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Vivid Memories from my days in Cannes launching Boyz'n The Hood

I had the immense privilege to run the marketing at Sony when i received (early 1991) a video tape from f Boyz'n The Hood with the suggestion to submit it to Cannes.

To our great surprise, Gilles Jacob invited the film  (first feature by young John Singleton) into "Un Certain Regard".

I started a campaign which remains one of my best prides in marketing several hundreds of films over the years for Sony, Fox and UGC.

I asked Anne Lara our publicist to identify one journalist expert in "Black Cinema", he should become the first one to see our film and guide us. The journalist of Liberation Anne brought in,  left the screening in our meeting room in tears, deeply moved telling us "this guy is Orson Welles..." 

He became our first spokesperson, buzzing among journalists in Paris before the Cannes presentation, talking about it on a TV show where he was invited. We organized a few secret screenings in Paris so the film could arrive in Cannes with an aura.

We worked hard to build the house for the premiere (including black celebrities, see below, young kids from around town and bad neigbourhood) We created a specific environment for the film that would feel authentic, legitimate and ETHNIC.

Posters on the croisette were designed live (in front of Canal+ cameras) by graffitti artists, we organised a rap concert with Ice Cube performing...



John Singleton in good company at the debussy screening of his film (we turned some 500 people out whoc ould not fit the 1500 seats theater)

Roger Ebert declared Cannes was High Tide for Black new Wave in 1991 he wrote that year:

"The French New Wave was a rebirth of French films in the early 1960s, and the German new wave represented the same process in Germany in the 1970s. Now black American filmmakers are developing a new stylistic and personal vision that reached critical mass at this year's Cannes Film Festival. In May of 1991, here in the incongruous setting of the French Riviera, far from the urban settings of most of their films, the black new wave came of age."

boyz-n-the-hood-1-620x300.jpg

 

Roger Ebert continued

"On one night, for example, there were two big post-screening parties in town, both for films by black Americans. In a nightclub up in town, rap artist Ice Cube performed in a disco jampacked with people celebrating the premiere "Boyz N the Hood," the extraordinary new film by 23-year old John Singleton. Down on the beach, there was a celebration for Bill Duke's "A Rage In Harlem," a romantic comedy based on one of the books of Harlem crime novelist Chester Himes.

 

At the "Boyz" party, I found myself sitting next to Frank Price, president of Columbia Pictures and the man who gave Singleton , then 22 and still in film school, the green light to write and direct the film. "When John came in and started to talk about his ideas," Price said " was reminded of another kid who walked into my office once--Steven Spielberg." Singleton wanted to make a film about a bright black kid who grows up in South Central Los Angeles, who lives in the middle of gang violence and the other usual ghetto problems, who is surrounded by ways to go wrong, but who is raised by a father who takes his responsibilities seriously. The movie, which played out of competition in a category called "Un Certain Regard," was by general agreement the most talked-about and well-liked film at Cannes this year, and Price seemed pleased with himself for having placed a wise bet on Singleton."

Doughboy.jpg

"On pense plutôt à Cassavetes, ou, s'il faut absolument rattacher Singleton au cinéma noir, à Charles Burnett (auteur des admirables "Killer of Sheep" et "To Sleep With Angerqui parle plutôt de la génération des grands-parents des héros de Singleton, de gens qui se souviennent encore du Vieux Sud, d'un monde où la famille et l'Eglise protégeaient corps et âmes des tours de cochon de la vie. Les mômes de « Boyz 'n the Hood » n'ont plus rien. Que leurs rêves fracassés et l'espoir fragile de vivre encore jusqu'à demain. Et rien de plus.
Ça, personne- ne l'avait encore montré comme John Singleton. Un cinéaste est né. C'est un événement finalement assez rare."

"A Director is born, it is such a rare moment."

 
BERNARD LOUPIAS - Le Nouvel Observateur
 
 

 

I had set that party at Studio Circus (Paul Pacini had also been the owner of the Rock'nRoll Circus in Paris where Jim Morrison died in 1971)  

Ice Cube performed a great concert to a packed audience totally inexperimented in Rap Culture (lots of studio "suits").  To bridge that gap and put some warmth in the ambiance I had asked the infamous clown Django Edwards to break the ice. An easy task for him, a huge surprise to many (including the same Frank Price when Django exhibited a huge plastic toy)

jangoedwardssoloclownshow.jpg

The funniest moments?
The face expression of John Singleton when he discovered his hamburger at the Carlton (in the silver bowl tray, quite different from your McDonald's servings and his expectation) I remember this was his first trip anywhere outside South Central Los Angeles.

The weirdest moment?
Anne had organised a 52 minutes documentary show where John Singleton would meet a gang leader in Sarcelles (one of France's hard "Hoods")...Body guard 2 cars....quite an organisation, and a few risks taken for the Major....but John cancelled when he met the guy and told us "the guy is a flake".

 

But my best memory of all this work remains Frank Price telling me "Bruno I want to thank you and your team for a fantastic work for Boyz in Cannes, when i return to the office I will raise the domestic Box Office estimate from 30M$ to 50M$" (he was so right, with actual Box Office in excess of 54M$.)

For me there was only one lesson: Cannes can work miracles for you, if you do the right thing with the right people.

Bruno Chatelin and friends

 

 

 

 

Comments (1)

Boyz sur le Croisette…a class act!

superbe...once a classic always a classic. Thanks for sharing such a great moment! Still feel that buzz through the page. Frank Price had a vision and Bruno helped him see it through the most important moments once the script & film shot and edited - the mastery of getting it all together and OUT THERE. Marketing has magic and genius ...

 

Boyz n the Hood was filmed from October 1 to November 28, 1990 and released on July 12, 1991. It was nominated for both Best Director and Original Screenplay during the 1991Academy Awards, making Singleton the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director and the first African–American to be nominated for the award.

 

Gasface recalls the moment his friend John Singleton learned he would be making the film Boyz N The Hood!

 

The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. In 2002, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

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