Running Jan. 10-17, Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous in Paris – an export focused market that unites buyers, producers, talent and press from film and television – will fête its 25th edition with a return to pre-pandemic (in-person) attendance numbers, and a once-more ebullient social calendar, rife with the cocktails, awards ceremonies and evening events that fell by the wayside over the past few vintages.
“We’ll have a renewed effervescence,” says Unifrance director of cinema, Gilles Renouard, of this year’s event. “People are finding each other again, [and] our goal was to get back toward a normal edition with our European distributors.”
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Indeed, with 87 films brought to market and more than 400 international film distributors present, such figures mark highs unseen since 2019 – with those numbers bolstered by 100 TV buyers, who have come onboard once Unifrance merged with TV France International in 2021, thus creating a one-stop-shop for film and TV promotion.
“Our objective is not to increase each year,” says Renouard. “Instead we want to welcome the right people – the professionals and distributors who buy French content abroad.”
Forty-one film sales agents and 62 TV outfits (which, given the nature of the current marketplace, sees some overlap between the two) will take part in this year’s event, which will introduce a new stage dedicated to French TV. Held on Jan. 10-11, the TV showcase will spotlight upcoming dramas and documentary titles from France TV Distribution, Studiocanal, Newen Connect, among many more.
Standout titles from the TV showcase includes Federation Studio’s biopic miniseries “Bardot,” “Aspergirl,” a comedy about a neurodivergent single-mother, presented by France TV Distribution, and “The Fragile Colossus,” a one-off drama, starring Eric Cantona.
On the film side, 46 titles will make their market premieres, beginning with the world premiere of François Ozon’s 1930s showbiz caper “The Crime Is Mine,” which will open the Unifrance Rendez-Vous on Jan. 11.
By way of auteurs, other market premieres include “Soul Mates,” a recovery drama led by Noémie Merlant (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”) and Benjamin Voisin (“Lost Illusions”), and directed by André Techiné; the Bangkok-set action drama “Farang” from director Xavier Gens (“Gangs of London”); and director Benoit Jacquot’s theater documentary “By Heart,” which follows Isabelle Huppert and Fabrice Luchini over the course of a season at the Avignon Theater Festival.
On the more commercial end, sales agent SND will open both “The Book of Wonders,” which follows a distressed mother travelling the world to help her ailing son, and the family adventure “Princes of the Desert,” which follows a Berber boy and baby camel on a race across the Sahara.
Despite the presence of Laurent Tirard’s nuns-on-bikes farce “Oh My Goodness!” and Philippe Lacheau’s broad sequel “Alibi.com 2,” this year’s selection is noticeably lighter on comedies than those of previous years, a dip Renouard likens to “a market correction,” noting that comedies (alongside family fare) led international admissions in 2022, and thus remain a market leader on the global stage.
There’s also the question of who’s behind the camera. “We will have 28 films from female directors,” Renouard continues, pointing toward titles like “The Book of Wonders” from Lisa Azuelos, “The Midwife” from Jennifer Devoldère, and “Hands of Gold” from Isabelle Mergault. “And those directors tend to focus less on comedies than on social cinema, dramas and family films.”
Whatever the case and no matter the genre, a spot at the newly supercharged event should no doubt set the stage for the year to come.
“These films will begin their international careers here,” Renouard continues. “Of the French films released internationally in 2022, one third were discovered here. And if you take away festival fare and the few very commercial titles [like the upcoming ‘The Three Musketeers’], all the other films that will make up the heart of French cinema abroad will be shown at the Rendez-Vous.”
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