Nicolas Brigaud-Robert • Exporter
"All of a sudden, the definition of cinema has become a hot topic for debate"
by Fabien Lemercier
- Nicolas Brigaud-Robert discusses Films Distribution’s line-up for Cannes and offers his opinion on trends and major market debates
Ahead of the 70th Cannes Film Festival’s (17-28 May) Film Market, we met up with Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, who, along with François Yon and Sébastian Beffa, heads up dynamic French international sales agency Films Distribution, which is due to take Cannes by storm this year with a brilliant line-up.
Cineuropa: With François Ozon and Robin Campillo in competition, Laurent Cantet in Un Certain Regard and Claire Denis opening the Directors' Fortnight, you appear to be in a very strong position for the market.
Nicolas Brigaud-Robert: You never know beforehand, but in theory we could be very successful. We're incredibly proud to be offering two of the four French films in competition. As is evident from previous years, opening the Directors' Fortnight provides a great amount of exposure, and the return of Laurent Cantet in Un Certain Regard is also fantastic, despite it being a Monday! Now all we need to do is roll up our sleeves and find some homes for these movies overseas.
François Ozon is a regular in competition at the major festivals, but it's Robin Campillo's first time competing at such a lofty level.
We have been accompanying both directors for a while – we’ve followed Robin since his first film, and this is our third movie together. I think we've also helped to build his international reputation. We also co-produced BPM (Beats Per Minute) [+see also:
interview: Arnaud Valois
interview: Robin Campillo
film profile], so he’s someone that we've invested time, attention and money in. We really have been involved in this film since the beginning. François Ozon is a different kettle of fish. The Double Lover [+see also:
film profile] is our third film together, and we are also co-producing it. What’s great about François is that he likes to approach style, genre and narrative in a completely innovative way. All of Ozon's films are different. Each film caters to a different audience, and thus requires a different approach to marketing. He's back with a somewhat provocative film, a love story, a thriller. It’s quite an erotic film and something completely different to The New Girlfriend [+see also:
interview: François Ozon
film profile] and Frantz [+see also:
Q&A: François Ozon
film profile]. This array of genres is an asset for us, as it sometimes attracts the same type of distributor, because there are distributors that follow specific directors. But on the contrary, it also goes down well in other territories where, owing to this variation in genre, François Ozon is a director we can find new takers for.
What are your expectations for Claire Denis' Let the Sunshine In [+see also:
film profile], which the Directors' Fortnight General Delegate is presenting as a sort of comedy?
It’s not a comedy per se, but Claire Denis did find a certain light-heartedness in this film, a certain irony. It’s a tone that is somewhat new to her. It’s definitely a film that people enjoy, and that's why the opening night is the right place for it. Edouard Waintrop has a great knack for sniffing out opening films that are big hits with the audience. In this case, he’s taken a fantastic woman in French cinema, an auteur, and given her an opening slot at a time when she really enjoys filming and can take pleasure in the audience’s enjoyment of the film. Juliette Binoche, who is on screen from beginning to end, also obviously took real pleasure in making this film – it's contagious for the audience.
What about Laurent Cantet?
The Workshop [+see also:
interview: Laurent Cantet
film profile] is by far the most intelligent film in terms of writing that I've seen this year. It’s a movie that, despite not being classically presented as such, is essentially a political title focusing on the shift of youth towards extremism. The story is told with incredible subtlety. The strength of a good storyteller lies in possessing the skills necessary to create a narrative, using your ability to say things without making a social-problem film. That’s what Cantet does so brilliantly with this ensemble film featuring young adults in La Ciotat, which is really a very Cantet film. We’re also market-premiering Sou Abadi’s first film, Some Like It Veiled, which is a very successful directorial debut, which happens to be very commercial and is truly a sign of the times. We took it on based on its subject matter, and it’s been hotly anticipated.
What’s the current global situation for distributors dealing with the types of films you sell, which could be defined as quality auteur cinema?
I prefer to simply describe it as cinema that is “not from Hollywood”. For distributors, it differs depending on the country. When local cinema is healthy and dynamic, our customers do well. When local cinema is in a precarious situation, it ends up being problematic for our clients because in those particular countries, the people importing cinema are also the ones distributing and exhibiting local independent cinema. When there’s a gap in the market, we have handy representatives with purchasing power who are able to import our films into their countries. In countries where things aren't going so well, they're going badly for the distributors in those countries but they also don’t go so well for us either.
What is your opinion on the issue of selling the worldwide rights for films to platforms?
As an exporter, it depends on the producer's decision, which in most cases relates to the auteur. Each case is unique. We do not have a general consensus at Films Distribution on whether or not we refuse to sell to certain platforms or to always favour a world platform offer over isolated sales. Each case – and this has happened to us several times – requires some sort of discussion with the producers, and has its own advantages and disadvantages. It also depends on the director’s wishes and so on. We don’t follow one single doctrine; there are as many doctrines as there are clients.
The question posed by the platform and the question posed by the selection of films from platforms at festivals is: what is cinema? I don’t have the answer, but I do find it to be an interesting debate. All of a sudden, the definition of cinema has become a hot topic for debate. It used to be linked to the medium of 35 mm film, the spectatorial role of the theatre, an economic model and a certain form of chronology. You either have to take refuge in an aesthetic definition of what cinema claims to be, or you have to adopt some sort of objective criteria. You also have to ask questions about economic sociology and philosophy, which is essentially to know what cinema is. It is a very interesting subject area, and as a generation, we are going to have to develop a new definition through power struggles, conflict and reflection. That’s what’s currently playing out.
(Translated from French)
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