A long and laborious voyage
by Fabien Lemercier
- Production, distribution and international sales – when Alexandre Mallet-Guy set up Memento Films with Emilie Georges back in 2003, he wanted to go the whole hog
And it’s worked. To date his outfit has produced Hiner Saleem’s Kilometre Zero [+see also:
film profile] (in competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival) and György Pàlfi’s Taxidermia [+see also:
film profile] (Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2006). It has also distributed such quality films as Diane Bertrand’s L'annulaire, Yilmaz Arslan’s Fratricide and Danielle Arbid’s In the Battlefields [+see also:
film profile]), as well as selling 2006 Venice Golden Lion Still Life to a host of territories. But, the undisputed jewel in the young outfit’s crown has been its associate production of Emanuele Crialese’s Golden Door [+see also:
interview: Alexandre Mallet-Guy
interview: Charlotte Gainsbourg
interview: Emanuele Crialese
interview: Emanuele Crialese
interview: Fabrizio Mosca
film profile], which Memento will release on 150-200 screens in France on March 21. Cineuropa meets its producer to find out how the project began.
Cineuropa: How did the idea of producing Golden Door come about?
Alexandre Mallet-Guy: I was working with the distributor Pan Européenne and had just bought Respiro [+see also:
film profile] at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, which did really well in theatres (650,000 in ticket sales), France proving the most popular territory for the film. I started to talk to Crialese at the festival and we decided to work together on his next film. So I set up Memento.
Did you get involved in the casting?
The lead female role was originally written for an Anglo-Saxon actress. But I thought it better to cast a French actress so the film would be more appealing to French financiers and television channels. When I suggested Charlotte Gainsbourg for the part, Emanuele agreed on the spot.
Was it easy to get financing?
Emanuele had a 40-page treatment in January 2003, but it took us almost a year and a half to write the script that we presented to financiers. The production process was complicated. We started out with co-producers Fandango and Medusa. But three weeks before the shoot, Medusa decided to pull out and soon after Fandango. Why? They were a little cautious and afraid we would go over budget. Fortunately, RAI Cinema, who were interested from the outset, took over Medusa’s commitments and suggested we hire Titti Films as Italian co-producers. But France’s ARTE were the first to back the project in June 2004. They invested a record sum of over €1m: €300,000 each from ARTE France Cinéma, ARTE France and WDR (ARTE Germany) and €150,000 from Arte Cofinova. Only a month later, Wild Bunch signed up for international sales and Canal + and TPS said they would do pre-sales, which brought the overall budget to €11.7m. Memento Films will distribute the film in France with a massive €900,000 for theatrical and video rights.
How did the shoot go?
Production was complex since a large part of the shoot took place on a boat. We shot in several places (South Africa, Morocco, Turkey, Odessa) and, in the end, in Buenos Aires, where we found a boat and a river, which gave us access to the sea. Since it wasn’t possible to film on Ellis Island in New York, we shot everything in Buenos Aires during the 12 weeks in an immigrants’ hotel, which really looks like the one on Ellis Island. Argentina also experienced a flood of immigration (Italian, in particular) in the same period.