Labadie back in biz with Le Pacte

French veteran back on market circuit with new slate

The movie industry can be a cruel arena, and seasoned French campaigner Jean Labadie knows that better than most.

Founder of Gallic distributor Bac Films, which he grew into one of France's most respectd independents, Labadie recently steered some apparently difficult films to spectacular numbers.

Last year Bac carried Nadine Labaki's affectionate femme-driven comedy "Caramel" to 500,000 admissions, making it the most successful Arabic-language film in France. The company also took Cristian Mungiu's Romanian abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" -- winner of last year's Palme d'Or -- to an impressive 350,000 admissions. Then, in September (2007) Labadie found himself ousted from the company he created by Roch Lener, president of animation studio Millimages, which became Bac's main shareholder in 2004.

Now Labadie has bounced back with a new company, Le Pacte, which will be making its market debut at the European Film Market. "Berlin is the first market where the company will be really active in terms of international sales, co-productions and acquisitions," Labadie said.

Le Pacte's initial sales slate includes "La Belle Personne," a contemporary adaptation of the then-scandalous 17th century French novel "La Princesse de Cleves" directed by Christophe Honore; and "Los Bastardos" directed by Mexican Amat Escalante ("Sangre"), a tale of two illegal immigrants seeking work in Los Angeles who find themselves hired to kill a man's wife. "It's a thriller with a social point-of-view on LA," Labadie said. Le Pacte is handling French distribution and world sales on both titles.

The company is also repping world sales outside France, Spain and the U.S. on the documentary "A Very British Gangster" from Donal MacIntyre about one of England's most dangerous crime families.

Le Pacte expects to distribute six pictures on home turf in its first year, before hitting a cruising speed of around a dozen annually from 2009. The initial line-up for 2008 reflects Labadie's longstanding talent relationships. These include Jim Jarmusch, whose upcoming Spanish-set road movie "The Limits of Control" produced by Focus Features will be a Pacte release in France. Isaach de Bankole plays the main character in the movie, which is currently shooting in Madrid, Seville and Almeria with a plethora of star cameos expected.

Other 2008 releases include Iranian helmer Hana Makhmalbaf's "Buddha Collapsed out of Shame," the tale of children caught up in the violence of contemporary Afghanistan which screens in the Berlin sidebar Generation Kplus, and Italian Mafia tale "Gomorra" directed by Matteo Garrone. Le Pacte has also just acquired French distribution on "Young @ Heart", a documentary directed by Stephen Walker about a senior citizens' choral group from Massachusetts who cover contemporary rock songs.