EXCLUSIVE: Paris-based sales powerhouse Wild Bunch International (WBI) has unveiled the bulk of its French slate for the first half of 2023 as it gears up for the Unifrance Rendez-vous in Paris, running January 10-17.
New titles on the slate include Jean-Bernard Marlin’s Marseille gangland-set fantasy Salem about a former gang member who believes his daughter is the only one who can save his community from an apocalyptic curse uttered by a rival gang member in his dying breath.
Salem is Marlin’s second feature after the gritty romance Shéhérazade. That drama, also set against the backdrop of Marseille
, debuted in Cannes in 2018 and went on to win best first film in France’s 2019 César awards as well as most promising actress and actor for its big screen debutants Kenza Fortas and Dylan Robert.
The new film, which is currently in post-production, is co-produced by Bruno Nahon’s Unité and Vatos Locos Productions, Marlin’s company with Romain Daubeach and Marine Bergère.
WBI has a track record of scouting buzzy first and second French features that go on to make a festival awards splash, including Ladj Ly’s Oscar-nominated, 2019 Cannes Jury Winner Les Misérables, Julia Ducournau’s 2021 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane, Audrey Diwan’s Happening Venice 2021 Golden Lion winner, and Alice Diop’s Venice Best First Film and Grand Jury Prize winner Saint Omer.
Other new titles on the slate include Stephan Castang’s zombie tale Vincent Must Die, starring Karim Leklou as a man who wakes up one morning to find himself suddenly being attacked by random strangers.
The feature is produced by French companies Capricci, Bobi Lux and Belgium’s Frakas Productions. It is one of the first features to come to fruition, through Wild West, the production company cofounded by Capricci and WBI to create more French genre movies targeted at a younger generation.
WBI will also unveil Bruno Podalydes’s new comedy Wow! set against the world of estate agents and featuring an ensemble cast, led by the director-actor and also including Karin Viard, Victor Lefebvre, Sabine Azema and Eddy Mitchell.
Other new titles include Jean-Gabriel Leynaud’s documentary Of Mud And Blood, following the harsh life in the village of Numbi in the Congo Mountains, where the inhabitants make their living digging for coltan, a key raw material found in many contemporary technological products.
The documentary, co-produced by Valdes, Borsalino Productions and Pallas Films, is currently in production.
Beyond its French slate, WBI has also recently acquired the Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Competition title Heroic by Mexican director David Zonana.
The drama, produced by award-winning director Michel Franco, revolves around an 18-year-old indigenous boy who enters the Heroic Military College in the hopes of a better future, where he comes up against a rigid and institutionally violent system.
It is Zonana’s second feature after Workforce which debuted in Toronto and then San Sebastian in 2019.
WBI company will also market premiere a number of films at the Unifrance RDV.
Highlights include a special event screening event for Jean-Albert Lievre’s Whale Nation. The work exploring the complex society and lives of humpback whales is inspired by Heathcote Williams’ book of the same name and narrated by Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin.
The company will also market premiere editor Héloïse Pelloquet’s first feature Wild Seas starring Cecile de France as a woman working alongside her fisherman husband (Gregoire Monsaingeon) on an Island off France’s Atlantic coast.
Their happy existence is thrown into question by the arrival of a trainee played by Félix Lefebvre, best known internationally for his role in François Ozon’s Summer Of 85.
The film is produced by Why Not Productions and Bac Films is gearing up for a December 28 release in France.
Further market premieres include actor-director Chad Chenouga’s The Principal starring Roschdy Zem as a middle school vice principal who will do whatever it takes to ensure his beloved son achieves top marks in key exams. The cast also features Yolande Moreau.
The film is another production from Why Not in co-production with Zem’s Hole In One. Le Pacte has set a May 10 2023 French release.
WBI will also continue sales on a handful of previously announced titles expected to make a Cannes splash this year including Maiwenn’s period love story Jeanne Du Barry, in which she also co-stars as the titular courtesan opposite Johnny Depp as Louis XV, and Ken Loach’s cross-cultural drama The Old Oak, revolving around an old village pub in Northeast of England.
Other festival hopefuls include Valerie Donzelli’s Just The Two Of Us, starring Virginie Efira as a woman whose passionate love story takes a sinister turn when she finds herself in the grip of a possessive and dangerous man, played by Melvil Poupaud, as well as Kim Chapiron’s Mercy.
High-profile titles in pre-production Include Olivier Masset-Depasse’s action thriller The Price of Money and Venice Golden Lion winner Audrey Diwan’s Emmanuelle reboot, which is set to star Léa Seydoux.
On the latter, Diwan is currently writing the screenplay with Rebecca Zlotowski, with the film expected to go into production towards the end of 2023.