Distrib Films has acquired U.S. rights to Mounia Meddour’s debut feature “Papicha” which world premiered at Cannes in Un Certain Regard last year. Following Cannes, the politically-minded film went on to win a flurry of international awards and became the most successful African film directed by a woman at the French box office.
Set in Algiers in the 1990s, “Papicha” follows daring young women who refuse to bow down to fundamentalism and reject the new bans imposed by the radical Islamists as the women plan to put on a fashion show.
Although its commercial release was cancelled in Algeria for political reasons, the film represented Algeria in the Oscar’s international feature film race. “Papicha” wasn’t shortlisted but it scored a Humanitarian Award from the International Press Academy last month; an exceptional deed for a French/African film. Previous honorees include Spike Lee, Stephen Chbosky and Benh Zeitlin.
“Papicha is one of those rare movies made deep from the heart with an emergency to tell an important story defining our times,” said Francois Scippa-Kohn, the founder of Distrib Films.
“We were struck by the destiny and the strength of the characters who remind us that optimism, passion, courage and resistance are the strongest weapons to defend democracy and freedom,” said Scippa-Kohn.
Distrib Films will be releasing “Papicha” in the U.S. this Spring. Given its know-how in handling French movies in North America, Distrib Films appears to be the right home for “Papicha.” Over the last few years, the company handled “Diary of a French Doctor,” “In Safe Hands” and “Someone Somewhere.”
“I’m particularly happy and proud to be working with Distrib Films which will allow us to connect with American audiences,” said Meddour. “Im deeply convinced that cinema is a powerful and crucial form of art that can create bridges between culture and initiate a dialogue between people,” added the director.
Reflecting on her Humanitarian Award, Meddour said she dedicated the prize to the “Algerian people who are giving a brave and surprising exemple of collective protest.”
“The courage and determination of the Algerian people, and especially the women, are heroic,” said Meddour.
“Papicha” is now vying for Cesar nominations (France’s equivalent to the Oscars) in all categories. The movie’s young stars, Lyna Khoudri and Shirine Boutella, are already part of the Cesar’s Revelations which precedes the nominations for best newcomers.
“Papicha” was produced by Xavier Gens and Gregoire Gensollen at Paris-based The Ink Connection, Patrick André at High Sea Productions, and co-produced by Belkacem Hadjadj at Algiers-based Tayda Film and Paul-Dominique Vacharasinthu at Tribus P Films. Jour2Fête handles international sales.