France TV Distribution has acquired “Furcy,” an epic film inspired by the true story of a slave in a French colony who was able to achieve legal emancipation prior to the definitive abolition of slavery.
“Furcy” is directed by Abd Al Malik, whose debut feature “May Allah Bless France!” won the Discovery prize at Toronto Film Festival and was nominated for a Cesar Award.
More from Variety
The part of Furcy is played by Makita Samba, who had a lead role in Jacques Audiard’s “Paris 13th District,” which competed at Cannes. The rest of the cast comprises Romain Duris (“The Animal Kingdom”), Ana Girardot (“The House”) and Vincent Macaigne (“Bonnard: Pierre & Marthe”). The script was written by Etienne Comar (“Django”), based on the book by Mohammed Aissaoui.
Set in 1817 on the Bourbon Island, the epic film tells the story of an enslaved man, Furcy, who stumbles upon a letter of emancipation in the belongings of his mother who has just died. Seeing this letter as an unexpected key to his indirect liberation, Furcy embarks on a legal crusade against his master, Joseph Lory, aided by an abolitionist prosecutor, Gilbert Boucher.
The sprawling saga, which spans almost three decades, follows Furcy’s journey from imprisonment to exile in Mauritius. He was finally able to present his case before the Royal Court of Paris in 1846.
Al Malik said “painting the portrait of new heroic figures like Furcy, far from any communitarianism, is to contribute to the collective identity of being French in harmony with the rest of the world. To poetically recreate our past is to make a peaceful future possible.”
He continued, “Entire generations, including my own, have been built in France in the shadow of memory. Furcy’s struggle speaks to my heart and my reason, because it resonates perfectly with the need for justice that drives me as an artist and a citizen.”
France TV Distribution will launch sales for “Furcy” at the European Film Market, which will take place from Feb. 15-21. The film is produced by Jerico Films (“La famille Belier”) and Arches Films, and will be distributed in France by Memento Distribution.
“We are thrilled to embark on this cinematic journey, shedding light on a riveting chapter of untold French History,” Alexandre René, France TV Distribution’s VP of international cinema sales, and Julia Schulte, France TV Distribution’s SVP of international sales, said in a statement.
“As we bring Furcy’s extraordinary quest for freedom, our film not only captivates French audiences but also extends a global invitation, breaking new ground as the first French production to share this compelling narrative with the world,” the pair added.
Comar and Jehelmann said they read Aissaoui’s book a few years ago and “thought that this court case would make a poignant film on the issue of slavery in the former French colonies.”
The pair said “Furcy” is the first French film inspired by a true story from this “dramatic chapter in our collective history.”
“The growing desire to question our national narrative; the serious recent cases of racist violence in France and abroad; the legitimate demands for justice that follow, lead us to believe that it is time for French cinema to work on this theme,” Comar and Jehelmann added.
Best of Variety