Lionel Guedj • Producer
“We want to work with artists who are not averse to taking risks”
- We met up with producer Lionel Guedj (of To Be Continued) at the Cinemed Meetings to discuss the project Dieu reconnaîtra les siens
Production outfit To Be Continued is in the running for the Development Aid Grant set to be handed out at the 39th Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival with the project Dieu reconnaîtra les siens (lit. “God Will Recognise His Own”) by French-Moroccan director Hassan Legzouli (who made a splash with his first two features, Testament and The Golden Calf [+see also:
film profile]). The story revolves around a man who secretly returns to France after spending ten years in the “international Islamism system”, which led him from France to London, via Bosnia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We sat down with Lionel Guedj, who heads up the Paris-based company together with Vincent Brançon.
Cineuropa: What attracted you to Hassan Legzouli’s project Dieu reconnaîtra les siens?
Lionel Guedj: I met the director a few days after the 2015 Paris attacks. The idea for Dieu reconnaîtra les siens dates back to one time when Hassan was staying in New York, for the Tribeca Film Festival. He found himself at the hotel, right next to “Ground Zero”, and that was something that moved him deeply: he just couldn’t fathom it. And so he tried to analyse the attitude of a human being who would willingly commit this kind of terrorist act, thinking in particular about the profiles of these people, who didn’t come from underprivileged social classes (which was very much the case for the terrorists behind 9/11) and who also had citizenship from the country where they committed their crimes. It was a complicated subject, and in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Hassan found that he was forced to justify his idea in relation to current events. But the project grabbed my attention, and Hassan explained to me how he wanted to approach the character of this man who has drifted totally off course, this very complex character, without attempting to understand him, but drawing on true events while still bringing his own individual sensitivity to the story. And so the plot is set before 11 September, which shaped a lot of the things that we’re witnessing today. That seems like the right angle to me because not sticking rigidly to current events means we don’t have to delve into an array of points of view that are not particularly insightful. Hassan worked on the writing with Stéphane Cabel, who is more of a genre-film, crime-film and thriller writer, which lends a more cinematic dimension to this screenplay that is firmly rooted in realism.
For the time being, the project sees the involvement of France and Morocco.
The ideal thing for us would be to find a Belgian co-producer because the main character who goes back to his homeland in Northern France, near Lille, to murder an imam, is meant to have a number of connections in Belgium. Morocco will be involved when we shoot the Afghan scenes, which constitute the majority of the scenes set outside Europe. The screenplay is already at a fairly advanced stage inasmuch as the core of the film and the essence of the story are very well defined. We would like to shoot in late 2018.
How does To Be Continued work, given that it is structured around a production committee comprising yourself and Vincent Brançon, but also François Cognard (Tobina Films), Christophe Audeguis (The Cup of Tea) and Clément Duboin (Good Fortune Films)?
We exchange views on the screenplays, and we co-produce with each other most of the time, as is the case for Tous les dieux du ciel by Quarxx, the shoot for which has just wrapped, and which is a co-production between Tobina Films and To Be Continued. That enables us to have a very varied film background because each one of us specialises in something different: François is more involved in genre films, Clément specialises in movies with their eye on the international market, Christophe is more firmly rooted in French cinema and so on. But each of us also has his own secret world, with movies that he wants to produce on his own. The editorial policy of To Be Continued hinges on our desire not to pull off major “coups”, but rather to work with writers and directors in the long term. We also very much appreciate the modernity of the stories but still remain closely attached to arthouse films: we want to work with artists who are not averse to taking risks or offering projects that bring a breath of fresh air, either on the narrative or the visual level, even though we have to be aware that historically, cinema has already broached the same subjects on numerous occasions. But there is always something new and original to be found somewhere out there, as well as people who want to work in a different way. As our company is a bit different, we don’t have any preconceptions, which sometimes allows us to go out and look for auteurs who are, let’s say, on the fringes of the regular circuit. And we have no lack of imagination when it comes to finding solutions.
(Translated from French)
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