Paris Coproduction Village Rolls Out International Films for French Bizzers

PARIS — Paris Coproduction Village, a three-year old sibling of Les Arcs confab, rolled out a slew of festival-friendly, crossover, international projects carried by filmmakers and producers with a track record in the festival circuit.

Macedonian helmer Teona Strugar Mitevska’s “God Exists, her Name is Petrunija,” New-York-based Ghanaian director Frances Bodomo’s “Afronauts” and Brazilian director Aly Muritiba’s “Blood Drenched Beard” were among the most buzzed-about projects pitched at the three-day showcase, which runs alongside the Champs-Elysées Film Festival.

Headed by Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin, the team behind Les Arcs Coproduction Village has leveraged its vast network of industry professionals and topnotch scouting team to harvest 12 fresh projects for its Paris confab out of the 290 submissions.

“There is a plethora of a co-production forum out there so finding original projects with strong concept as well as a definite commercial and international appeal is key to make the cut through the clutter. It worked at Les Arcs and it looks like it’s working here,” said Fleurantin, who is working side by side with head of industry Jeremy Zelnik, general manager Guillaume Calop and manager Alice Guilbaud, to put together the three-day confab whose goal is to place French sales agents and co-producers on international projects.

Zelnik said the selection committee also consulted with various industry players including sales agents to pick the right projects.

A female-driven feature set in Macedonia, “God Exists” follows a 31-year-old single, unemployed woman whose victory at a national contest traditionally dominated by men causes protests from authorities and widespread uproar. Taking place over 24 hours, the plot revolves around the young woman’s rebellion against prejudice and her country’s collapsed social and judicial system.

Mitevska is one the most established helmers attending the confab: “God Exists” marks her fifth film. Her credits include “The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears,” which world premiered at Berlin in the panorama section. “God Exists” is being produced by Sisters and Brother Mitveski Production.

“Blood Drenched Beard,” a thriller drama, follows a young man on a dangerous journey to uncover the mysterious death of his grandfather in a Garopaba, a sleepy and eery beach resort in Brazil. An up-and-coming director, Muritiba made his directorial debut with “To My Beloved” premiered at San Sebastian in the Horizontes Latinos last year, and had his short “Tarantula” premiere at Venice. Sophie Mas at Brazil-based RT Features is producing.

“‘Blood Drenched Beard’ is a project that can reach a wide audience well beyond genre fans; it also has potential to thrive in secondary markets,” said Zelnik, adding that the movie was carried by a fairly well-established producer of critically-acclaimed films such as “Frances Ha,” “Night Moves” and “Love Is Strange.”

Inspired by true events, “Afronauts” takes place in the aftermath of the Zambian independence in 1965 when an ingenious group of villagers built a homemade rocket in a bid to join the space race. “Afronauts,” which made it into Sundance’s writers lab, directors lab and editors lab, is the feature spinoff of Bodomo’s short by the name that played at top festivals, including Sundance, Berlinale and AFI. Bodomo last participated in “Collective: Unconscious,” an omnibus feature that played at SXSW. “Afronauts” is being produced by Ryan Zacarias, whose slate includes “A Ciambra” — Jonas Carpignano’s follow-up to “Mediterranea” — and Matt Porterfield’s “Sollers Point.”

Filipino director Lav Diaz, another vet helmer attending the Parisian forum, presented “When the Waves Are Gone,” a film-noir-meets-revenge-thriller that turned out to be a highlight. Produced by Manila-based Epicedia Productions, “Waves” turns on a man who spent 30 years in prison for robbing a bank and is out to take his revenge on his former accomplice, who escaped jail and ran out to an island with the cash. Diaz last directed “A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery” which competed at Berlin and won the Silver Bear.

The Paris Coproduction Village turned the spotlight on Colombia with a selection of three projects and a roundtable on French-Colombian co-productions. Alfonso Acosta’s “Almost Never Too Late” proved the most popular of the three titles. Set in war-torn Bogota in 1989, “Almost Never Too Late” centers on a rebellious teenager who becomes the prime suspect of the murder of his high-school principal. Acosta made his directorial debut with the horror pic “The Crack,” which played at a string of festivals, notably Busan.

Turkey was also represented at the Paris showcase with Derya Durmaz’s “The Bus to Amerika,” a tale about an Iraqi boy living with his family in a refugee camp in Turkey who runs away after committing a sin. Durmaz, who is producing with Neves Polat at Mars Production, said the story tackles serious social and political issues in a playful way as it’s told from the child’s perspective.

Sales agents are keeping a close eye of the selection at Les Arcs and Paris, considering the many projects that went on to earn critical acclaim and festival prizes. Just this year, Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul” won the foreign-language Oscar, while “Dogs” and “Wolf and Sheep” won awards at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard and Directors’ Fortnight, respectively.

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