The new French wave
One of the significant spin-offs of France’s selection as the Country of Focus in the 53rd International India Film Festival Goa is a push for increased co-productions between the two countries
Having sold about 500,000 tickets across cinemas in France, Ritesh Batra’s bittersweet take on loneliness and longing, The Lunchbox, is among the top three earners when it comes to co-productions released in the country. In fact, it stands second only to Denis Gamze Erguven’s Turkish language debut Mustang, about five orphaned sisters caught in a conservative world. “Many people discovered India through The Lunchbox,” said Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Counsellor for Education, Science and Culture, Institut francais India (IFI, French Institute in India) in an interaction with journalists in the Capital to mark France’s selection as the Country of Focus in the 53rd edition of the International India Film Festival Goa. Juliette Grandmont, Attache for Innovation & Multimedia, IFI, Mumbai thought the film, with its theme of love intertwined with food, was bound to be irresistible for the French audience.
France wants to encourage such creative collaborations with India in its aim of supporting diversity of cultures, characters, narratives in cinema. One of the significant spin-offs of the focus on France at IFFI is a push for increased co-productions between the two countries, an acknowledgment of the vital role cinema has played in the bilateral relationship between India and France in the field of culture.
In a virtual interaction with the media, Michele Plazanet, a representative of the National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image, a body under the ministry of culture in France responsible for production and promotion of cinematic and audiovisual arts, presented an overview about contemporary French Cinema with a special focus on co-productions. France has bilateral agreements with 60 countries in this regard. In 2021, it co-produced 143 films with 45 countries, 42% of which were feature films. It grants subsidy up to 250,000 euros for production and 50,000 euros for post-production, 50% of which needs to be spent within France. The annual budget allocated to co-productions this year is 6.4 million euros. All that Indian filmmakers need to do is go to the CNC website and apply with the requisite details of the projects.
Between 2012 and 2022, 3925 co-production proposals were submitted to CNC of which it supported 535 from 106 countries. 461 of these were fiction films, 68 documentaries and six animation films. 281 were either first or second films and 137 (44%) were directed by women. Of the 392 finished films, 388 travelled to international film festivals, 134 were shown at Cannes Film festival and 248 got released in France.
When it comes to India there have been 13 co-productions during this period, including The Lunchbox, Rohena Gera’s Sir about the changing dynamics of the relationship between a live-in help and her wealthy employer; Gurvinder Singh’s Chauthi Koot, about a doom-filled Punjab in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar and Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose, a love story that blooms and grows on the streets of Mumbai.
If one were to look at the best international film entries for Oscars 2023, then apart from France’s own nominee, Alice Diop’s Saint Omer, the country has been a co-producer on several other leading titles, like Austria’s Corsage, Belgium’s Close, Cambodia’s Return to Seoul, Denmark’s Holy Spider, Japan’s Plan 75, Uruguay’s The Employer and the Employee, Sweden’s Boy from Heaven, Morocco’s The Blue Caftan etc.
The celebration of French cinema in India comes on the heels of India named the ‘Country of Honour’ at the Marche du Cinema of the Cannes Film Festival. As part of it about 20 French films will be played in various sections at IFFI. These include big Cannes titles like Mia Hansen Love’s Un Beau Matin (One Fine Morning) and Albert Serra’s Pacifiction. The new work of the irrépressible Claire Denis one of the first, and obvious choice, for the programming team. In a year when the 76-year-old auteur has delivered two strong films, IFFI audience will get to watch her Berlinale best film and best director winner Avec Amour et Acharnement (Both Sides of the Blade) instead of the Cannes Grand Prix awardee Stars at Noon.
The contemporary French films in focus include Les Enfants des Autres (Other People's Children) by Rebecca Zlotowski, Ouistreham (Between Two Worlds) by Emmanuel Carrère, Belle et Sébastien: Nouvelle génération (Belle and Sebastian - Next Generation) by Pierre Coré, La Traversée (The Crossing) by Florence Miailhe, 16 ans (Sixteen) by Philippe Lioret, La Panthère des Neiges (The Velvet Queen) by Marie Amiguet, Le Parfum Vert (The Green Perfume) by Nicolas Pariser and Le Tigre et le Président (The Vanished President) by Jean-Marc Peyrefitte. There will be a tribute to maestro Jean Luc-Godard who passed away this year—Mitra Farahani’s À Vendredi, Robinson (See You Friday, Robinson), a documentary on the long-distance conversation between him and Iranian filmmaker Ebrahim Golestan. A retrospective of Godard’s work will also play at IFFI.
Speaking ahead of the event, the Ambassador of France to India, Mr Emmanuel Lenain, said: “Cinema is a powerful tool to bring the French and the Indian peoples closer together. France and India are two nations with a long and rich cinema history and with thriving movie industries. Indian cinema was honoured in June at the Cannes Film Festival, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. In reciprocity, France will be the country of focus at the International Film Festival of India with an amazing line-up of French contemporary films. I hope that the Indian audience will enjoy them.”