Magazine article Variety

Global Outlook Fuels Filmmaking Passion

Magazine article Variety

Global Outlook Fuels Filmmaking Passion

Article excerpt

Michel Merkt's moviemaking credits reñect the vision of a clear-headed nonconformist with the courage of his convictions and a global reach that is unique for an indie producer of his generation: The total opposite of the isolationism you might expect from a Swiss producer based in the tiny principality of Monaco.

While deliberately keeping a low profile, Merkt, who will be honored with variety's Creative Producer Award at Cannes, has been crucial to bringing an eclectic batch of some 50 titles to the big screen in less than 10 years.

The slate of his KNM shingle - the Letters are an acronym for Kate (Ms wife) and Michel - boasts the creme de la creme of recent European ardíanse hits, "Elle" and "Toni Erdmann*; pics from David Cronenberg and x.i vier Dolan; Walter Hill's "The Assignment"; plus some of the hottest auteur pics out of Latin America, including "Aquarius" by Brazil's Kleber Mendonça Filho, and standout titles that hail from Asia and the Arab world.

It's always amazing to have access to new cultures; to new ways of thinking, of working," Merkt says. 'And that's the first step of creativity: Being openminded and ready for the unexpected,"

In roughly a decade, Merkt has gone from being on a regular on the Croisette as a film journalist for French paybox Canal Plus, which is how he made first contact with Cronenberg, to attending the fest as a producer with a whopping eight entries in 2016. This year he has five litles linspooling in various Cannes sections.

Cronenberg's 2014 acerbic Hollywood sendup "Maps to the Stars" was Merkt's first "big movie" and a real game changer, he says.

Besides being his first pic in competition al Carmes, where star Julienne Moore took actress honors, "Maps" also marked the start of his professional relationship with Paris-based producer Said Ben Said, whom he met through U.S. producer Marty Katz. Merkt and Said have since gone on to make a half-dozen films, including "Elle."

Their second collaboration was on "Valentin Valentin,"by French auteur Pascal Tilomas that, sadly, was released in France in 2015 on the same day as the ISIS attack on the offices of satirical magazine Char lie Hebdo. Terror of this type is a subject Merkt had tackled in 2010 with the first feature he produced, "The Miscreants," by Moroccan helnrer Moiicine Besri. That film was a thriller about Islamist kidnappers that aimed to "to show that behind a burqa or a miniskirt there is always a human being."

The Charlie Hebdo tragedy changed his priorities. Merkt says, ma kin g him focus more on his wife and three kids. …

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