Judith Lou Lévy • Producer, Les Films du Bal
"Marrying pleasure and high standards is where the most powerful cinema experience lies"
- The head of Les Films du Bal and French representative of Producers on the Move talks about her career, her editorial line, her projects and her vision of the market situation
The founder in 2011 of the Parisian company Les Films du Bal (which she co-heads with Ève Robin), Judith Lou Lévy has to her credit Nadav Lapid's Ahed’s Knee [+see also:
interview: Nadav Lapid
film profile] (Jury Prize last year at Cannes), Mati Diop's Atlantics [+see also:
interview: Mati Diop
film profile] (Grand Prix at Cannes in 2019), Tightrope Walkers [+see also:
film profile] by Ilan Klipper (ACID Cannes 2020 Hors les murs) and Fort Buchanan [+see also:
film profile] by Benjamin Crotty (Locarno Signs of Life 2014), not to mention the co-production of Bertrand Bonello's Zombi Child [+see also:
interview: Bertrand Bonello
film profile] (Directors' Fortnight 2019). She is the French representative of the Producers on the Move at this year's EFP.
Cineuropa: Why did you become a producer and what were the main stages in your career?
Judith Lou Lévy: I had an academic background in political science and cinema appeared to me as a way of working and transforming collective representations. After graduating from Sciences Po Paris in 2007, I worked with various filmmakers and producers who could be described as radical, such as Gilles Sandoz and Isild Le Besco. But I quickly felt that in order to develop the films I was interested in, I needed to be responsible for choosing the projects and bringing them to fruition, and I founded Les Films du Bal in 2011. In the process, I met young filmmakers, notably Mati Diop. We shared this desire to make what could be called missing images exist and to cross influences linked to genre cinema such as John Carpenter's The Fog with a work she had initiated in Dakar in her first short film. The idea was to escape the stereotypes of images made by Europe by working more in the metaphorical and the genre.
How would you define the editorial line of Les Films du Bal?
To carry, support and defend the very singular voices of auteur cinema, but also by bringing them towards themes and approaches that can meet a wide audience. Because we need to break down some barriers that have long been maintained, this separation between what is arguably a serious auteur cinema requiring a form of education prior to the film, and a cinema that is more for entertainment. I am a great believer in being able to combine pleasure and high standards; that is where the most powerful cinema experience lies. With my partner, Ève Robin, we are also very keen to defend the cinema and the theatres at a time when the industry, particularly in France, is riddled with questions about the boundary between audiovisual and cinema. I think that cinema is the spearhead of cultural exception in the world and that as such, it must be defended in its exceptional regime, defending cinemas and film auteurs because that is where the future of creation lies. In any case, that is where we must fight.
In this context and for the ambitious but demanding films you produce, are international co-productions or alliances with French producers indispensable?
Cinema also represents an absolutely unique creative universe because the diversity of funding sources offers a certain kind of editorial freedom. It is this diversity that allows for a great variety of films. International co-productions, particularly European ones, are clearly a way of giving auteur films a much-needed boost in relation to a shrinking national market. And the solidarity of producers at the level of individual countries (such as the pool of French companies that was formed to support Ahed's Knee) can also be a way of moving forward together on bold proposals.
What are your current projects?
We have a lot of feature film projects that have matured over the last few years. We are entering a new production cycle for 2022-2024. We are naturally continuing with the authors we have already supported, such as Nadav Lapid, Mati Diop (currently in production on a documentary with a very strong political subject that I cannot talk about further) and Benjamin Crotty (for a very ambitious project in co-production with Moonshaker). But we are also working on genre cinema with two first feature projects that I will take to Cannes for Producers on the Move. Because horror and science fiction films are an interesting meeting point between authors and the market. For example, the director Tom Harari (who worked with his brother Arthur on Onoda - 10 000 Nights in the Jungle [+see also:
interview: Arthur Harari
film profile], but also for Katell Quillévéré and Guillaume Brac, among others) is going to direct The Plant, a sort of disaster film about ecology that gradually slides into horror and also tells of our apprehension of a destiny that escapes us and separates us, as humans, from the living, with the revenge of an extremely invasive plant creature. We also hope to shoot Adrien Beau's Vourdalak in the autumn, an adaptation of the first vampiric novel written in Europe in the 19th century. And let's not forget, amongst others, a project by Aude Léa Rapin.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.