Emmanuel Benbihy

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Emmanuel Benbihy (born 6 November 1969, Paris) is a feature length film producer[1] who created and launched the Cities of Love franchise starting with Paris, je t'aime and more recently New York, I Love You.[2] He is currently involved in the development of the next episodes in Shanghai, Rio, and Jerusalem.[3] He lives between Shanghai and Paris.

Education[edit]

A graduate of Reims Management School, Emmanuel Benbihy demonstrates an early interest in art and international trade. During his studies, he displays a passion for contemporary painting and philosophy (art, law, nature), studies abroad and, while still in his teens, participates in the creation of a Parisian restaurant dedicated to classical music, the Opus Café. Several internships in the US and England give him a grounding in international marketing. This leads him to two years as main buyer for a Los Angeles import-export company specializing in fine foods. This period also gives him the opportunity to work with an independent film producer on the financial set-up of a feature film.

Early work[edit]

In France in 1994, Benbihy spent over a year working on the co-development of European and Asian cinemas, while studying Japanese at the Langues'O. He also attended many foreign markets. His research was sent to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centre National de la Cinématographie, and became his central theme of research at La Sorbonne University (Strategic Analysis in Cinema). This period of reflexion on the industry of film was decisive: cinema needed to serve diversity and peace. He chose his profession: producing world films. Benbihy participated in a panel about the Future of Asian Cinema at the Busan International Film Festival in 1997 during which he claimed that the future of cinema would be in Asia, and more specifically in China. The same year, he joined an independent production company whose first project was an international collection of 12 feature films inspired by parables from the New Testament. For this non-denominational project, he represented the company in international markets and festivals, managing relations with the filmmakers, supervising script development, preparing international production and distribution agreements, and built a strong network of contacts and private investors. He raised a development fund, and took his first steps in the industry, collaborating with directors such as Peter Del Monte, Ermanno Olmi, Djibril Diop Mambety, Mira Nair, Liv Ullmann, Fernando Spiner, Im Kwon-taek ou Mikheil Kobakhidze.

Cities of Love franchise[edit]

Cities of Love is a series of motion pictures illustrating the universality of love in major cities around the world. Each episode is a collective feature film composed of no less than 10 segments – created by directors from around the world.

Two such pictures have already been completed: Paris, je t'aime in 2006, and New York, I Love You in 2009. The next episodes will be in Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Jerusalem and Venice, before heading to Berlin and New Orleans.

Each segment's story line must center on an encounter that bears the hope of love and takes place in the current time. Each segment must contain a strong presence of the illustrated city and a visual identification with the area selected by each Director so that the audience may experience its singularity. All the segments shall be woven together by interstitial transitions placed before, between and after each of the segments. The transitions are directed by an 11th Director, the Director of the transitions. The Transitions involve some, if not all, of the characters created by the Segment Directors and at least one character, specifically created for the transitions, called the "recurrent character". The recurrent character must have an excuse to be found anywhere in the city at any time, and a good reason to connect or interact with any of the segments' characters. The recurrent character serves the unity of the film. The transitions, and the absence of credits inside the film, are essential to the unity and the fluidity of the overall experience. In a final scene, a narrative epilogue allows the audience to watch again some of the segments' characters of the film in a single unifying moment.

Paris, je t'aime[edit]

In April 2000, the development of the film Paris, je t'aime begins with a simple idea: 20 arrondissements, 20 directors, 20 love encounters. Benbihy determines a production timeline for the project, and little by little puts together the principal elements needed for its development and production: narrative development, artistic and technical specifications, material to approach directors and talents, contracts, consistent marketing strategy and international approach to film financing. All these elements are today part of the Cities of Love franchise. Simultaneously, Benbihy produces Abjad a period Iranian film shot during the Afghan war directed by Abolfazl Jalili, and selected in official competition at the Venice Film Festival 2003 against the will of Iranian authorities.

The production of Paris, je t'aime began in July 2005 and involves 24 international directors. The film is pre-sold in numerous territories at high levels, and opens the Cannes Film Festival 2006, Un Certain regard section. Directors such as the Coen brothers, Alexander Payne, Gus Van Sant, Alfonso Cuaron, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, Tom Tykwer, and artists among which Elijah Wood, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Natalie Portman, Nick Nolte, Gena Rowlands, Gérard Depardieu participated in this film.

Paris, je t'aime was the opportunity to give one of their first lead roles on screen to Olga Kurylenko, Leïla Bekhti and Aïssa Maïga, and to produce the first short films of the Coen brothers.

New York, I Love You[edit]

Following on the heels of Paris, je t'aime, the project is the second episode of the Cities of Love series. Directors of the segments include Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akın, Joshua Marston and Randy Balsmeyer. The film stars Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Andy García, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan, Emilie Ohana, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, Blake Lively, Drea de Matteo, Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf, Uğur Yücel, Taylor Geare, Carlos Acosta, Jacinda Barrett, Shu Qi, Burt Young, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, Eva Ammuri, Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman.

In the Diamond District, an inter-cultural romantic fantasy transforms the purchase of a precious stone. Meanwhile, in Chinatown, a desperate artist pursues a reluctant muse. Within an Upper East Side hotel, a sophisticated guest and a mysterious bellboy journey outside of time. After an unexpected night in Central Park, a young man's prom date has a surprising revelation. Traveling towards the Village, two lovers speed by taxi, subway and foot to meet for the first time after what they thought was a one-night stand. In Tribeca, a pickpocket finds the tables turned when he follows an alluring girl. And in Brooklyn, a moment of Coney Island bliss envelops an octogenarian couple. These stories and more are all woven together to form a colorful, lyrical collage not only of the city – but of the deep yearning for love and human connections that sustain everyone within it.[4]

New York, I Love You was the opportunity to give one of his first lead role on screen to Bradley Cooper, and to produce the first short films of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.

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