International sales, distribution and production company Axxon Media has picked up a troika of films ahead of Berlinale. Leading the pack is Askar Uzabayev’s “Happiness” (“Bakhyt”) from Kazakhstan, which world premieres in the festival’s Panorama section.
Making its market debut at the EFM is Algeria-set “Soula,” written and directed by Salah Issaad, a contender at the Red Sea Festival in Jeddah last December.
The third film is Amalric Gérard’s French burlesque comedy “Public Enemy No. 0,” currently in post and to be presented as a work in progress.
“Axxon Media has a policy of acquiring films with a social, human or artistic cause,” said Brussels-based Axxon Media CEO, Gilles Duffaut, adding: “Festivals and distributors must work on films that awaken consciences, that unite people, make them participate in a film, rather than remaining passive and just watching it.” “People now want to participate in a story, pay for a cause, give their point of view,” he asserted.
“Happiness” and “Soula” are based on true, harrowing events in their respective countries.
According to Duffaut, “Happiness” is based on a similar incident that befell its producer Bayan Maxatkyzy, a famous TV anchor, producer, actress and blogger in Kazakhstan who nearly died after being beaten and stabbed by her then husband. “She survived and realized that although she was overprotected by her status as a public figure, she was not immune to domestic violence,” Duffaut noted, adding that Maxatkyzy has founded an organization to help battered women in her country.
“With the help of Anna Katchko, a great film producer, they produced the story of an influential cosmetic product distributor who, after being beaten by her husband, has to take her destiny into her own hands and react to these horrible aggressions,” he said. “Anybody after seeing this film will not be able to forget what others are going through. The film is powerful, strong, moving, and terrifying. It is this kind of film that I am looking for,” he continued.
“Soula” takes on the cause of single mothers who are hounded and persecuted by their own families in Algeria. In the film, a young woman who has a child out of wedlock, is chased out of her home by her own father and suffers the assaults of other men as she moves from car to car.
“Salah Issaad wanted to denounce the horrible fate of abandoned women who are thrown out on the street and who for many are forced to ditch their babies and their families and rebuild a life elsewhere or die,” said Duffaut, adding: “5000 babies are abandoned every year in Algeria; It is a scandal that must be denounced.”
By shedding light on such incidents, they hope that the film helps in making these horrors stop, he pointed out.
“Public Enemy N°0,” while a comedy, is produced by the Opérett association, which funds research on Rett Syndrome, a neurological condition that is the leading cause of multiple mental and physical disabilities in girls and women. Opérett will allot the proceeds collected in France to the University of Edinburgh-based labs where geneticist Sir Adrian Bird (nominated for the Nobel Prize for Medicine) and Dr. Stuart Cobb conduct their research. Both make cameos at the end of the film.