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Berlinale: Ad Vitam to Produce Bruni Tedeschi Pic, Acquires Lelio’s ‘Fantastic Woman’ (EXCLUSIVE)

BERLIN– Ad Vitam, one of France’s leading independent distribution companies, is set to produce Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “Les estivants,” the actress-turned-director’s follow-up to “A Castle in Italy” (pictured above) which competed at Cannes

Launched in 1998 by Gregory Gajos, Arthur Hallereau and Alexandra Henochsberg, Ad Vitam has been raising its profile and scope lately with the launch of sales outfit Alma Cinema in partnership with Charles Gillibert’s production company CG Cinema (“Mustang,” “Personal Shopper”).

Although Ad Vitam is usually mainly involved in distribution and co-production, it boarded Tedeschi’s project as a full-on producer because of Henochsberg’s close relationship with Tedeschi. A popular actress in Europe, Tedeschi recently starred in Paolo Virzi’s “Like Crazy,” which played at Directors’ Fortnight in cannes, and Bruno Dumont’s “Slack Bay,” a competition entry at Cannes in 2016.

Budgeted at 6 million euros ($6.8 million), “Les estivants” was written by Bruni Tedeschi and her co-screenwriters on “A Castle in Italy,” Agnès de Sacy and Noémie Lvovsky.

The film centers around Anna, a woman who travels with her daughter to spend a few days at lavish, isolated French Riviera property; there, she must overcome her recent heartbreak and pursue the writing of her next film.

Ad Vitam has been thriving in France’s ultra competitive distribution landscape thanks to European and American director-driven films, such as Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash,” Jeff Nichols’ “Mud,” Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s “The Assassin,” Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul,” Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years,” Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern’s “Mammuth,” Pablo Trapero’s “Carancho,” Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s “Mustang,” Marco Bellocchio’s “Sweet Dreams,” as well as Bruni Tedeschi’s “A Castle in Italy.”

While contending that the access to upscale American indies like “Whiplash” or “Mud” has been more difficult within the last couple years because these pics are being nabbed by Netflix, Amazon, and U.S. studios, Henochsberg said Ad Vitam remains dedicated to discovering and launching thought-provoking and ambitious films from talented emerging and well-established filmmakers from all around the world in France.

At Berlin, for instance, Ad Vitam picked up French rights to Sebastian Lelio’s buzzed-about “A Fantastic Woman,” which is competing at the festival and was just scooped by Sony Pictures Classics for North American, Australian and New Zealand. “A Fantastic Woman” is one of the rare completed films acquired by Ad Vitam: The company is now pre-buying about 80% of its 10-to-15-pic lineup at script stage, pointed out Gajos.

The company’s upcoming distribution slate includes Guillaume Nicloux’s “To the Ends of the Earth,” an Indochina-war set drama with Gerard Depardieu and Gaspard Ulliel, which Alma is shopping at the EFM. And Ad Vitam currently has Thierry Fremaux’s documentary “Lumière! L’aventure commence” out in theaters.

Rather than focusing on viral campaigns and digital distribution like various indie French outfits, Ad Vitam has been relying mostly traditional marketing campaigns and grassroots film promotion, favoring theatrical distribution, Hallereau explained, giving the recent example of Fremaux’s doc which is being backed by film schools and has been doing well in theaters.

“Earth” headlines the sales roster of Alma Cinema, which bowed six months ago and is headed by Sara May, who previously worked at TF1 and Embankment Films. The sales banner has been building an eclectic lineup of high-profile auteur films and edgier pics such as Swedish-Iranian director Milad Alami’s psychological drama “The Charmer,” Roland Møller-starrer “A Bluebird in My Heart” and Robin Aubert’s chiller “Ravenous” with Marc-André Grondin.

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