She is already preparing her bag and her files to join the Cannes Film Festival in a few days. Producer Yasmina Nini-Focon lives in Toulon, where she co-founded Istiqlal Films with Philip Focon, which specializes in fiction. Already a great track record … ready to enrich with his new film: Kharkiv.
Is everything ready for the festival?
So. Philip Focon’s new feature film, Kharkiv, was chosen for the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in Cannes, and this is a great recognition of our work. As a producer, I had great pleasure, made this project a reality. We’ve been collecting it for several years, but it’s worth it. Now the film is ready to be shown to everyone: professionals from around the world, the press, the jury … It will also be the world premiere in Cannes: the first public screening.
What a long way to go from setting up your production company in Toulon, no?
Oh yeah! Istiqlal Films was born in 2004 here in the Claret area. Philip Focon and I started timidly, and it wasn’t easy at first. But we survived! Fortunately, the region has always supported us. Without that, I don’t know what we would do.
Are Toulon and Var now becoming countries of cinema?
Yes, and this is not surprising. The light is very cinematic, natural conditions as well. Also, did you know that for every euro invested in visual creation here, six euros comes back as direct economic benefits?
Success brought the first film?
Not far from here. Our first film dates back to 2006 and was called In life. Fortunately, he was supported by the Arte channel, which has always been faithful to our projects. Today we released six feature films … and we hope that it will continue for a long time (smile). Producing films from Toulon suits me very well!
Isn’t it hard to be far from Paris?
No, we never considered it necessary to move. In three hours you can be in Paris on TGV. And you can work on board, so why go from Toulon to Paris? I am very attached to my city, and I would miss it very much if I were far away.
What are you talking about Kharkiv and how was the project born?
He was born from reading the work of Robert Luke, Harkis, my fighting brothers. The book tells about the return from Algeria after the war: memories and tears. We do not judge history in the film. We are just telling. We filmed in Morocco on a relatively modest budget. We hope that the film will touch people. Toulon will also have a preview, as will every issue of our films. This time it is a joint production with Arte and Les Films du Fleuve. It is a great honor for me to work on this difficult but exciting topic.
What was your biggest success?
Definitely a movie Fatima. Actress Zita Hanro won the Cesar Award for Best Hope in 2016, and Philip Focon for Best Adaptation and Best Film of the Year. What else can you wish for? (laughs). Philip Faucon also received the Louis Delluc Prize. We were very happy.
Then you quietly returned to Toulon …
Yes, I’m glad to find our city. It has changed a lot lately. Every time I go out on the town, I see tourists walking everywhere. The Chalucet project is a real success. Monteti also promises … And then, gourmet markets, I think they are brilliant. I love walking around this old center that has been converted. I hope Toulon is a moving city and it is not over yet!
How do you see the future of cinema today, when viewers shy away from cinemas?
I’m sorry, but we keep the faith. This period after Covid is not very simple, it is true. And then, you know, film production is increasingly moving to platforms like Netflix, Amazon … So far we’ve never worked with them, but these new channels are becoming necessary today. Cinema takes on a new dimension.
I’ll squeeze your fingers …
Thank you. I am also part of the women’s tour jury at Quinzaine en actions. A way to draw attention to new cinematic talents. I’m delighted with that.