PARIS -- Pia Marais' South African drama "White Knuckles," Karim Ainouz's French Riviera-set thriller "The Beauty of Sharks" and Fabio Mollo's psychological suspenser "White Shadows" were the standout projects pitched at the inaugural of Paris Coproduction Village.
"Knuckles" tells the tale of an Australian stuntwoman who returns to her native South Africa after her mother is brutally attacked. As the young woman starts to investigate the crime, she discovers the bleak reality: Violence perpetrated against women and organized crime run rampant among the white Afrikaners living in post-apartheid Africa.
Trish Lake at Australian shingle Freshwater Pictures is producing the â¬2.3 million ($2.7 million) film. A Swedish-South African helmer, Marais last directed "Layla Fourie," which played at Berlin in 2013.
Lake, who was pitching the project with Marais at the Paris Coproduction Village, said Freshwater Pictures is in discussions with a well-known young Australian actress for the role.
Lake added Marais' reference for the movie ranged from "Winter's Bone" to "The Hunt." "The film will be inherently politically engaged but above all it will deliver a social experiment. The character of Miriam faces a moral dilemma as she explores the fallout of a community that has been disenfranchised. She can't help but feel empathy," explained the producer.
Script is completed, and shooting will start in mid-2015 or early 2016. The producer is looking for European and South African partners and is in discussions with various sales agents.
Running alongside Sophie Dulac's Champs Elysees Film Festival, the Paris forum was launched this year by the team behind Les Arcs' Coproduction Village, CEO and co-founder Pierre-Emmanuelle Fleurantin, co-founder and consultant Jeremy Zelnik and programmer Vanja Kaludjercic. The two-day event showcased 12 international projects and drew 120 participants, including sales agents and distributors from Gaul's Le Pacte and Wild Bunch, Germany's the Match Factory and the U.K.'s Protagonist.
Although Paris Coproduction Village was partly created to fill in for the Paris Project, the professional sidebar of the Paris Cinema Film Festival, its selection is more crossover and eclectic in terms of budgets and pedigree. It also includes many English-language projects.
Another buzzed-about title pitched in Paris, "The Beauty of Sharks" is a $13.6 million, high-concept thriller centering on a gigolo who gets caught in a confidence game orchestrated by an impoverished American widow desperate to retain her place in high society. It's produced by Filip Jan Rymsza's Royal Road Entertainment.
Rymsza, who wrote the screenplay with Rob Green, told Variety that he has tapped U.K. casting directors Leo Davis and Lissy Holm and is looking to attach a pair of high-profile actors for the lead roles.
Ainouz is a well-seasoned Brazilian director. He's had two films play in Cannes: "Madame Sata" (Un Certain Regard) and "The Silver Cliff" (Directors' Fortnight). His latest movie, "Beach of the Future," screened in competition at Berlin.
Ainouz said "Sharks" was a "mix of film noir and melodrama (with) dangerous sexual elements."
"'The Beauty of Sharks' is a perfect vehicle for a talented filmmaker like Karim Ainouz: It's going to be his most international and mainstream movie," explained Rymsza.
Rymsza said he is in discussions with potential co-production partners from Germany and France, notably Raphael Benoliel at Paris-based Firstep. Pic will lense some exteriors on location in the South of France and remaining scenes at a German studio, either in Babelsberg or Hamburg.
Bow Street Films is attached to co-produce. Shooting is expected to start in July 2015.
"White Shadows," Mollo's follow-up to "South Is Nothing," is based on the true story of a 10-year-old girl, Natascha Kampusch, who was abducted from in front of her house and kept in the basement of her kidnapper's house in Austria for eight years.
Mollo described the project as a psychological thriller in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village," Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others" and Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene." It explores the love-hate relationship between the kidnapper and his victim.
Pic is being lead-produced by Andrea Paris at Italian outfit Ascent Films. Canada's January Films and Italy's Rai Cinema are attached to co-produced. The $1.6 million project will start shooting in the summer 2015.
The Paris Coproduction Village also presented Brillante Mendoza's drama "The Embroiderer," a drama penned by Zig Dulay about a 83-year-old woman whose embroidery business is on the verge of bankruptcy. Mendoza won the Cannes' director award for "Kinatay."
Kaludjercic, who was also programmer for Paris Project, has a strong track record. She selected this year's Critics' Week winner "The Tribe" for the 2013 edition of the mini-mart and she also picked Alice Rohrwacher's "The Wonders," which won Cannes' Grand Prix, for Les Arcs' Coproduction Village in 2013.
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