In 2011, producer Marc Obéron (“8,” “Vape Wave”) launched Le Temps Presse, an activist film festival dedicated to uniting socially minded filmmakers with an equally impassioned public in order to engage with the concerns of sustainable development and related issues facing the global community.
Now entering its ninth edition (Jan. 22-26), Le Temps Presse will introduce a new component this year. On Feb. 7, organizers will launch Cinema for Change, a daylong industry forum in Paris dedicated to the development and production of what Obéron calls “social impact entertainment.”
“In the United States, over the past few years, we’ve seen a strong trend towards civic-minded content,” says Obéron. “Questions of diversity, inclusion, climate change and other environmental concerns have not only informed documentaries, but many narrative features as well. With our first Cinema for Change forum, we want to bring together members French industry who are interested in the same questions.”
“Though there’s been plenty of talk about these various subjects, they’ve never been streamlined into a dedicated event focused on such concerns,” he continues. “We want to ask, can these films find a place [in France]? Is there a market for them, and if so, how can we make it stronger?”
On that last front, Obéron shows particular optimism. The sterling box-office hauls of recent socially conscious crowd-pleasers like Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s “The Specials” and Louis-Julien Petit’s “Invisibles” proves to the French producer that this kind of social impact cinema can find purchase in the commercial sphere.
“There’s a real civic need to evoke these topics through popular cinema,” he adds. “In terms of getting a message across, cinema is an extremely powerful medium – it’s much more impactful than the other ways information spills out at us every single day. But audiences need to access these topics through emotional involvement.”
And so the inaugural forum will bring together roughly 150 producers, screenwriters and film financiers alongside representatives from various NGOs, policymakers, and non-profits for a daylong rap session focusing on more effective collaborations. Structured around four unique round-tables dedicated to storytelling, financing, production and distribution, the forum aims to reframe each step along the traditional supply chain as avenues for activism.
Of course, the idea is to do so within the commercial sphere, and that balance is very much reflected in the day’s program, which begins with an address by Jean-François Camilleri — the former president of Disney France who now heads the social impact production outfit Echo Studio – and continues with a round-table headed by Petit that will ask, “Do good causes make for good stories?”
“First and foremost, you have to make a good film,” Obéron adds. “One that serves a good cause, one that acts with good intentions, but remains, above all else, a good film.”