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"Helping young filmmakers to emerge"

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Jacques Bidou • Producer

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- Interview with Jacques Bidou, from JBA Production, at the Cinemed Meetings of the Mediterranean Film Festival of Montpellier

Jacques Bidou  • Producer

A member of the jury for the 26th Development Aid Grant organised as part of the 38th Mediterranean Film Festival of MontpellierJacques Bidou (JBA Production) is a figure in the French film industry who is particularly well-placed for discussing the projects of international writers. With his partner Marianne Dumoulin, he has produced films by the likes of Merzak AllouacheAlice RohrwacherAnnemarie JacirMarc RechaMaría de MedeirosTeresa VillaverdeFernando GuzzoniPablo AgüeroRaoul PeckRithy Panh and Tsai Ming-Liang.

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Cineuropa: Where does this tropism for producing films by writers from all over the world come from?
Jacques Bidou: First off, there’s almost a form of dogmatism which consists in always producing films by filmmakers from a country and never producing films by filmmakers from other countries on that country: you don’t produce a film by an Englishman about South Africa. Also, more than half the films produced by JBA are debut films, often by filmmakers in places in real need and where, with the know-how we have accumulated over the years, we can really help young filmmakers. We produced the first Papuan film, the first feature to be made by a black South African with Ramadan Suleman, Annemarie Jacir in Palestine, the debut films of Pablo Agüero and Fernando Guzzoni, etc. When you have to go and look for fertile ground, where there are issues at stake, and where you can help young filmmakers to make a name for themselves, you go.

What trends are we seeing from countries in the Mediterranean basin?
It’s always difficult to generalise. Strong filmmakers are emerging for example with the efforts made by Morocco to support its film industry, or with the power of Israeli film. But there are above all contradictions. Indeed, there was a big surge in creativity also associated with the availability of international funding and the fact that all of a sudden, filmmakers could allow themselves to widen their scope of action with more resources to play with. But this creativity, which was inspired by a movement 10-15 years ago and which created demand, is pulling against forces moving in the opposite direction today. There are more filmmakers today, and they are more creative than in the past, but they are also facing a drastically dwindling pool of resources and congestion in funding channels. With the World Cinema Fund, the Swiss Visions Sud Est Fund and even Cinémas du monde, a young Tunisian filmmaker on his third film for example will find himself lost in a hopeless jungle. This trend towards ‘more creativity, fewer resources’ creates another phenomenon: it leads to lower budgets. Once upon a time, it was quite feasible for African films to be made on a budget of €1.5 million, whereas African features are now made on between €300,000 and €600,000 at most. And those who make films on a higher budget are those who have accepted a system in which they are forced into contact with all the predators of the international production world, i.e. in which they run the risk of being caught in a system that doesn’t always let them to develop their project to maturity. Take Merzak Allouache for example, whose films The Repentant [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Merzak Allouache
film profile
]
 and The Rooftops [+see also:
trailer
interview: Merzak Allouache
film profile
]
 were produced by us. He lived in France, sure, but he’s a filmmaker who got to the point of wanting to break with this ‘corrupting’ system, although the word is rather excessive, which consists in saying “I can make a film in Algeria with €1.8 - €2 million, if I have French actors, if France is a majority producer, if this and if that". 

What does a jury like the one for the Development Aid Grant at the Cinemed Meetings in Montpellier look for first and foremost?
To really boil it down, none of the projects that land these grants are projects that aim to go one step further and hit the box-office. They are unique works. So they have to be as original and creative as possible. As what’s the point in supporting projects that aren’t innovative, in the situation we find ourselves in now. We don’t consider works in the wider context of the entire market, but in the context of these grants, which are excellent as even though they are for modest sums, they are important sources of funding.

What is JBA currently working on?
We produced Jesús [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Chilean director Fernando Guzzoni, which was presented at Toronto and then in competition at San Sebastián, and Eva Doesn’t Sleep [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 by Argentinian filmmaker Pablo Agüero, which has just picked up five Argentinian Condor awards. Then we have Wajib by Annemarie Jacir, a comedy that takes place in Christian Nazareth, and Yalda by Iranian director Massoud Bakhshi, which was very tricky to fund as it falls outside the scope of Europe, outside every agreement, outside of everything. Also in the pipeline are Sème le vent by Italian director Danilo Caputo, a young filmmaker from Apulia who is very talented and is in the throes of writing the film at the moment. Then we’re producing the debut feature by Venezuelan filmmaker George Walker TorresPerro negro, an explosive project.

(Translated from French)

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