Nicholas Boukhrief’s drama Made In France was originally set for a theatrical release on November 18, but saw those plans shelved by distributor Pretty Pictures in the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks on Paris. The film’s all-too timely subject centers on a journalist who infiltrates a Jihadi cell in the heart of the city with a view to uncovering a plot to bring havoc to the streets of the French capital. After the initial postponement, a January 20 release was tentatively set. Now, nearly two months after the devastating events of mid-November and in this week that marks the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo killings, Pretty Pictures has announced an E-Cinéma/VOD release.
The decision was made, the company said unsurprisingly, “Due to theatrical programming difficulties related to the film’s subject matter.” Beginning January 29, Made In France will have a six-week exclusive VOD window in partnership with TF1 Video; the E-Cinéma designation is for films that have not been released theatrically.
Pretty Pictures’ James Velaise says some independent cinemas did want to screen it, but not enough.”The exceptional circumstances meant we had to adapt.”
While box office in France has been healthy on fantasy and comedy fare lately, the market is nevertheless slightly depressed, execs say. For a strongly terror-themed film, it’s clearly too soon for exhibitors, and a public that is still reeling from the atrocities of the past year. In light of the events, distributors are also treading carefully. The release of Studiocanal’s Bastille Day, which stars Idris Elba as a former CIA agent trying to thwart a terrorist attack on French soil, is still being worked out in France and abroad.
Among films with sensitive themes which stuck to their dates in the past weeks was Pathé’s Les Cowboys. The Directors’ Fortnight title follows a father in search of his daughter who has converted to Islam to live with a radical. It sold 208K tickets in November. Bac’s Taj Mahal, based on the true story of an 18-year-old French woman who survived the attack on the titular Mumbai hotel during which 164 people were assassinated, sold only 29K.
Made In France helmer Boukhrief, whose credits include 2010 crime drama Gardiens De L’Ordre and 2004 thriller Le Convoyeur with Jean Dujardin, says he understands the exhibitors’ concern over his film. “I might have made the same decision if I ran a movie theater,” he told French magazine Telerama. “When you have a staff, you have to try to protect them. It’s human, especially after the Bataclan,” he said referring to the site of one of the deadly November 13 attacks. He added, “I’m not judging anyone, but this irrational fear that has taken hold is exactly what the terrorists want. It might be too early for reflection. Most people are still traumatized.”
Paris-based WTFilms has sold Made In France to several other territories including Scandinavia, China, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Korea and Brazil. I’m told release dates are pending.