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Wild Bunch Quits French Film Promoter UniFrance in Spat Over New Leader

Variety logo Variety 7/7/2017 Elsa Keslassy
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PARIS – Wild Bunch, the high-profile but financially struggling Paris-based film group, has ditched its membership in UniFrance, the French film promotion organization, in protest against the election of Serge Toubiana as its new president.

The decision to quit UniFrance was taken by Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval, who had supported another candidate, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, a veteran producer who co-created EuropaCorp and launched his own production banner Stone Angels.

Maraval wrote an open letter to UniFrance arguing that Toubiana’s election violated the organization’s eligibility rules, which stipulate that “only a director, producer, actor, screenwriter, talent agent or exporter” can preside over UniFrance.

Although Toubiana is best known for running the French Cinematheque for 13 years and has limited hands-on experience in the film industry, he has nevertheless directed three documentaries: “Francois Truffaut: Stolen Portraits” (co-directed with Michel Pascal), TV doc “Isabelle Huppert, une vie pour jouer” and the short “Chaplin Today: The Great Dictator.”

Toubiana is also well-connected to filmmakers through his work at the Cinematheque, where he organized retrospectives of Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese, and his long tenure as editor of film magazine Les Cahiers du Cinema. He is also an advisor to Pathe president Jerome Seydoux and sits on the board of the venerable French film studio.

At UniFrance, Toubiana will most likely play an honorary role, alongside managing director Isabelle Giordano.

But Maraval, in his letter, said Toubiana’s election displayed “all the downsides of the French system – the cliques, cronyism, elitism, dogma – when what we need is realism, pragmatism, experience, analysis and quite simply an understanding of the issues involved.”

Maraval’s decision to take Wild Bunch out of UniFrance appears personal as well as pragmatic. He and Le Pogam, a longtime friend, are currently making a film together, Michaël R. Roskam’s “Racer and the Jailbird,” which will come out in the fall.

Also, Maraval clashed with Toubiana in December 2012 when the latter criticized an op-ed piece by Maraval urging the local industry to cut above-the-line costs and blaming TV channels for pouring money into films that fuel the French star system and boast limited international potential.

Giordano said Maraval’s accusations about Toubiana’s election were unfair. The 48 members of UniFrance’s executive committee voted on the new president; Toubiana earned 27 votes and Le Pogam 18. (The third candidate, Yves Marmion, was eliminated after the first round)

Wild Bunch, which repped last year’s best theatrical performer outside France, “The Little Prince” (with 91.7 million Euros grossed in 2016), was one of UniFrance’s 1,000 or so members.

As such, the company benefited from several cost-saving initiatives, such as free or discounted trips for film talent and employees at festivals, although Wild Bunch traditionally kept its independence from UniFrance at big markets such as Cannes, Berlin and the AFM.

Wild Bunch AG has yet to release its financial results for the fiscal year that ended in March, as well as the preceding fiscal year.

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