This is not Moroccan-born French filmmaker Robin Campillo’s first time at the Cannes Film Festival rodeo. The writer, director and editor was involved with Gilles Marchand’s Who Killed Bambi? (2003), and 2008’s The Class, which he not only wrote and edited but which also won the Palme d’Or for helmer Laurent Cantet.
This year sees Campillo making his first appearance in competition for a film he directed (and also wrote, but did not edit). It arrives with a lot of confidence—says Films Distribution co-founder Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, 120 Battements Par Minute will be “the French film that people are talking about in Cannes this year.”
The story is set in the early 1990s, as Act-Up Paris multiplies its efforts to fight general indifference despite the fact that AIDS has already ravaged lives for nearly a decade. Nathan, a newcomer to the group, finds his world shaken by radical militant Sean.
The film is programmed for the first Saturday night 7 PM screening, a prime slot that has a lot of heat on it.
“Thierry Frémaux did a great job by selecting it,” says Brigaud-Robert. “We’re grateful, but we think the movie deserves it.” The fact that it got a schedule spot that “everyone is calling about,” opines Brigaud-Robert, “maybe says something about the movie.”
Films Distribution is handling international sales on the film and also co-producing with Memento Films Production. The co-operation was borne out of enthusiasm for the script, says Brigaud-Robert. “After a few calls, we were all so excited about it that we said we had to have it, even if we have to share.”
FD has a history with Campillo, having sold his previous two films as director. Les Revenants (They Came Back) in 2004, sold in all major territories and later became the source material for Canal Plus’ Emmy-winning TV adaptation Les Revenants, which was then remade by Carlton Cuse as The Returned for A&E in 2014.
Campillo followed that with Eastern Boys (2013), which won Best Film in Venice’s Horizons section, and was nominated for Best Film and Best Director César Awards.
Brigaud-Robert says that from They Came Back, through to Eastern Boys and now BPM, “you see the giant step forward in his mise-en-scène and the progress in his craftsmanship.”