Anne-Dominique Toussaint, a Belgian-born revered yet discreet film producer based in Paris, has uncovered and championed many promising filmmakers through her company Les Films des Tournelles. And the best is yet to come.
Since launching her company 32 years ago, Toussaint, who is known for her spot-on artistic taste and elegant demeanor, has nurtured long-term relationships with talent such as Nadine Labaki (“Caramel”), Riad Sattouf (“The French Kissers”), Louis Garrel (“Les deux amis”) and Philippe Le Guay (“The Cost of Living”). She produced their debuts and kept up with them, giving them the necessary freedom to deliver original movies that found an international audience.
Always on the lookout for stimulating challenges, Toussaint is now getting ready to produce the feature debut of one of France’s best-known actors, Emmanuelle Devos (“Read My Lips”).
Devos’ project “On the Road Again” is an ambitious 1913-set movie headlined by two female protagonists, which will be played by Anais Demoustier, who won last year’s Cesar Award for her role in “Alice et le maire,” and Doria Tillier (“La Belle Epoque”).
Toussaint said the film’s starting point is based on the “fascinating true story of Albert Kahn, a wealthy French philanthropist and naturalist who was sending people around the world to take pictures for his vast project called “The Archives of the Planet.” In 1913, two women in France were sent by Kahn to travel to Ireland and take pictures there.
“Devos expanded on this rich canvas and imagined the journey of these two women, Marguerite and Madeleine (to be played by Demousiter and Tillier), who didn’t know each other and embarked on a long road trip all the way from France to Ireland,” said Toussaint. Devos co-wrote the script with David Clavel.”
The producer said the film will be “spectacular” with a lush cinematography and landscapes, but “it will be mostly about the intimate bond that these strong, emancipated women forged through this adventure.”
Toussaint is producing “On the Road Again” with Paddy Hayes in Ireland. Diaphana is in talks to acquire French distribution rights. The film is expected to start shooting in June.
During the pandemic, Toussaint reunited with Le Guay and managed to shoot one of his most ambitious films to date, “The Man From the Basement,” on location in Paris during lockdown without a hitch.
The timely thriller, which is represented in international markets by Playtime, stars a prestigious cast including Berenice Bejo (“The Past”), Jeremy Renier (“Slalom”) and Francois Cluzet (“Sink or Swim”).
The suspense drama revolves around a Parisian couple who sells the basement in their building to a seemingly ordinary man who turns out to be a threat to their family.
Toussaint said the film weaved some thriller elements with a certain timeliness. “The atmosphere of the film is tense and intriguing, but at the same time it’s a movie that is clearly grounded in today’s conflict-ridden French society.”
Although details of the plot are kept under wraps, the producer said the film was about a hateful man who spreads racist, anti-semitic lies, slowly dividing a family.
“It’s exciting to reteam with Philippe Le Guay and his topnotch crew on this new film, and I also find it very rewarding to accompany artists who are making their first films, and help them turn their vision into a film,” said Toussaint.
Toussaint is also set to produce the feature debut of Camelia Jordana, the popular young actor of “The Things We Say, the Things We Do,” and will produce Garrel’s next film.
Garrel’s “Les deux amis,” which opened at Cannes’ Critics Week, is one of the notable feature debuts on Toussaint’s track record, along with “The French Kissers,” which earned Sattouf, a popular graphic novel writer, the Cesar Award for best first film in 2010, and Labaki’s “Caramel,” which opened at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight in 2007 and was a commercial and critical hit.
“Caramel” established Labaki as an important filmmaker on the international scene and marked a turning point in the career of Toussaint. The movie started her friendship with Labaki with whom she worked on following movies, notably “Where Do We Go Now?” and more recently the Oscar-nominated “Capernaum.”
Through this friendship with Labaki, Toussaint has also developed a special bond to Lebanon. In the aftermath of the recent bombing in Beirut, the producer was chosen by France’s National Film Board to oversee an emergency fund to help finance 17 film projects from Lebanon.
“The bombing has created a trauma with the Lebanese society, including in the film industry, so it was important to help these filmmakers. The first step was to select the projects, and now our role is to listen to filmmakers, advise them, help them structure their films,” said Toussaint.
Aside from her production activities, Toussaint is also an art lover who runs the Galerie Cinema, an art gallery located in the Marais in Paris, where many artists and filmmakers, from Romain Duris to James Franco, have exhibited their photographs. Last year, the Galerie Cinema had also opened its doors to singular virtual reality experiments, including Eliza McNitt’s “Spheres,” an interactive journey co-produced by Darren Aronofsky.
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