenouvel said.
As announced, Cine Sud will co-produce Christopher Murray’s “The Blind Christ,” lead-produced by Chile’s Jirafa and sold by Film Factory.
It has also boarded Carlos Osuna’s “The Contestant,” announced at Cannes last year and set up at Colombia’s Malta. A poverty parable written by Osuna, Juan Mauricio Ruiz, the pic’s lead producer, and Alejandro Quintero, and based on a true event, “The Contestant’s” turns on a shy 24-year-old dispatched to pick up a free pressure cooker, offered by a condiments company. He joins a line of 12,000 people that forms at dawn. Cine Sud co-produced Osuna’s buzzed-up debut, “Fat, Bald, Short Man.” As with many of his production relationships, he is now following through.