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“Every Time I Watch the Film, I Still Get Choked Up”: Producer Adrien Barrouillet on In the Land of Brothers

An Afghan woman in gloves and overalls holding pruning shears is gathering isfahan tomatoes from the vine.Still from In The Land of Brothers. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

A French co-production shot entirely in Iran, In the Land of Brothers follows three Afghan refugees who struggle for decades to make Iran feel like a real home. The film is the debut feature of Raha Amirfazli and Alireza Ghasemi, who previously co-directed the short Solar Eclipse together. The film was produced by first-time producer Adrien Barrouillet, who discusses how he came up in the industry and recalls the moment he knew the film was in a good position.

See all responses to our questionnaire for first-time Sundance producers here

Filmmaker: Tell us about the professional path that led you to produce this film, your first? What jobs within and outside of the film industry did you do, and what professional experience best prepared you to be a producer?

Barrouillet: Before going into production, I worked different jobs in film distribution and sales, mostly in video. In 2018, I was selected in a one-year joint training from La Fémis and the Filmakademie Baden Wurttemberg called l’Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris, which is aimed at training young film professionals to film production, and more specifically international coproductions. This was a turning point in my career and the foundation of all that followed. I then worked at Les Films du Bal on Ahed’s Knee by Nadav Lapid, which went on to win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival; this is the experience which gave me the confidence I needed to dive in the production of a feature film as the main producer.

Filmmaker: How did you connect with this filmmaker and wind up producing the film?

Barrouillet: I met Alireza Ghasemi at the Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris, and we did two short films together there. After the Atelier, he went back to Tehran and shot a short film with Raha Amirfazli, Solar Eclipse, which I coproduced. That film had a lot of success in festivals worldwide. Right after that, we decided to make a feature together, their first as directors and my first as producer.

Filmmaker: How long a process was it to produce the film, and if you could break it into stages, periods of time, what were they?

Barrouillet: All in all, it was rather fast because we started discussing it in spring 2020. In France we generally consider that a first feature takes 4 to 5 years from start to finish. Alireza and Raha are exceptional screenwriters, and the first script they showed me felt like a film that had already a long development. We applied for development funding almost immediately and then got support from the Aide aux Cinemas du Monde of the CNC, which is extremely competitive, barely a year after we started working together on the project. This is when we understood the project was very solid and that we were in good position to succeed in making this film. We had then a rather long period of searching for additional funding, shot the film in different segments and seasons during 2022, entirely in Iran, and then entered a yearlong post-production in Paris and Amsterdam.

Filmmaker: Did you have important or impactful mentors, or support from organizations, that were instrumental in your development as a producer?

Barrouillet: There is a very strong connection between Iran and France in filmmaking, and we got a lot of support of several French producers who had made films in Iran and who generously gave us vital advice for the production of our film. The first support we got was from CICLIC, who also supported our company when we created it. They have been strong partners from the start and played a huge role on this project. The CNC was, of course, essential to our ability to make this film, and I cannot thank their teams enough for the help they provided.

Filmmaker: What was the most difficult aspect of producing this film?

Barrouillet: While producing a feature film is already a very complex task in itself, shooting in Iran creates an incredible number of additional problems on top of that. The censorship and the embargo can be a nightmare to navigate.

Filmmaker: What single element of the film do you take the greatest amount of pride in, or maybe were just most excited by, as a producer?

Barrouillet: Every time I watch the film, I still get choked up by the strongest scenes. The film is very faithful to the original intent, and the bet of having nonprofessional actors really paid off. The credit for that is due to Alireza and Raha, who worked really hard to find the right actors. There is a sincerity in the performances that come from real life struggles, and I hope the audiences will feel that the way we do.

Filmmaker: What surprised you or was unexpected when it comes to the producing of the film?

Barrouillet: I expected a lot of obstacles, but I was far from imagining it would be so complicated to make this film. Today it feels to me like a miracle that we managed to finish it and to have such a beautiful premiere at Sundance.

Filmmaker: What are the challenges facing young producers entering the business right now at this unique historical moment? And what could or should change about the film business to make producing a more sustainable practice?

Barrouillet: Independent films get less and less audience, and this has a financial impact on the whole chain. I think we need to find new creative ways of bringing these stories to our audiences and to convince them to come watch the films in theaters, the way they are intended to be seen.

Filmmaker: Finally, what advice would you pass on to a future young producer preparing to embark on their first production?

Barrouillet: Believe in your own taste and judgement. When you feel like you’re facing an insurmountable obstacle, don’t hesitate to ask for advice.

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