French cinema comes to Indian theatres

MUMBAI: An addition to the cinema culture in India will be seen in the form of French films, which will soon be screened in multiplexes across the country. The 1st Rendezvous with French Cinema film festival will kick start with the world premiere of Asterix At The Olympic Games, the latest and the most expensive of the series.

The film festival will commence from 27 January at Fun Cinemas in collaboration with Unifrance and the French Embassy in five cities namely Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai and is being touted an attempt to commercially introduce the Indian audiences to a wide spectrum of genres explored the French way.

Speaking about the festival, French Embassy cultural counselor Philippe Martinet said, “India is becoming a world power in so many ways and with the FICCI projecting such high figures in terms of growth of the Indian cinema, we want to be a part of it.” According to him experiments conducted at Fun Republic have proved that the film goers here are now ready to watch experimental and other genres of foreign cinema, thus this step. “We are looking at three directions for our growth here, to boost co-production through bi-lateral agreements between India and France, open up our country for Indian film shoots and the most important, distribution of our movies in India,” he added.

Unifrance, the promoters for French Cinema facilitated the distribution by setting up meetings at the Cannes and Honk Kong Film Festivals. The Unifrance head of marketing Asia Valerie-Anne Christen said, “There were quite a few movies that were screened at these film festivals and the distributors picked the ones they liked and we provided a medium between the sales agents and the distributors.”

Incidentally, France is the first to have its own film office in Mumbai headed by Mohamed Bendjebbour. This has proved to be a good move as nearly all the movies have been pre-sold to four distributors namely, Alliance Media Entertainment, Palador, Shemaroo Entertainment and Star Entertainment. “These movies have been sold at a flat fee for theatrical release, satellite and home videos to the distributors. Since, this is our debut, the movies have been sold for $15,000-$30,000 apiece,” said Bendjebbour.

After the cost of release, marketing/PR and the minimum guarantee placed on the movie has been recovered, the revenue sharing will be on a 50-50 basis. Asterix remains unsold for particularly one reason, hype. “We have takers for the movie but we are hoping that after the world premiere happens on the screens in Mumbai, it will increase the going rate for the movie,” Bendjebbour added.

This collaboration has been furthered by including Subhash Ghai’s film school, Whistling Woods International. Bendjebbour said, “The one way to make sure that the Indo-French film ties remain close is educate and familiarise the new generation of Indian film-makers with the sensibilities of French cinema.”

Claude Lelouch and Albert Dupontel, two eminent French directors, who are part of the delegation headed to Mumbai for the festival will take one-day sessions with the students of Whistling Woods International. Ghai said, “We’re an international school, so it only makes sense that we have international faculty visiting our students. We’ve already had visits from directors from Norway and Australia and in two years’ time, we’ll be a world school.”

The movies lined up for preview screenings at the Fun Cinemas during the festivals include The Science of Sleep, Caramel, Chrysalis, Them, Azur and Asmar, The Stone Council and Crossed Tracks. After the theatrical previews, the movies will be released commercially in the Indian markets in a few weeks’ time.

As a parting shot, Martinet added, “With this festival, we look forward to strengthening Indo-French cultural ties through our cinema and hope to introduce the Indian audiences to more French cinema in times to come.”