Nicolas Anthomé • Producer
"A filmmaker's talent is essential"
by Fabien Lemercier
- We met up with Nicolas Anthomé, bathysphere producer for Makala and 10,000 Nights in the Jungle, now a 2018 Producer on the Move
Founder and director of the Parisian production company bathysphere, Nicolas Anthomé is currently surfing a very pleasant wave thanks to the documentary Makala [+see also:
interview: Emmanuel Gras
film profile] by Emmanuel Gras, winner of the Grand Prix in the Critics' Week in 2017, and which is due to be distributed in France on 6 December by Les Films du Losange. Last May on the Croisette, bathysphere had yet another three films on the billing: Alive in France [+see also:
film profile] by Abel Ferrara at the Directors' Fortnight, The Starry Sky Above Me [+see also:
film profile] by Ilan Klipper at ACID and Wallay [+see also:
film profile] by Bernie Goldblat in the Cannes Junior section (after winning in Berlin in the Generation section). At Locarno, Contes de Juillet [+see also:
film profile] by Guillaume Brac was unveiled out of competition and the filming of 10,000 Nights in the Jungle, the second feature film by Arthur Harari, is now in sight, following the very well received Dark Inclusion [+see also:
interview: Arthur Harari
Cineuropa: What pushed you to work with Emmanuel Gras again on Makala, after A Cow's Life (nominated for best documentary at César 2013)?
Nicolas Anthomé: As a director he has a real sense of cinema and entertainment in documentary, with a powerful eye for mise-en-scène and a writing style that mobilises all areas of cinema, be them sound, imagery etc. For me, a filmmaker's talent is essential, perhaps more so than the subject matter, even. However, as is often the case with documentaries, people tend to think in terms of the subject matter, and despite the success of A Cow’s Life, very few people believed in Makala. They thought that a guy pushing a bike along in Africa would be boring. One of the few people that’s supported us from the beginning is Bruno Deloye on behalf of Ciné+. Everyone else rejected the project, be it an advance on earnings, other channels, Ile-de France, distributors. So we started filming with very little money. Once we'd finished editing the film, I showed it to several distributors and Les Films du Losange was very interested.
Is Makala representative of bathysphere's editorial line?
Yes, because it has strong formal ambition and an epic dimension to it. Bathysphere's editorial line is all about films with an original cinematographic writing style or particular fictional feel to them, or even both. Emmanuel Gras, William Brac, Arthur Harari and Emilie Brisavoine all offer very different films, but what they share is a very personal writing style.
Is this kind of singular approach well received by the financiers of fiction features?
Take 10,000 Nights in the Jungle byArthur Harari, for example, which we are currently in the process of preparing for filming. At first, everyone thought the project was very original, but also very singular (because it is a war film in Japanese), which was intimidating. Many people thought it couldn’t be done. Now that we have strong partners who really do believe in the project (Arte France Cinéma, the German Pandora, the Belgium GapBusters, the Cambodian Anti Archive in co-production, along with support from CNC's Cinémas du monde, Canal+, NRW, the Franco-German mini-treaty and Le Pacte, which is taking care of distribution in France and international sales, etc.), the fact that it is unique and distinctive is attractive. But others partners are welcome because there's still a funding gap. The story is about a Japanese soldier who is sent to an island at the end of the Second World War, and who refuses to believe that Japan has surrendered, continuing to wage war for another thirty years. The shooting will kick off at the beginning of 2019.
How do you go about blurring the lines between documentary and fiction?
I try to show my documentaries at film festivals rather than at documentary festivals, to avoid them getting labelled as documentaries. After that, it's a difference of market and marketing, but that's not my field of expertise. There’s also the difficulty of operating documentaries in cinemas, because the documentaries which come out are often subject-focused, and will therefore inevitably be successful with their own specific audiences, associations, etc. Whereas I think that documentary films should be screened in the same way as fiction films, like any ambitious auteur film. But it's very difficult for distributors to do that.
What else are you up to other than the theatrical release of Makala and next year's filming of Arthur Harari's film?
The documentary Le Bel été by Guillaume Brac is currently in the editing process, which we’re hoping will be completed by early 2018. The Starry Sky Above Me by Ilan Klipper is also due to be released on 7 March (Happiness Distribution). Droit de veto, Emilie Brisavoine's latest fiction film (Oh La La Pauline! [+see also:
film profile]), which is a pretty bonkers family comedy, is in the early stages of financing. We're also in the final stages of writing L'été nucléaire by Gaël Lépingle, a fiction feature that will sit somewhere between a "teen movie" and a disaster film.
(Translated from French)
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