In fact, the choice of the CNC’s selection committee, responsible for designating the film representing France at the 2021 Oscar for international feature films, did not fail to surprise.
How could this first feature film by an unknown director – an Italian living in France – have been preferred to works by more seasoned filmmakers like DNA by Maïwenn or Summer 85 by François Ozon, also preselected? “It remains a real surprise for us, even if we had arguments to defend”, explains Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin, his happy producer with Laurent Baujard.
Discreetly released on February 12, less than a month before the first confinement, Of them tells the hidden love story of two elderly women played by two great actresses, the German Barbara Sukowa and the French Martine Chevallier, member of the Comédie-Française.
Despite a good critical reception and flattering word of mouth, this very moving film had then gathered barely 50,000 spectators in theaters in a context already made difficult for attendance by the start of the pandemic. It is therefore from its reception on international markets that the surprise came for its producers.
A film that took six years to see the light of day
Presented in Toronto last September under the title ” Two of us », The film seduces the professional public and the Anglo-Saxon critics. It is sold in 30 countries, including the United States, where it is acquired by a large independent distributor, Magnolia Pictures. The latter, very enthusiastic, undertakes to invest in his American release, scheduled for February 5, and if necessary to campaign for him in the race for the Oscar.
“It’s a strong subject and a true love story, a romance that is assumed as the Americans love them” defends Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin. The argument was undoubtedly decisive for the members of the commission as it is impossible today to win an Oscar without an intense action of lobbying near the members of the Academy.
In any case, it is a great reward for the two producers of Paprika Films, who took six years to put together this project. Seduced by Filippo Meneghetti’s short film (The intruder) whom they knew as an assistant director, they agreed to develop his first feature film but very quickly encountered the reluctance of the television channels to finance the film because of the subject and the age of its characters.
→ READ. The Oscars postponed to April 25 due to the pandemic
It could only see the light of day thanks to the advance on receipts from the CNC. “And again we had to do it three times to get it”, confides its producer. The Oscar is still a long way off and there are still several steps to be taken to remain among the last in line, but the producer would like to take advantage of the “benevolent” gaze now focused on his film to give it a new chance to exist in theaters when these these will reopen.