Although the pandemic has pole-axed many independent distributors, some like Alexandre Mallet-Guy at Paris-based Memento Distribution have managed to weather the storm.
The company has had prestige auteur films playing in the festival circuit this year; at Cannes with multiple films in competition, including Jacques Audiard’s “Paris, District 13th,” Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero” and Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World;” in Deauville with Christophe Honoré’s “Guermantes;” and at San Sebastian with Laurent Cantet’s “Arthur Rambo,” Zhang Ji’s “Fire on the Plain” and Emmanuel Carriere’s “Between Two Worlds” with Juliette Binoche which world premiered on opening night at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight.
Along with his distribution activities, Mallet-Guy is also involved in production through Memento Production. The banner produces or co-produces select director-driven projects. “A Hero,” for instance, was produced by Mallet-Guy and Farhadi’s companies.
The movie won Cannes’ Grand Prize and played at Telluride. “Amazon Studios is positioning the movie in the Awards Season in several categories besides the international feature film one, for instance best director and script,” said Mallet-Guy who has been working closely with Farhadi since “A Separation.”
Mallet-Guy is also set to co-produce and distribute in France the next films by Turkish Palme d’Or winning director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (“Winter Sleep”) and Swedish-Egyptian helmer Tarik Saleh (“The Nile Hilton Incident”).
Bilge Ceylan’s “On Barren Weeds,” now in post, will be the helmer’s most ambitious film to date, said Mallet Guy, who described the movie as a lushly-lensed fresco touching on family, love and relationships. “On Barren Weeds” will be in post-production for one more year.
The production of “On Barren Weeds” continues in Erzurum. One of the productions supported by the Eurimages fund, it’s expected to hit theaters in 2023 and premiere, Mallet-Guy hopes, at the Cannes Film Festival.
Saleh’s fourth feature, “Boy From Heaven,” will be a “contemporary political religious thriller,” said Mallet-Guy. The movie is set in Cairo, in a Koranic school, and will star high-profile actors. Memento International, which no longer has crossed shareholding ties with Mallet-Guy’s banner, is handling world sales on “Boy From Heaven.” Saleh’s Stockholm-based outfit Atmo is producing the movie with Mallet-Guy.
“The movie is being made with a budget of 6.5 million euros and a topnotch cast and key crew; it will a large-scale film, definitely Saleh’s biggest to date,” pointed out Mallet-Guy, who successfully distributed “The Nile Hilton Incident.” The Arabic-language movie had sold more than 400,000 admissions which is an impressive performance for a foreign-language film.
While he’s looking to continue producing one or two films per year, Mallet-Guy says his primary activity remains distribution. The banner releases on average one movie per month and has been handling more and more French movies.
“Our distribution slate has been looking more French for the last five or six years. It used to be more international. But there are less and less attractive foreign-language or U.S. independent movies that are available in France, they’re often scooped by streaming services early on,” says Mallet-Guy, who adds that he’s stopped attending Sundance since 2019.
“These days, we are interested in slightly bigger French movies, either from well-established filmmakers or lesser-known ones but tackling topics that resonate today,” said Mallet-Guy.
Memento Distribution will be having a busy fall and winter, with “The Worst Person in the World” slated for French release in October; Audiard’s “Paris, District 13th” in November; Farhadi’s “A Hero” in December; Cantet’s thought-provoking tale “Arthur Rambo” and “Between Two Worlds” will bow early next year.