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


It was also amazing to be able to walk your daugther in Cannes on your footsteps, honoring your career.

Check the video of that amazing day!

I am also very proud of my contribution to the international success of the film starting with a blast in cannes, and a marketing campaign designed with our french touch (eventually exported for the other Sony territories) ! It is the only time in my career in film where I have been able to put a figure on the contribution of a festival to the box office of a film.

See below how Cannes has been estimated to help the film perform an additional 40 M$, of which 20 M$ domestic, according to the chief of the Studio.!!!

Check Justice discovering Cannes and going on the footsteps of her dad for an amazing day in the festival. She left the day of the memorial to board a flight to Nice and Cannes

I was running the marketing for Sony when i received (early 1991) a video tape from Boyz'n The Hood with the suggestion to submit it to Cannes.

To our great surprise, Gilles Jacob invited the film (we were thrilled and surprised because first feature in selection are rare)

John's film entered "Un Certain Regard". John Singleton was only 23, (Justice her daughter was not even a thought as she said) and one of the youngest to bring a film in Cannes competitions, (later he was also the youngest to be nominated for best director and best script at the Oscars)

We started a 4 months campaignwhen we got that great news and it will remain as one of my best prides in the marketing of 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 spokes person, 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.

The film was one of the early films with ethnic / segmented  focus from  the studio, it was following the steps of La Bamba (also a big success).  Stephanie Allain who handled that for Sony did a few more (Poetic Justice, I like it like that...)

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 who could 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.

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.




Congrats for a great trailer we cut for the film,I also remember doing a great radio campaign which was used for the international launch.


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."

"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."

"We think of Cassavetes, or, if it is absolutely necessary to connect Singleton to the black cinema, to Charles Burnett (author of the admirable" Killer of Sheep "and" To Sleep With Anger "which speaks rather of the generation of grandparents of Singleton's hero, people who still remember the Old South, a world where the family and the Church protected body and soul from the tricks of life's pigs.The kids of "Boyz 'n the Hood" did not nothing more than their shattered dreams and the fragile hope of living until tomorrow, and nothing more.


That, nobody had yet shown like John Singleton. A filmmaker is born. It's an event that's finally quite rare. "
BERNARD LOUPIAS - Le Nouvel Observateur

See the hat from John, now on Justice walking the red carpet, here with Thierry Fremaux.

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

Ice Cube and his two scratechers 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).


The anger of our dear boss Ted Shugrue when he discovered that we had shown the film to the first journalist in the world (Liberation ) on a TV set from a UMATIC tape, and not on our regular screening room!

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

2. I cannot resist sharing my surprise to the catchline our friends from the video sister company used "The film which triggered shootings in the cinemas in the USA". The Video market was already tough, wasn'it?


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

We almost ended up with a lawsuit from the producers of the show.

Festivals can work magic $ and fairy tale
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 one major lesson: Cannes will work miracles, if you do the right thing with the right people staying true to the film.
Basically another field of dreams lesson "if you build it they will come".

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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