Paris film jamboree ready for lift-off

Zylberstein stars as female trailblazer in Paris premiere

by Richard Mowe

Elsa Zylberstein stars as Simone Viel in opening film at UniFrance Rendezvous with French Cinema in Paris later this month
Elsa Zylberstein stars as Simone Viel in opening film at UniFrance Rendezvous with French Cinema in Paris later this month Photo: Warner Bros Pictures France
This is the time of year when the movers and shakers from film companies all over Europe and further afield usually are packing their suitcases before descending on Paris for the traditional Rendezvous with French Cinema. In their wake comes a phalanx of journalists to do interviews with the crême de la crême of talent for films due for release over the coming year.

This time around the organisers UniFrance have managed to revive a physical presence in Paris for the industry with “a pared-down format strictly tailored to the current health situation and, of course, subject to any decisions that may be announced by the French government in the lead-up to the opening of the event on January 11.” The media part of the event will take place online with journalists encountering the talent via Zoom.

Anaïs Demoustier in The Love Letter by Jérôme Bonnell
Anaïs Demoustier in The Love Letter by Jérôme Bonnell Photo: Mk2
Despite the circumstances of pandemic restrictions, which may see many participants unable to travel, it is anticipated that more than 120 television buyers and 320 film distributors will attend the event. The opening film, Simone, a Woman of the Century by Olivier Dahan, will be screened on 13 January at Le Balzac cinema in the presence of the film crew including the director and Elsa Zylberstein who plays the fearsome and trailblazing Veil. Deported to Auschwitz at the age of 16, she lost her father, mother and brother there. Veil became Minister of Health under the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1974, and campaigned to pass the law decriminalising abortion in France.

“It was important and an honour to play a woman like this. She is an extraordinary female who made history and who behaved like an extraordinary crusader,” Zylberstein has said of the role. Dahan has a penchant for strong female-centric films such as La Vie En Rose with Marion Cotillard as Piaf and Grace Of Monaco with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly.

For the first time the event has expanded to include television productions.

Centred around the Hotel du Collectionneur and screening rooms near the Champs-Elysées, the occasion will be more sober without any glittering receptions. No receptions will be held while the programmed events —screenings, pitch sessions, and markets — will be attended in strict compliance with health protocols.

Daniela Elstner, UniFrance managing director: Welcoming a new era
Daniela Elstner, UniFrance managing director: Welcoming a new era Photo: UniFrance
Around 88 films, including 55 premieres, will be presented to European distributors over four days. For the television sector, pitch sessions and screenings of new, previously unseen programmes (fiction, documentaries, and animation) will be unveiled to buyers. Among the anticipated titles to be revealed will be Gérard Depardieu as the legendary police inspector in Patrice Leconte’s Maigret; Mona Achache’s Valiant Hearts with Call My Agent’s Camille Cottin; Beautiful Minds by Bernard Campan and Alexandre Jollien; Christophe Barratier’s Pagnol-inspired The Time of the Secrets; Frédéric Tellier’s Goliath with Pierre Niney; Michel Leclerc’s Not My Type; and Jérôme Bonnell’s The Love Letter.

A one-day Europe-focussed event will bring together more than 30 French and international industry figures (including producers, sales agents, actors, directors, festival directors, foreign distributors, broadcasters, and representatives from institutional bodies) to reappraise and champion “the soft power approach and the sovereignty of French cinema and television productions”.

Putting a positive spin on the proceedings Daniela Elstner, UniFrance’s managing director, said: “The UniFrance Rendezvous opens a new era for our organisation.” In a message to delegates she underlines that “It is your diversity, your curiosity, and your commitment that has allowed the diversity of French films to flourish.”

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