French director Eric Laguise on his relationship with Arab cinema, the case of the Arthus sector

Eric Lajes, CEO / Head of Distribution of Paris-based arthouse films and Pyramid Films for global sales, and received the Industry Honor Award in Cairo Film Festival Friday. diverse I spoke with him about his relationship with Arab cinema, and the state of independent cinema in France.

How do you feel about receiving this tribute?

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It’s great, but I had a year to get used to it. Due to the pandemic, I did not receive it last year as expected. Nothing major has changed in the meantime. I still really enjoy Arab and Egyptian films. We are now working with a new generation of filmmakers and filmmakers like Princess (pictured), which was featured in the Horizons competition at this year’s Venice Film Festival.

What is your relationship with the Arab world of cinema?

We have been cooperating with the Arab world since the beginning of the pyramid. The first film that I sold as an agent was “The Emigrant” by Youssef Chahine. We had great success with Shaheen’s masterpiece “Destiny”, which was sold around the world after competing in the Cannes competition in 1997. Shaheen opened a lot of doors. Sign our pyramid logo. So every time we show a movie in France, you see its name. The company does not bear the name of the pyramids of Egypt. [Its launch] This coincided with the opening of the Louvre pyramid [and was named after that]. But now everyone thinks [it’s a reference to] Egypt.

What is your relationship with Egypt and the region’s filmmakers now?

I don’t go to Egypt often, but I feel a great connection with the country. We continued to work with many filmmakers from the region. Palestinian filmmakers like Annemarie Jacir with “Salt This Sea” or “Wajib”. Films from Tunisia, Morocco and Syria. There is a lot of talent in the area. Among our other films in the Arab world are “You Will Die at Twenty” by Amjad Abu Al-Ala, and “Divine Intervention” by Elia Suleiman. Another film is Exodus by Souad Kaadan, about a girl living in conflict in Damascus (but for French distribution only). “Much Loved” by Franco-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch is another film released in France on Pyramide, along with “Cairo 678”, Diab’s first film. Others are intended for French distribution and worldwide sales.

Can you tell us about your career?

My career is rather linear. I started on Pyramide in 1992. I bought the company in 2008. I have been a sales agent for 30 years. I’m a pretty loyal guy. I had a lot of adventures at Pyramide: running a business, buying, shooting films. It’s a bit like a storm. Sometimes it is unbelievable. We’ve been through some rough times lately, but hopefully we can go back, as we always have, to more balanced days. It is a risky business.

How do you survive the ups and downs of the movie?

I swim. It is certainly very good for your health and your stress. I am surrounded by great people who work with me. We are going through a very difficult time. We are currently losing in every movie. But before 2020, we had very good years and France has supported us a lot, which helps us because we have lost a lot of moviegoers due to seven and a half months of closed cinemas. There is a category of people who no longer go to the cinema. The 45 to 65 age group does not go to the movies very often. We don’t know what exactly happened, but maybe we left the theater closed for too long, maybe they signed up for Netflix, or they discovered some other activity. It affects big movies less. But arthouse films have lost 50% of their audience. The studios lost maybe 25%. Theaters in France say attendance is down 30%. As an independent French distributor, I am currently losing 50% on everything. I still pay the same amount to release movies I bought at pre-pandemic prices two years ago. We all have a lot of movies to release. We had 350 films waiting to be released [in France] So we released a very large number of films. He shot a film every two to three weeks from Cannes.

Is France a privileged place for works of art?

In France, Paris is a very special place because you can mix your show between independent cinemas and movie chains. Arthus in the countryside more difficult. Last year was a disaster. This year too. But we are a big country for cinema. CNC is very active and supports distributors a lot. There is also a lot of other support that helps explain why we have had so much success and new budding talent. The French won the Lion d’Or [Audrey Diwan for “Happening”] The Palme d’Or (Julia Ducornu for “Titan”) this year. It can’t happen in another country because we don’t have a lot of support from the CNC. I just hope people go back to the movies.

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French director Eric Laguise on his relationship with Arab cinema, the case of the Arthus sector