Jean Labadie • Distributor
by Fabien Lemercier
14/10/2005 - Jean Labadie from Bac Films who is handling the French release of Carlos Reygadas’ second feature film on October 26 with 57 prints, told Cineuropa why he fell in love with Battle In Heaven [trailer, film focus] and why he is so committed to a filmmaker he winningly compares to Luis Buñuel. The support given to this feature film is part of Bac Films’ distribution choices that also include for the upcoming months Free Zone [trailer] by Amos Gitaï, The Death of Mr M. Lazarescu [trailer] by Cristi Puiu, Riviera by Anne Villaceque, La planète Blanche by Stéphane Millière and Thierry Piantanida, as well as Tideland by Terry Gilliam.
Cineuropa : Why did you decide to release Battle In Heaven?
Jean Labadie : When I saw this film last March, I had a film shock like I hadn’t had for a long time. I then discovered Carlos Reygadas whole world with Japón. What was even more fascinating was the real progression from one film to the other. He is a maturing filmmaking who will be one of the big names in the years to come. So I bought the film as soon as I got out of the screening room..
What is your release strategy for the film?
It was largely put together by the producer of the film Philippe Bober who took it to the Cannes competition last May. Based on the film’s reception, we immediately decided to go for October 26 because it is a strong release date. People want to go to the movies because it’s a school break and they have time on their hand, so it’s ideal for the film to get the best exposure possible. Of course, there is screen competition every week, particularly in October – November. But Battle In Heaven is such an innovating film it should fill a very special niche and I count on the curiosity of real filmbuffs. Since mid-September, there is a big postering and trailer campaign in all the cinemas where the film will play, but we’ve also worked hard on the publicity side as the support from the media is essential to get the word of mouth going on the film. As the cast is unknown, it is through TV and press reviews that we are going to introduce the film to the audience. We have no intention to use the scandal to launch the movie because in our country, it would take no time to spark things off and people who’d want to see the film for that reason would probably be disappointed and would bring a negative word of mouth. For me, this film is in the pure tradition of daring and risky filmmaking the way it was with Buñuel’s L’âge d’or or Un chien Andalou. That’s why Carlos Reygadas is such a great filmmaker that should be fought for, and those who will stop at the first and last scene will not see the film.
Is it a big gamble to release auteur films against the power of blockbusters?
Of course there are commercial and financial risks to distribute auteur films, but that’s always been the case. It might be a bit harder today because of the high volume of films released every week that increase the level of film rotation in cinemas. So screen time is often very short and if a film is not lucky enough to have a good opening week, it will have little chance to continue to play, unlike in the 80s. Today a film has a week to find its audience. For auteur films that do not names like Blier-Bellucci to build their campaign on, a big P&A budget, press support or the status of a well-established filmmaker like Woody Allen, the risk is even higher. But taking risks is part of our job. And taking risks for someone like Carlos Reygadas is completely justified on the long term because he will be one of the major filmmakers of the years to come.