"Capitaine Achab" by Philippe Ramos


The co-production adventure "Captaine Achab". How it all started.

It can be problematic when you bring two different cultures together in a co-production. But if you are persistent and flexible it is possible.

When the French crew of the film “Capitaine Achab” went to Sweden to shoot in Trollhättan, the region of Film i Väst, they faced a major problem: The Swedes didn’t serve dessert for lunch! Normal for the Swedes, but a sign of impoliteness for the French.
“It might sound stupid. But it was close to revolution. For a French team the catering is very important”, says Grégory Faes, director of the French regional fund, Rhône Alpes Cinéma.

The co-production story of the “Capitaine Achab” started with the French producer contacting Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, looking for support for the project.
“It was artistic in it's approach and seemed rather difficult, but interesting” Grégory Faes remembers. Then the French producer met with Olivier Guerpillon, a French producer living in Sweden, and things started to happen. As the locations needed for the film were very like the surroundings in the area of Trollhättan, Guerpillon was successful in convincing Swedish regional film fund, Film i Väst to join the production.

Now three regional film funds were involved in the “Capitaine Achab” project: Film i Väst (S), Rhône-Alpes Cinéma (FR) and Centre Images, another French regional fund, that supported the film already at the script development stage, two years earlier.
“It felt important to support this young director and we saw the quality of the script” says Emmanuel Porcher, director of Centre Images.

Negotiations took place and finally at the Cannes Film Festival 2006, the deal was signed, just a few months before the shooting was to begin. The fact that all three regional funds were partners in the Cine-Regio network made the process easier.
“The main problem was the three funds different regulations, that were nearly impossible to combine” explains Grégory Faes. “But at Rhône-Alpes we were prepared to soften the rules concerning the amount of shooting days in our region. I think it was harder for Centre Images who normally demand at least two weeks of shooting in their region, and for Film i Väst, who have quite tough demands when it comes to financial return in Region Västra Götaland”.

But the funds agreed on a compromise: Two weeks of shooting in Rhône-Alpes, two weeks in Region Centre and three weeks of shooting in Region Västra Götaland, Sweden. Three different crews shooting in three different regions, in two different countries.
“This co-production is really culturally driven” says Emmanuel Porcher. It is not about money, we have to think in terms of reciprocity, maybe it will all pay back in five years time or something, but that is not the most important thing.

“Capitaine Achab” is directed by French Philippe Ramos who also wrote the script, based on a character in US author Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The film follows the captain from childhood to fatal whaling. It is the first Swedish-French co-production in 20 years, following Russian Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Victim (1986).

So, according to Grégory Faes, how did everything else, except for dessert, work out for the French crew in Sweden?
“There definitely are cultural differences. For one thing, the job definitions are not always the same. For example, the producer’s role is different. But also in other departments things can get confusing. Sometimes when they were ready to shoot a scene, somebody discovered that there where things missing on the set. The explanation was that people thought that it was somebody else’s responsibility. And the team was mixed; part of the crew was French, part Swedish. We operate in a linguistically and culturally fragmented European market that presents specific challenges to the film industry. However, at the end, there is no doubt that the shoot was a good experience for all and that the three part co-production added value to the project” - Or as Grégory Faes also dryly puts it: “Everything in film is problem. So why not add an abroad experience to it?”

Source: Cine-Regio, September 2006


French-Swedish co-production ”Capitaine Achab” double winner in Locarno

French-Swedish co-production ”Capitaine Achab” double winner at Locarno Film Festival 2007

The French-Swedish film ”Capitaine Achab” was awarded The Silverleopard Prize for best director (Philippe Ramos) as well as The International Critics Prize (FIBPRESCI Prize) at the 60th Locarno Film Festival in August.

”Capitaine Achab” is French spoken but was shot in both Sweden and France. The film is the result of the co-operation between three regional film funds: Film i Väst (S), Rhône-Alpes Cinéma and Centre Images (F), and it is the first co-production between France and Sweden for more than 20 years.
”I am thrilled. We are all members of Cine-Regio, so we knew each other, but it was the first time for us to co-produce together", says Bengt Toll, Film i Väst and continues "The success of ”Capitaine Achab” shows how language and cultural differences are minor issues that can be overcome and actually add an extra dimension to the film. I am convinced that there’s a growing development in regional co-producing and we are definitely looking for new projects to continue the co-operation with both Rhône-Alpes Cinéma and Centre Images”.

Interview with Bengt Toll August 2007

Facts: “Capitaine Achab”
The story is an interpretation of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.
It is the year 1840. Who could imagine this young boy reading the Bible in a hunting hut, lost in the middle of the wood, would become, one day, captain of a whaling ship? Nobody. Yet, Ahab grows and seizes the oceans. He becomes a frightening captain, and meets a dazzling white whale... Moby Dick.

Original language: French
Year of Production: 2007
Genre: Drama,
Origin of production: France, Sweden
Director, writer (screenplay): Philippe Ramos
Writer (novel): Herman Melville
Production: Sésame Films, Florence Borelly
Co-produceres: dfm fiction AB, Olivier Guerpillon,

Production supported by:
Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), Arte France Cinéma, Swedish
Filmistitute, Sveriges Television AB, Film i Väst AB, Rhône-Alpes Cinéma SA, Filmgate AB,

Director of Photography: Laurent Desmet
Second ass. Director: Susanna Sjöblom
Sound Design: Philippe Grivel
Art Direction: Erika von Weissenberg
Costume Designer: Marie-Laure Pinsard
Editor: Philippe Ramos
Composer: Pierre-Stephane Meuge, Olivier Bombard, Tonio Matias

Denis Lavant
Jacques Bonnaffé
Bernard Blancan
Jean-François Stévenin
Virgil Leclaire
Philippe Katerine
Dominique Blanc

Awards and nominations:
2007, Locarno Film Festival
Awarded The Silverleopard Prize for best director

2007, Locarno Film Festival
Awarded The International Critics Prize (FIBPRESCI Prize)