Film in focus as Sarkozy visits India

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Film will be a cultural and economic meeting point when French President Nicolas Sarkozy makes his first state visit to India on Thursday, with the leading lights of French cinema a key element of his official delegation.

The visit will mark the launch of the first Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in India, France's film promotion organization Unifrance said Monday. The Rendez-Vous, which will run Jan. 27-30, will be opened in Mumbai by Sarkozy and will take place in four other major cities during the visit.

Producer Jerome Seydoux will be there to highlight the inaugural event with "Asterix at the Olympic Games," the latest in a series of onscreen adaptations of the famed children's cartoon starring Alain Delon, Gerard Depardieu, Clovis Cornillac and Benoit Poelvoorde.

French cultural promotion body Unifrance vp Marie Masmonteil, Roissy Films CEO Raphaël Berdugo and executives from Pathe Films will join the delegation, among others.

Also making up the film delegation will be director Claude Lelouch, actress Olivia Bonamy and Lebanese actress-director Nadine Labaki, who is best known for her debut directorial feature "Sukkar Banat" (Caramel), which premiered at the Festival de Cannes last year. Michel Gondry will screen "The Science of Sleep" for the first time on the continent, while Guillaume Nicloux will show his Monica Belluci starrer "The Stone Council."

Director Michel Ocelot will present his animated feature "Azur & Asmar," helmer Julien Leclercq will screen his sci-fi thriller "Chrysalis," and Lelouch will premiere "Crossed Tracks."

"This festival will be an important moment for Indo-French cultural relations, for which cinema provides some of the strongest ties," Jerome Bonnafont, French ambassador to India, said in a statement Monday.

Mumbai-based French embassy audiovisual attaché Mohamed Bendjebbour added in an interview: "In addition to the film rendezous, we are also organizing meetings between French delegates and leading Indian companies to explore how the two industries can work together."

Nyay Bhushan reported from New Delhi, Rebecca Leffler reported from Paris.
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