IDFA: Wide House Takes ‘Too Black to Be French,’ ‘Bolingo, the Forest of Love’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Paris-based sales operation screens seven titles at IDFA

Too Black to be French
Courtesy: Wide House

In new acquisitions, Paris-based Wide House – headed by Anais Clanet and one of France’s best-known documentary feature sales labels – has taken sales rights to Isabelle Boni-Claverie’s “Too Black To Be French?” an Arte-aired personal exploration of racism in France, as well as a second pick-up, immigration story “Bolingo, the Forest of Love,” from Spain’s Alejandro G. Salgado.

Both films screen at this week’s IDFA festival in Amsterdam. Wide House execs will also attend its Forum pitching sessions to scour for art and culture titles for Wide House’s 2017-2018 sales slate, said its international sales executive Elise Cochin.

Wide House’s IDFA spread, which takes in a total seven titles screening at the festival, underscores one of its key business strategies: The leverage of festivals to enhance the market value of titles, sometimes establishing their theatrical potential, in a sector with multitudinous competition.

Playing IDFA’s mid-length documentary competition, Salgado’s “Bolingo, The Forest of Love” narrates the journey made by women from central Africa to an illegal refugee camp in Northern Morocco, a few miles from the Spanish enclave of Melilla, from where they hope to smuggle themselves into Spain.

An immigration tale, it is as much about how these women confront maternity in Bolingo – “love” in Congolese – one of dozens of makeshift encampments in Morocco’s Nador province, in a hostile land with no certain future as they attempt to live out their European dream.

Produced by Arte France and Quark Productions, and the directorial debut of French-Ivory Coast screenwriter Isabelle Boni-Claverie, “Too Black To Be French” was inspired by remarks made by fashion house heir Jean-Paul Guerlain in a TV interview in 2010 that “I worked like a nigger. I don’t know if niggers have always worked like that, but anyway.”

In the documentary, Boni-Claverie, who grew up in a chic, well-heeled arrondissement in Paris and studied at the Sorbonne, explores her own mixed-race family history and how, yoking personal reflection and the comments of specialists, France’s colonial past conditions its attitudes towards its about-3.3 million black inhabitants.

Of other, already announced, acquisitions, Russian Alexander Kuznetsov’s “We’ll Be Alright,” a double Visions du Reel winner which is set in a Siberian neuropsychiatric ward, plays Panorama at IDFA.

An Ecumenical Jury Award winner at the Berlinale’s Forum section, ”Les Sauteurs” (“Those Who Jump”) follows the 16-months of attempts of Abou Bakar Sidibe, also the film’s director, to successfully jump the wall between Morocco and Melilla. World premiering at Hot Docs and also playing IDFA’s Best of Fests sidebar, “Whose Country?” which is directed by Egypt’s Mohamed Siam, is a first-person account by the Cairo-based filmmaker of his interaction with an Egyptian policeman, Abou H, who recounts police brutality towards civilians just after the revolution.

Johan Grimonprez’s “Shadow World,” which explores the global arms trade, plays IDFA’s Masters Section, as does “The Graduation,” an examination of daily life and competition at Paris’ La Femis film school from France’s Claire Simon, whose “On Fire” and “God’s Offices” were selected for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. “The Graduation” won the 2016 Venice Classics Award for best documentary on cinema.