‘Athena’ Producer Iconoclast Powers Next Projects by Leo Berne, Elias Belkeddar, Said Belktibia (EXCLUSIVE)

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Iconoclast, the international production group behind Romain Gavras’ Venice competition film “Athena,” is setting a wide-ranging slate of projects with emerging filmmakers from different audiovisual fields, including Leo Berne from the artists collective Megaforce, Elias Belkeddar and Said Belktibia from the collective Kourtrajmé. The company is also producing the next projects of Harmony Korine and Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, among others.

In a rare interview, Nicolas Lhermitte, who co-founded Iconoclast with Mourad Belkeddar and Charles-Marie Anthonioz, says the company has emerged from the pandemic with a record number of developed projects. “We took the opportunity during the pandemic to develop a lot of projects, and today we have around 30 projects in the pipeline, spanning films and series that are set up at our studios in France, the U.S. and Germany,” says Lhermitte, who adds that Iconoclast aspired to “accompany multi-disciplinary artists to venture from one field to another, films, TV series, branded content, and music videos.”

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The company is getting ready to shoot “Rokya,” the feature debut of Belktibia, a story of witches set in a Parisian suburb, starring Golshifteh Farahani (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”) and co-written with Elias Belkeddar and Louis Penicaut (“The Bureau”). Belktibia previously directed the short “Ghettotube,” which played at Tribeca. The Jokers will distribute “Rokya” in France.

Iconoclast is also developing “I am a Monster,” the feature debut of Berne, who previously directed the critically acclaimed genre-bending short “The Censor of Dreams” (co-directed with Raphael Rodriguez), which was short-listed at this year’s Oscars. Like Gavras, Berne has a track record in music videos through the collective Megaforce.

Berne’s feature debut will be a genre film aimed at Gen Z audiences involving an orphan girl fighting a monster to protect her sibling. Lhermitte says the film will also talk about today’s society and will likely be shot in English. “The borders between Europe and the U.S. have opened up, and we see that Americans are the first to contact us when they spot one of our talents, that was the case with Leo Berne,” he says.

Iconoclast is well-established in the U.S., where it previously delivered the latest films by Gus Van Sant (“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot”), Julian Schnabel (“At Eternity’s Gate”) and Korine (“The Beach Bum”). Lhermitte says the company was working with Korine on his next project.

Iconoclast is also producing “Omar La Fraise,” the feature debut of Elias Belkeddar, whose “Un Jour de mariage” won best short at Cannes. Co-written by Elias Belkeddar, Thomas Bidegain (“A Prophet”) and Jerome Pierrat (“The Last Panther”), “Omar La Fraise” is headlined by Benoit Magimel and Reda Kateb, who plays a retired gangster who has been laying low for 20 years in Algeria. The film has been already boarded by Studiocanal, which is handling international sales, as well as French broadcaster France Televisions.

Lhermitte says the involvement of Netflix in “Athena,” which marks Gavras’ most ambitious film to date and the streamer’s first French film competing in Venice, reflects the shifting industrial models.

“‘Athena’ is a film that would have taken us a very long time to finance,” says Lhermitte. “As we’re seeing in Venice with several films by directors like Gavras, Noah Baumbach and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, platforms are becoming like film studios, and working closely with directors who have a strong vision, giving them the possibility to access audiences around the world at a time when the theatrical distribution landscape is becoming more and more polarized.”

Iconoclast has also been expanding its international presence through its joint venture with Berlin-based StickUp Films to form Iconoclast Films Germany. The new banner, represented by CAA, is developing and producing several feature films and series.

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