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VENICE 2007 Competition / France

Kechiche eyes Lion with La Graine et le mulet


Two days before the opening of the 64th Venice Film Festival (August 29-September 8), French cinema is taking stock of all its assets in the quest for the Golden Lion, not won by a local production since 1993 (Krzystof Kieslowski’s Blue) and by a French director since 1987 (Louis Malle’s Goodbye, Children).

While untiring director Eric Rohmer will try his luck in competition for the third time with Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon [+see also:
film profile
(see news), curiosity surrounds Abdellatif Kechiche’s highly anticipated third feature, La Graine et le mulet [+see also:
film review
interview: Hafsia Herzi
film profile
(“The Grain and the Ass”).

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Discovered at the 2000 Venice Critics’ Week with Blame It on Voltaire, which won the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best First Feature, the 46 year-old helmer – who first worked as an actor (notably in André Téchiné’s 1987 feature The Innocents) – went on to a meteoric rise to fame with Games of Love and Chance [+see also:
film profile

Screened in the 2004 Berlinale Panorama sidebar, the title – winner of four Césars in 2005 (Best Film, Director, Writing and Most Promising Actress) – is considered by Marco Muller to be one of the most important films in recent years, while the Venice artistic director describes La Graine et le mulet as a film that moves the soul.

The cast stars Habib Boufares, Marzouk Bouraouïa, Faridah Benkhetache, Sabrina Ouazani, Hafsia Herzi and Olivier Loustau.

Written by Kechiche, shot in the southern French town of Sète (see news) and postponed at the last minute due to the serious illness of one of the main actors, the film tells how a North African family helps their father realise his dream of opening a restaurant.

Monsieur Beiji, a tired man in his sixties, spends his days at the port’s shipyard working in a job that has become tough over the years. Despite the separations and tension and worsening financial difficulties, the divorced father is eager to remain close to his family despite feeling useless.

It is this burdening impression of failure that he wants to escape by setting up his own business, a restaurant. But he has nowhere near the cash he needs to fulfil this ambition. However, this doesn’t prevent his dreaming and talking about it, especially to his family, who are gradually brought closer by the project, which for them becomes a search for a better life. Through their resourcefulness and efforts, their dream soon becomes reality. Or almost…

Produced by Claude Berri for Pathé Renn Productions in co-production with Hirsch, the €6.1m La Graine et le mulet was financed by France 2 Cinéma (€400,000 in co-production and €600,000 in pre-sales).

Pathé Distribution, who is also handling international sales, will release the title in France at a date yet to be decided on.

(Translated from French)

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