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Cannes: Global Pitches Boost Books

In keeping with its aims toward greater global inclusion, the Cannes Market’s initiative Shoot the Book will present its most diverse selection to date when hosting its annual pitch session on May 21.

Of the 11 publishers invited to pitch, seven come from France, two from Canada, one from Switzerland and one from Norway — and all will present their selected texts before an industry-wide cross-section of producers eager for new material.

Whittled down to 11 choices from a larger number of entries, the selected titles come courtesy of a particularly cosmopolitan jury that encompassed 10 film industry professionals from almost as many countries.

Although event organizer Nathalie Piaskowski is pleased with the lineup selected by this year’s jury — which includes Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael, Argentine producer Benjamin Domenech and Greco-American screenwriter Christina Lazaridi — she’s already looking to start afresh next year.

“The jury changes every year, and that’s important for us,” Piaskowski says. “[Shoot the Book] cannot take objective positions on what is adaptable and what is not. When you read a book, even with adaptation in the back of your mind, the book still has to resonate with you on a personal level. Those subjective reactions are what push a project forward. That’s for [each specific] jury to decide.”

In terms of francophone fare, this jury opted for a particularly genre focused selection that includes five novels, two graphic novels and one bit of lightly fictionalized true crime, while event organizers added further texts from Canada and Norway as they are the countries of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year.

Both graphic novels deal with societies seized by conflict. First, Chris and Mäel’s “The War That Made Us” presents a murder mystery set in the muddy, body-filled trenches of World War I, while “Katanga,” from authors Fabien Nury and Sylvain Vallée, uses the onset of the 1960 Congo Crisis to craft a winding political thriller.

Other selections complement one another in noirish ways. In Barbara Abel’s “I Don’t Know,” the search for a missing girl leads to further mysteries, especially when the child returns and those who went looking for her do not, whereas in Monica Sabolo’s “Summer,” a long-troubled man decides to finally resolve what happened to his older sister who disappeared 25 years earlier.

The selection is ripe with many critical favorites. Tobie Nathan’s “This Land That Is Like You,” a period epic about religious tensions in 1950s Cairo, was a 2015 finalist for France’s prestigious Goncourt Prize, while Philippe Jaenada’s “La Serpe,” a true-crime take on an acclaimed French writer, took home the Femina Prize in 2017.

And then there’s “Hiver à Sokcho,” the first novel from Elisa Shua Dusapin. A chilly romance set in North Korea, Dusapin’s debut has won prizes and acclaim in Switzerland and France, and has made the twentysomething writer a rising literary star.

Indeed, many of these projects stand real shots at making it to screen. Since 2014, around 20 of all Shoot the Book pitched titles have been optioned, and event organizers are waiting patiently to see which one first makes it to the next step.

“Everything takes time,” says Piaskowski. “First we needed to establish ourselves as an event, then producers to find the projects that interested them, and then to develop them another few years. Only then can production begin… [but] I think within the next two or three years we’ll see the release of the first Shoot the Book-stamped project.”

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