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Helmers and Minorities Out in Force at 21st Annual Rendez-Vous With French Cinema

Emmanuelle Bercot’s “Standing Tall,” Julie Delpy’s “Lolo,” Maiwenn’s “Mon Roi,” Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s “Les Trois Soeurs,” Catherine Corsini’s La Belle Saison” and Alice Winocour’s “Maryland” are among the eight pics directed by woman that are set to play at the Rendez-Vous With French Cinema in New York, a joint initiative of UniFrance and the Film Society Of Lincoln Center.

The lineup also includes the work of up-and-coming women directors such as Eva Husson with “Bang Gang” and Danielle Arbid with “Parisienne.”

The selection of 21 films features many movies with social or political themes that are either directed by or portraying minorities. These include Nabil Ayouch’s “Much Loved,” a drama about prostitution in Marrakech that was banned in Morocco after its world premiere at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight; Philippe Faucon’s “Fatima,” about a devoted single mother who raises her two teenage daughters the best she can while working as a maid to make ends meet; or even “Parisienne,” about the journey of a young and fearless Lebanese girl who moves to Paris in the 1990s.

“This year, the selection reflects the richness of contemporary French cinema; movies such as ‘Fatima,’ ‘Much Loved’ or ‘Story of Judas’ aren’t commercial vehicles, and they show an aspect of local cinema that we seldom see overseas,” says Florence Almozini, associate director of programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Richard Lorber, whose distribution company Kino Lorber just picked up “Fatima,” agrees. “The Rendez-Vous is always a welcome opportunity to see some of the best new French cinema often overlooked in the scrum of international festivals,” says the New York-based exec. “What’s also special is the highlighting of French productions dealing with issues of global importance that are not necessarily in the French language,” adds Lorber.

Almozini, meanwhile, noted that this new breed of French movies and directors has helped diversify the audiences for Gallic movies, and can lure younger filmgoers.
Isabelle Giordano, UniFrance’s managing director, says that “well-polished, lighter movies like Julie Delpy’s ‘Lolo’ and Rudi Rosenberg’s ‘The New Kid’ also contribute to giving French cinema a modern lift.” The org has been working closely with U.S. colleges in order to give students and other young people what is perhaps their first taste of French fare.

A crucial ally for U.S. arthouse distributors, Lincoln Center has provided selected French films with a strategic launchpad on the East Coast. The institution boasts three theaters, where it can screen certain movies in partnership with distributors. In the past, the Lincoln Center released Celine Sciamma’s Sundance hit “Girlhood” and Thomas Cailley’s Directors’ Fortnight-winning “Love at First Fight.”

Since the confab’s main goals is to drive U.S. acquisitions of French movies, the selection always includes a portion of films that don’t yet have a distributor. “This year again we have many movies that were available in the States when we unveiled the selection and most have since then been picked up,” says Almozini, who cited the recent acquisitions of “The Wakhan Front.” Last year, as many as five French movies found U.S. distribution at the mini-mart, says Giordano.

Bac Films, for instance, recently sold Nicolas Pariser’s thriller “The Great Game” to Distrib Films after the movie’s selection at the Rendez-Vous in New York was announced.

“Lincoln Center is quite picky, so being part of the lineup is a substantial label of quality in terms of marketing dollars; being selected is also a big plus since it means that talent will be on hand to attend red-carpet events and New York critics will review the movies,” says Gilles Sousa, head of sales at Bac Films.

“For foreign-language films, New York and Los Angeles are two crucial gateways into the U.S. market, so premiering at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in New York is particularly helpful, especially if it’s followed by COLCOA in Los Angeles in April,” Sousa adds.

Under Giordano’s watch, the UniFrance event has become increasingly professional rather than red-carpet-centric.

“The idea is build a strong and wide industry presence with sales agents and producers, as well as music composers, in addition to directors and actors,” explained Giordano, who also cited the importance of the business brunches organized during the confab and this year’s focus on French Touch composers hosted in partnership with the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music (SACEM).

French talent expected to attend include Isabelle Huppert (“Valley of Love”), Ayouch (“Much Loved”), Bercot (“Standing Tall”), Delpy (“Lolo”), Emmanuel Finkiel (“Je ne suis pas un salaud”), Louis Garrel (“Two Friends”), Husson (“Bang Gang”), Maiwenn (“Mon Roi”) and Gregoire Hetzel (“Summertime”).

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