French sales company Alpha Violet talks about a decade of spotting talent – Deadline

Alpha Violet founding co-directors Virginie Devesa and Keiko Funato are at the Venice Film Festival this year with Indonesian filmmaker Makbul Mubarak’s debut Autobiographywho plays in Horizons before trips to Toronto and London, among other festivals.

The coming-of-age drama, exploring the legacy of Indonesia’s 30-year military dictatorship, revolves around a young boy working as a housekeeper in the empty mansion of a retired general.

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Devesa and Funato, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Paris retail store Alpha Violet in October, have a strong track record of launching first feature films on the Lido after handling Japanese filmmaker Kei Ishikawa’s 2016 feature. Gukoroku, traces of sin and the escape of Greek director Christos Nikou in 2020 Appleswho both starred in Horizons.

Neither title won the top prize, but both works put the directors on the international festival and industry map. Ishikawa returns to Horizons this year with his third film A manwhile Nikou is currently preparing for the shooting of her first English album Nailswith Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed, for Apple Original Films.

Winners of Alpha Violet’s carefully curated library of some 60 titles include Here and there by American filmmaker Antonio Mendez Esparza and Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi The tribewhich won the Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prix in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

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The company also enjoyed success on the North American festival circuit, with Mexican director Fernanda Valadez’s film Identifying featureswhich won the Sundance People’s Choice Award and Best Screenplay Award in the World Cinema Dramatic lineup in 2020, and winner of the 2022 Sundance Grand Jury Prize utama by Alejandro Loayza Grisi.

Like Nikou, Slaboshpytskyi is also gearing up for a debut album in English The Tiger, based on his adaptation of John Vaillant’s book, which will star Alexander Skarsgard and Dane DeHaan. Other directors managed by Alpha Violet early in their careers include Santiago Miter (El Estudiante), Frelle Petterson (Uncle) and Agnieszka Smoczynska (Fugue).

Devesa and Funato met while working at Hengameh Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams in the early 2000s. Devesa had previously spent two years in Ukraine where she joined the management team of the Kyiv Film Festival. Funato had moved to Paris from Japan in the 1990s, having started his career at Tokyo-based independent distributor Uplink Co.

They separated for a time, Devesa moved to Moscow to occupy the position of cultural attaché at the French Embassy, ​​before ending up at Fréderic Corvez’s UMedia (now Urban Distribution International).

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In 2012, the duo decided to strike out on their own to create the Alpha Violet sales boutique, pooling their international connections and their sales and acquisition know-how to focus on world cinema and the first films of emerging directors. .

Deadline caught up with Devesa to talk about Alpha Violet’s first decade in business.

DEADLINE: What inspired you to start your own independent sales company?

VIRGINIA DEVESA: It was Keiko who suggested the move. We met at Celluloid Dreams and became very good friends. We then worked together at UMedia. We have this need for independence, to have more control over the films we have chosen to support. We are complementary. Keiko likes to do things in an artisanal way, I think it comes from her culture, as I studied communication and I’m quite sociable.

DEADLINE: The name Alpha Violet, where does it come from?

DEVESA: I’m not going to lie to you, “Alpha” was supposed to be at the top of the alphabetical lists in part. “Violet” is from a Cannes marketing campaign we designed at UMedia to promote the feature film by Peruvian directors Daniel and Diego Vega October [winner of Cannes Un Certain Regard’s jury prize in 2010].

October is known as the purple month in Peru. We didn’t have a lot of marketing budget, so we had the idea of ​​putting purple balloons on the Croisette and I bought myself a purple wardrobe. The color has stayed with us.

DEADLINE: How many films do you handle per year?

DEVESA: Five six. We should do more, financially it would make sense, but we don’t want to. We put a lot of energy into framing and positioning these early films at the right festivals, paying close attention to everything from the first images, artwork and trailer, and getting the PR right. . When working with rookie filmmakers, you often have to create everything from scratch, making sure the film is valued properly. With Autobiographywe will only project him in competition for six months, before letting him play elsewhere.

DEADLINE: You have a particularly solid track record in researching first films with potential for festivals and awards outside of Latin America. What is your secret?

DEVESA: I have Spanish roots and am fluent in Spanish which helps. I knew I wanted Latin American cinema to be on our list, but I decided that we would only do one Latin American film per year and it would be something really special. We research our projects through a variety of sources. Of course, we check all the co-production markets, but I do a lot of mentoring and stuff throughout the year. For example, I work with the Produire Au Sud workshop at the Festival des 3 Continents, where I discovered utama. More generally, I read a lot of synopses and we also have a network of producers that we work with.

DEADLINE: France has a rich network of international sales companies, and competition is fierce to win sales mandates for titles that create buzz, even for first films. Why does it make sense for emerging directors to come to you?

DEVESA: We can’t offer substantial MGs like some other companies, but when a young director comes to us, they know they will be fully supported, pampered even, and that we will concentrate on their film.

DEADLINE: What happened to the feature film about Chernobyl by Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi [provisionally entitled Luxembourg] that you were going to co-produce afterwards The tribe?

DEVESA: We had a great relationship with Myroslav, helped by the fact that I had spent time in Ukraine and he asked us to co-produce his second feature film. I even went to pre-shoot for five days, visiting the exclusion zone and staying with him at his house.

It was a disappointment that this did not happen, but the result was that we created a small production entity, led by our commercial director Jean-Baptiste Bailly-Maître, through which we are now co-producing the second film by Lila Avilés, whose first feature film The maid we manipulated, [getting it into Toronto’s Discovery strand]. We have not planned to massively launch into production, but this gives us the possibility of applying for Cinéma du Monde and Arte funding for one or two projects a year.

DEADLINE: Is it frustrating to devote so much time and energy to emerging filmmakers, only to be snapped up by bigger sales companies or platforms, as is the case with Nikou and Slaboshpytskyi?

DEVESA: It can be difficult, but I thought about it a lot and it forced me to think about my propulsion, my engine. I came to the conclusion that what I like to do is bring up these young filmmakers, unknown and at the very beginning of their careers. It’s amazing to accompany them.

Once they’ve been put on the road, it’s up to them to pursue their careers. If Christos makes a movie for Apple, that’s great. We still talk to each other all the time and if he ever needs support for future films, we are there. I see our mission as talent accelerators, and as long as we have the energy and drive, that’s what we’ll continue to do.