Niney, Exarchopoulos, Haenel, Kateb Headline UniFrance Rendez-Vous

Movie showcase unspools as animation powers up France’s 2015 export perf

"Down By Love," Adele Exarchopoulos, Guillaume
Courtesy of Studiocanal

PARIS – “Five,” featuring Pierre Niney, “Boss’s Daughter,” a Wild Bunch market premiere, and “Irreplaceable,” on Le Pacte’s books, will all screen at the 18th UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, the biggest national film market in the world.

Other potential highlights, of new films screening, take in Indie Sales’ “Dofus – Book 1: Julith,” Bac’s “The Great Game,” Films Distribution’s “Good Luck Sam,” a EuropaCorp drama, “Stop Me Here,” Elle Driver’s “Jailbirds,” Pathe’s “Come What May” and The Other Angle’s “The Roommates Party.”

Running Jan. 14-18 in Paris, the Rendez-Vous will also highlight the state and direction of France’s movie export industry, the biggest in the world after the U.S. in its sales agents numbers and, with the U.K. –depending on the definition of what constitutes a U.K. film – in theatrical gross and companies revenues.

Putting this into perspective, the French and U.K. industry accounted for 78% of theatrical admissions for European films outside Europe, per a recent European Audiovisual Observatory study, “The Theatrical Market For European Films Outside Europe.”

2015 export results – in theatrical box office – will almost inevitably be down on 2014, when Luc Besson’s “Lucy” became France’s biggest grosser ever outside France. But they will be considerably up on 2013, a soft year. “2015 theatrical figures for French films outside France will be better than average for the last ten years,” said Gilles Renouard, UniFrance deputy director. Variety calculates they may beat 2008’s 83 million admissions clocked up outside France, the third-best result to date of all-time.

The major headline is that France may have consolidated a new more mainstream revenue source – family entertainment/animation – to add in statistical terms to comedy, itself only coming online for France after Dany Boon’s 2008 “Welcome to the Sticks” – festival-friendly arthouse/crossover titles and action thrillers from Besson’s EuropaCorp as the country main movie export drivers.

“2015 has been a very good year for animation, and the highlight of its results,” said Renouard. And animation is a sign of the larger success of family entertainment, seen in the international box office of “Belle and Sebastien” in 2014 and “La Famille Belier” in 2015, he added.

Led by “Taken 3,” France’s 2015 International Top Ten certainly packs three animation titles, led by “The Little Prince,” from Mark Osborne (“King Fu Panda”), already crowned as the most popular French animated movie of all time punching 12.5 million admissions outside France through November, as well as Christophe Gans’ live action “Beauty and the Beast,” a big fairy tale makeover for the arthouse/family crowd. Add to that two Studiocanal-financed movies – the David Heyman-produced “Paddington” and Aardman’s “Shaun the Sheep Movie” and France’s overseas tyke-to-teen returns look significant.

Whether France’s animation Golden Age, as UniFrance dubs it, is a cyclical high or a fundamental growth trend remains to be seen.

Following on Luc Besson in 2014, Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam, producers of “The Little Prince” – with Soumache also producing “Mune,” another top 10 2015 export – will be presented with UniFrance’s Man of the Year Award on Jan. 15.

The success of animation this year or comedies in 2014 and before reflects the diversity of French films and the fact that production companies can make films with big budgets. You need them to have hits abroad,” Renouard commented.

Buyers will, however, be focusing on individual movies’ potential, not longer-term box office sea-change, as they screen films at the RDV.

Of new movies screening, the 18th UniFrance Rendez-Vous showcases the latest turns by some of France’s hottest newer thesp talent – Pierre Niney (“Yves Saint Laurent”), Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”), Adele Haenel (“Love at First Fight”) and Reda Kateb (“Zero Dark Thirty”) – consummate character actors, despite their often tender age.

Twice Cesar-nommed and a winner for his deadringer lead perf in “Yves Saint Laurent,” Pierre Niney toplines “Five,” a Paris-set friendship comedy of five down-on-their-uppers middle-class friends forced into crime to pay for their flat. Producer Les Films du Kiosque backed Cannes 2015 opener “Standing Tall.”

Co-starring in Sean Penn’s upcoming “The Last Face,” Adele Exarchopoulos, a Palme d’Or winner for “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” stars as the inmate of a model prison opposite Guillaume Gallienne (“Yves Saint Laurent”) as the jail’s director in Pierre Godeau’s tale of amour fou, “Down By Love” (pictured), also sold by Studiocanal.

“Les Ogres,” from Lea Fehrer (“Silent Voices”), a travelling theater troupe ensemble drama, marks the first lead role in over 18 months from Adele Haenel, the star of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s upcoming “The Unknown Girl,” and who trumps even Niney’s Cesar counts: Two Cesar noms and two nods by the age of 26, most notably for Thomas Cailley’s 2014 Directors’ Fortnight sensation, “Love at First Fight.”

The tortured money handler in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” and the kindly cabbie of Ryan Gosling’s “Lost River,” Reda Kateb plays another taxi driver, here just out of jail, in Gilles Bannier’s “Stop Me Here,” sold by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp.

UniFrance unveils French movies’ 2015 international theatrical B.O. on Jan. 15. Five Top Ten best export candidates (see table) ran up their overseas grosses without any major festival springboard.

“What we’re noticing in the market is that non-festival French movies do find box office success abroad. So there’s a shift in attention towards more mainstream fare. We’re not waiting to put these films into Festivals. Paris’ UniFrance Rendez-Vous has shown itself to be a great market for buyers,” said Films Distribution’s Nicolas Brigaud-Robert.

The 2016 RDV unspools also as mainstream French comedic fare is this decade finding audiences at home and abroad. 10 of the 15 French movies that sold one million tickets (about $7.0 million in box office gross) in France in 2015 were comedies. 27 of the 2016 Rendez-Vous’ 57 market premieres weigh in as comedies/dramedies.

Of potential standouts, The Other Angle’s “The Roommates’ Party,” a kind of ensemble “Intouchables” about Parisian bourgeois forced to house homeless immigrants and starring Karin Viard, one of France’s biggest marquee draws, scored a first-week €3 million ($3.3 million) in France from a Dec. 23 bow.

Films Distribution sold, “Good Luck Sam” is co-produced by the Dardennes, co-written by Noe Debre, co-scribe on Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Dheephan,” and stars Cannes’ best actor winner Sami Bouajila as a French amateur cross country skier who hatches a madcap scheme to rep Algeria at the Winter Olympics.

Of new comedies from France’s comedy powerhouses, “La Famille Belier” scribe Victoria Bedos writes and stars in sexual emancipation comedy “Vicky Banjo” for Gaumont, while Gaumont’s “Pattaya,” a Thai beach buddy comedy, is directed by and toplines Franck Gastambide, helmer of surprise 2012 breakout “Porn in the Hood.” Pathe’s regression comedy “Retour chez ma mere” stars comedienne Alexandre Lamy (“Brice de Nice,” “Bis”) as a pinkslipped architect forced back to her parents.

Screening 11 movies, The Other Angle has six new comedies on its Rendez-Vous books, including father-son reconciliation dramedy “A Mighty Dream,” with Gerard Depardieu and nerdy teen fish-out-of-water laffer “West Coast,” from producer Eric Jehelmann (“Little Nicholas,” “Second Chance,” “La Famille Belier”).

CG Cinema (“Clouds of Sils Maria,” the Oscar shortlisted “Mustang”) has teamed with The Film (“Lolo”) to produce Julien Rappaneau’s “Rosalie Blum,” an off-kilter romantic comedy about two opposed amateur sleuths repped by SND.

French comedies have scored huge sums abroad: “Bad (Serial) Weddings” ranked No. 3 in Germany in 2014. In the U.K., however, the highest-grossing French-language movie of 2015 was Celine Sciamma’s “Girlhood” ($350,000).

“You can pretty well hit the jackpot with ‘La Famille Belier.’ But you can make a lot of money with a Nanni Moretti title,” said Brigaud Robert at Films Distribution which sold very well Moretti’s “Mia Madre.” “Both are popular.”

Of potential auteur hits, produced by Rouge Intl.’s Julie Gayet and Nadia Turincev, and exploring the limits of social mobility in contempo hide-bound France, “Boss’s Daughter,” the debut of actor-turned-director Olivier Loustau, turns on a 40-year-old factory foreman who loses his head for a 25 year-old-girl. She turns out to be the owner’s daughter. Director Lisa Azuelos (“LOL”) co-produces.

Sold by Elle Driver and screened at Busan, “Jailbirds” is a women’s prison drama starring Sophie Marceau, the biggest star to date for consolidating auteur Audrey Estrougo (“Leila”). Rouge Intl. and Superprod produce.

Dominik Moll, director of “With a Friend Like Harry” and Cannes 2005 opener “Lemming,” may well return to his tramping ground of neuroses brewing below mundance surfaces in mid-life crisis drama “News From Planet Mars,” starring the ever-reliable François Damiens (“La Famille Belier”), which Diaphana releases in France March 9.

Vincent Garenq (“The Clearstream Affair”) returns to the Rendez-Vous with Studiocanal’s “Kalinka,” produced by LGM (“Valley of Love”), a true story about a father, played by revered French thesp Daniel Auteuil, who spent 27 years attempting to prove the guilt of his daughter’s murderer.

“Come What May,” the fourth feature from Christian Carion (“Joyeux Noel”) and for Carion a typically well-turned out war drama set this time in early World War II, as France retreats towards Dieppe straffed by the Luftwaffe, threatened by advancing Panzer tanks, looks to have undeniable foreign potential.

His second film after “The Names of Love,” a playful cross-the-political tracks romcom set in contempo, multi-ethnic France, Michel Leclerc returns with “The Terrible Privacy of Mr Sim.” Sold by SND, the road movie charts a man’s spiritual rebirth, and sports a top-notch cast of Jean-Pierre Bacri (“Looking for Hortense”), Matthieu Amalric (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Valeria Golino (“An Italian Name”).

The Rendez-Vous screens a brace of follow-ups to notable debuts or breakthroughs. Fehrer’s debut, “Silent Voices,” won 2009’s Louis Delluc Prize for Best First Film, for example; in Le Pacte-handled “Irreplaceable,” his third feature, Thomas Lilti (“Hippocrates”) once more explores the medical profession, this time the clash in values of an old world country doctor (Francois Cluzet, “The Intouchables”) and a new world embodied in his substitute, when he falls ill (Marianne Denicourt).

Of debuts, the biggest by far, and one of France’s highest-profile animation plays, is “Dofus – Book One: Julith.” Already a massively multi-player online role-playing game, TV series and comic franchise, the fantasy world adventure movie represents the first and flagship animated feature and big-screen iteration from French multi-platform studio Ankama. Sold by Indie Sales, it will be released by Gebeka in France this February.

There’s a good buzz on “As I Open My Eyes,” a politically-tinged coming-of-age tale from Leyla Bouzid; Nicolas Parisier’s “The Great Game,” a dark corridors-of-power-thriller, took the 2015 Louis Delluc Prize for Best First Film.

2016’s Rendez-Vous looks set to host more events, with a larger razzmatazz. The 6th My French Film Festival, an online Gallic movie fest, will announce at the Eiffel Tower its official film selection at a gala evening on Jan. 17, in the presence of filmmakers, its jury, and about 100 international journalists.

Per Renouard, about 350 distributors have been invited to the 18th Rendez-Vous, on a par with recent years. About 500 will attend, however, many finding their own accommodation. That is a sign of not only Europe’s biggest national film showcase but its large lure too.


Driven by EuropaCorp titles, comedy/dramedies, prestige art-house or crossover and now animation/family entertainment, French cinema is firing on multiple cylinders abroad. “The Little Prince” is also on track to become the second or third biggest non-EuropaCorp overseas release in the last decade, after “The Intouchables” and maybe “The Emperor’s Journey.” Ten candidates, according to Variety’s highly provisional calculations, to make France’s 2015 Top 10 Best Exports ranks or be thereabouts. Definitive cut, and box office gross, will be announced by UniFrance at the 18th Rendez-Vous:

Title, sales company, film type

1.”Taken 3,” EuropaCorp, action thriller; 2.”The Little Prince,” Wild Bunch, animation/family; 3.”The Transporter Refueled,” EuropaCorp, action-thriller,; 4.”La Famille Belier,” SND, family dramedy; 5.”Asterix – The Land of the Gods,” SND, animation/family; 6. “Serial (Bad) Weddings, TF1 Intl., comedy; 7. “Mune: Guardian of the Moon” Kinology, animation/family; 8. “Samba,” Gaumont, romantic dramedy; 9. “Beauty and the Beast,” Pathe, fantasy drama; 10. “The Salt of the Earth,” Le Pacte, docu-biopic.

Source: Variety, provisonal estimate


2014: €685.2 million ($746.9 million)

2013: €300.8 million ($327.0 million)

2012: €889.6 million ($969.6 million)

2011: €439.5 million ($479.1 million)

2010: €339.7 million ($370.3 million)

2009: €350.8 million ($382.3 million)

2008: €416.5 million ($454.0million)

2007: €354.0 million ($385.9 million)

2006: €322.6 million ($362.5 million)

2005: €392.1 million ($427.4 million)

Source: UniFrance €1=$1.09