Paris-based sales company Versatile has boarded French filmmaker Sarah Marx’s upcoming debut feature L’Enkas exploring the challenges of life after prison through the tale of an ex-convict who sets up a business selling ketamine out of a food truck at raves to make ends meet.
Marx, whose career to date spans music videos, documentaries and shorts, co-wrote the screenplay with French rappers Hamé and Ekoué, founders of the long-running, pro-social justice rap group La Rumeur.
Sandor Funtek stars as the young protagonist Ulysee who returns home after a stint in jail to the harsh reality of a severely depressed mother, played by Sandrine Bonnaire, and mounting bills.
“Ulysee is an ex-convict, fresh out of prison, who has to confront a different kind of incarceration: that of his mother’s illness,” says Marx.
“Right away he has to find money to cover her medical bills and have her taken care of. Ulysee is no big-time gangster but he’s smart and will make do with what he has to hand.”
Ulysee embarks on his ketamine dealing operation with the help of his best friend David, played by Alexis Manenti, but it is not long before their hopes for the enterprise come crashing down.
Marx reveals the project came about through a meeting with Hamé and Ekoué, who branched into cinema three years ago with the creation of the production company La Rumeur Filme.
Their first feature Paris Prestige, starring Reda Kateb as an ex-convict who tries to reassert his grip over his home neighbourhood in historic red-light district of Pigalle, hit the big screen last year.
Marx reveals that the characters and material for L’Enkas came out of her experiences filming a documentary in 2017 about life inside a prison on the outskirts of Paris as well as interviewing the head of a hospital psychiatric ward in the capital.
“It was nine months of extraordinary encounters and an overwhelming experience, from which I tried to show fragments of these invisible lives,” she recounts.
“Hamé and Ekoué helped me with the writing of this movie,” she continues. “We tried to avoid every superfluous detail to get to the heart of things, to weave a realistic and complex fabric of social and family ties, full of melancholy, urgency, insecurity, dirty tricks, illusions and easy money… This is how Ulysee and David came to life.”
The film, which is currently shooting, is lead produced by La Rumeur Filme with Dada Films and Les Films du Cercle on board as co-producers. Sophie Dulac Distibution has taken French rights.
Through her music world connections, Marx is also planning an original soundtrack for the picture.
“Music will be a key element of the movie,” she says. “We will be working with Lucien Papalu, French hip-hop pioneer and one the most talented composers of his generation.”
France-based Papalu’s work spans collaborating with the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest to scoring a number of TV series and films, including most recently Ludovic Bernard’s The Ascent.
Versatile will kick off sales on the title at UniFrance’s Rendez-vous with French Cinema which gets underway today (Jan 18-22).
Other French-language films on its Rendez-vous slate include Jean-Luc Herbulot’s Paris-set thriller Döner, set against the backdrop of a Paris kebab shop which is a hub for gangsters and corrupt police officers.