Dardennes, Debre, Bentoumi, Bouajila Wish ‘Good Luck Sam’

Fish-out-of-water comedy heads ranging Films Distribution UniFrance Rendez-Vous slate

Good Luck Sam, starring Sami Bouajila
Courtesy of Films Distribution

Paris-based Films Distribution has taken world sales rights to “Good Luck Sam,” one of the 2016 UniFrance Rendez-Vous market-premiere comedies with largest production pedigree.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne co-produce out of their Brussels-shingle Les Films du Fleuve. Producer of Rebecca Zlotowski’s highly regarded debut “Belle épine” and follow-up “Grand Central,” which established her a director to track, Les Films Velvet’s lead produces out of France.

“Good Luck Sam” is the first feature of Farid Bentoumi, a laureat of France’s Emergence talent development program whose alums include Mia Hansen-Love and Katell Quillevere, two of France’s most exciting young distaff directors.

Bentoumi’s project was originally god-mothered at Emergence by Agnes Jaoui (“Let It Rain”). It is co-penned by Bentoumi, Gaelle Mace (“Aylah”) and Noe Debre, co-scribe on Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Dheephan” and Thomas Bidegain’s “The Cowboys.”

Ad Vitam, whose 2016 line-up also includes Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Cannes Best Director winner “The Assassin” and “45 Years,” for many critics the best U.K. films of 2015, will release “Good Luck Sam” in France March 30.

Sami Bouajila, Cannes best actor co-winner for 2006’s “Days of Glory” and Cesar Awards supporting actor laureat for “The Witnesses,” takes a more comic turn in “Good Luck Sam” playing a French family man whose Swiss Alps-based company, which manufactures skis, is teetering towards bankruptcy. In a desperate marketing ploy, he sets out to qualify for the Winter Olympics, representing his father’s country of Algeria in cross-country skiing.

Questioning stereotypes from its title onwards, “Good Luck Sam” suggests a new take on the Maghreb, not as an exotic locale for “Casablanca”-style intrigue but a new kind of adventure. “A kind of fish-out-of-water” tale, per Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, a partner at Films Distribution, which will bring the title onto the international market at next week’s UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French cinema in Paris, “Good Luck Sam” also charts, in the vein of “Welcome To the Sticks,” a man’s growing sense of belonging. “Sam starts representing a country whose language he doesn’t speak, to which at the beginning he has no attachment and, as he becomes a real contender, ends up feeling responsible for carrying the colors of Algeria,” he added.

Films Distribution’s Paris Rendez-Vous lineup frames three first-features: “Good Luck Sam,” Arthur Harari’s “Black Diamond” and “Meet the Guilbys,” from Arthur Delaire and Quentin Reynaud, plus a sophomore outing, Ounie Lecomte’s “Looking For Her, her follow-up to her Cannes 2009 Special Screening, “A Brand New Life.”

“As a mature company, Films Distribution tries not to follow trends but directors who are spending ever more time on their screenplays. If it has more comedies and dramedies, it’s because “that’s where the talent is going right now,” said Brigaud-Robert.

That said, with “a comedy [“Guilbys,”], a thriller, a feel-good dramedy [“Sam”] and a high-concept drama [“Looking for Her],” Films Distribution’s RDV slate “covers all the bases,” he added.

A family road-trip comedy that captures the complexity and still large emotional pay-off of contempo family relations, “Meet the Guilbys” tracks a typically sprawling non-nuclear family these days – both parents have offspring from former marriages, the mother a hanger-on brother – as they set off across France for the funeral of an estranged grandfather. It’s one of the rare occasions when they are all together and the trip finally brings them more together. “Guilbys” is set for a Jan. 20 release via Mars Distribution, France’s biggest French film distributor. It is produced by Paris-based 247 Films (“Persepolis,” “La Delicatesse”). Isabelle Carre (“Romantics Anonymous”) and Stephane De Groodt (“Superchondriac“) star.

The debut feature of Arthur Harari, “Black Diamond” is a thriller about a man who attempt to destroy his family’s diamond business, which he think killed his father. It is produced by David Thion and Philippe Martin for Paris-based Les Films Pelleas, which has backed films by Pierre Salvadori (“In the Courtyard,” “Priceless”), Nicole Garcia (Going Away. 2014), Christophe Honore (“Metamorphoses”) and Mia Hansen-Love (“Goodbye First Love”) and has Katell Quillevere’s “Reparer les vivants” in post-pro. Belgium’s Savage Film (“Bullhead”) and Fracas Films (“Bye Bye Blondie”).

Though addressing the issue from angles that could hardly be more different, Films Distribution’s films warm to a sense of identity – multi-cultural in “Good Luck, Sam,” for example – capturing one zeitgeist undercurrent in a world of rampant globalization. Returning to the personally felt theme of adoption in the second film in a planned trilogy, in “Looking For Her” captures a physical therapist’s search for her birth mother, after she relocates with her young son to Dunkirk. Celine Sallette (“Rust and Bone,” “House of Tolerance”) stars. Producer is Gloria Films Production – a select and cosmopolitan production house – Yared Zeleke’s “Lamb” (2015), Nick Quinn’s 2013 “Family Matters,” Santiago Amigorena’s “Another Silence,” released in 2011, represent its latest productions.