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Highlights - 08/06/2011
François Scippa-Kohn, Programmation et Distribution, Bellissima Films, Paris
Why did you decide to establish a distribution company dedicated exclusively to Italian cinema?
The impulse came from Fabio Conversi, president of the production company Babe Films, who's involved in many co-productions with Italy. In recent years the only Italian films that have stood a chance of being released in France were those that had won prizes at the biggest festivals. Very few documentaries or works by young directors reached French audiences. Bellissima Films was born from this idea, and from the desire to share a sincere love for contemporary Italian cinema. I would add that the notion of an editorial line is becoming increasingly vague in a market saturated by the number of weekly releases, while the lion's share of admissions is often had by the two "big" films of the week. As a "trademark" Bellissima is easily identifiable, as is its editorial line.
What type of cinema do you favour? Do you manage to disseminate your films into the heart of France?
In one year we've distributed 7 films, all of which were classed as arthouse. Thus we favour the network of independent cinemas with moderate-sized national releases. This will probably hold for the future as well, with the exception of occasional releases like The Ages of Love (Manuale d’amore 3), for which cinemas belonging to the big chains make up more than half the theatres in our release plan.
Our films have long runs, in fact Italian films have a solid and captive audience in France. In addition there are many Italian weeks and festivals, and we're in permanent contact with all of their representatives.
There's often talk of a renewal of Italian cinema since the turn of the millennium...
I believe this new interest is the sign of a healthier industry. Numerous young directors are making their first films and freeing themselves from a past that was no doubt glorious, but which has long not corresponded to our social or cultural context. Sorrentino, Garrone, Crialese, Luchetti and Guadagnino are examples to be followed, each with their own style and ideas. But they made their first films long ago and many directors with first short films under their belts are now up and coming, and we're keeping a close eye on them!
How would you sum up the past year, since the release of your first title – The Mouth of the Wolf – in June 2010? What were Bellissima Films' successes?
The Mouth of the Wolf, a real heartthrob, came out just a year ago in France with ten prints. Until now it's had 20,000 admissions and certain prints are still in circulation. This film allowed us to show our tastes and our will to distribute quality films right from the start. Two films have had almost 30,000 admissions: Draquila: Italy Trembles, by Sabina Guzzanti and La Bella Gente, by Ivano Di Matteo. Those have been our best results to date.
Taking stock, we could say that our entry on the competitive distribution market has been a success. The principal players in the sector identified us immediately, Italian screenplays and projects are pouring in and the exhibitors trust us. We have to remain cautious and hold to this course.
What films will you release next, and what marketing strategy are you developing for them?
Our next release is a particular case: The Ages of Love is in fact a big success in Italy. This third sequel, co-produced by Babe Films, brings together an international cast in three love stories: Robert de Niro, Monica Bellucci, Michele Placido, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laura Chiatti… We're planning to release it with about 100 prints. These will be in the original version and a French dubbed version, in 35mm and digital formats. We'll be basing ourselves on a tried-and-tested marketing plan: with trailers and announcements in cinemas, posters in Paris, purchasing and games on the site allociné.fr and a promotional visit to Paris by Robert de Niro. The film comes out on 15 June and we're keeping our fingers crossed.
We're also planning to release two titles in August:
A Quiet Life by Claudio Cupellini, which tells the story of a man – played by Toni Servillo – who fled his life as a Camorra boss by going to Germany, until two young Neapolitans come to stay… The release is planned for 3 August with forty or so prints.
Gorbachev, directed by Stefano Incerti, a very strong, well-developed and unqualifiable film. Toni Servillo (once again!) plays the role of a prison accountant with a passion for gambling, who is ready to drop everything for a young Chinese woman he falls passionately in love with. Naples and its Chinatown are filmed as never before, and we're expecting great reviews. This film will come out in France on 31 August with roughly 15 prints.
Interview: Lucas Varone, May 2011.
Pictures (from top):
The Ages of Love
La Vita tranquilla
La Bocca del Lupo