Wild Bunch co-founders Vincent Maraval and Brahim Chioua bid farewell to the legendary company name they created in 2002 at a characteristically rebel-rousing party in Paris bannered “Forever Wild Whatever The Name!” on Thursday night, but have yet to confirm their new name.
Taking place during Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous in Paris, local and international collaborators flocked to the Annette K barge on the banks of the Seine for the event, featuring a Céline Dion tribute act and a set by DJ Kiddy Smile who appeared in Gaspar Noé’s Climax.
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The dropping of the name marks the final act in their departure from the pan-European Wild Bunch AG film group, which was created in 2015 out of the merger of their original French company Wild Bunch and Germany’s Senator and is now majority owned by German entrepreneur Lars Windhorst.
Maraval and Chioua and their 15-person-strong team struck out as a standalone international sales company under the banner of Wild Bunch International (WBI) in 2019 but maintained the association with their old company for a three-year term.
“When we created Wild Bunch International, Wild Bunch took a 20% stake in exchange for us being allowed to use the Wild Bunch brand in our name, which now belongs to the group, under a signed three-year agreement,” explained Chioua. “This deal came to an end in November 2022, with a get-out clause for both parties.
Alluding to the current trend for consolidation of independent film companies under banners such as Mediawan and Fremantle, Maraval commented wryly. “Everybody is selling up. We’re buying ourselves back.”
It has been a busy three-and-a-half-years.
The company has continued to handle sales on established A-list festival regulars such as Ken Loach, Claire Denis, Maïwenn, Kore-Eda Hirokazu, Gaspar Noé, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Cristian Mungiu as well as scout breakout works by newcomers such as Julia Ducournau’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane, Audrey Diwan’s Venice Golden Lion winner Happening, and Dea Kulumbegashvili’s San Sebastian Golden Shell winner Beginning.
At the same time, Maraval and Chioua have also pushed the company into production with the creation of Wild West, a joint venture with Thierry Lounas and his film company Capricci aimed at developing and producing French and European genre fare, as well as Le Collectif 64 with the producer Marc Dujardin.
For many international film biz folk the name Wild Bunch will be forever associated with the original team, their parties and the raft of titles they brought to the market that shook cinemas and festivals throughout the 2000s and 2010s.
To name but a handful, these span provocative pictures such as Virginie Despentes’s Baise-Moi, Abel Ferrara’s Dominique Strauss Kahn-drama Welcome To New York and Noé’s Climax; their 11 Cannes Palme d’Or winners including Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11, Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days and Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is The Warmest Colour; and eight Oscar winners featuring Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, Luc Jacquet’s March of the Penguins and Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
Maraval is phlegmatic about the name change saying many of the directors of these films will continue to work with the rebranded company and that it is time to turn the page onto a new chapter.
“The marks the final act of an adventure which ended three years ago when we left to set up Wild Bunch International. For our sake and the sake of the team, it’s time to move on rather than dragging the Wild Bunch legacy around with us,” he said.
The company is still in the process of securing its planned new name.
When Maraval and Chioua created Wild Bunch in 2002 alongside Vincent Grimond (who stepped down as CEO of the Wild Bunch Group in 2021 and Alain de la Mata (who remains a shareholder in the new independent company), they took inspiration from Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 classic The Wild Bunch.
The hoped-for-new name is taken from a 1990s classic, but Maraval has contacted its A-list director for permission before officially going ahead with the idea.
“Out of courtesy, we’re asking permission. We don’t want him to learn about it in the trades,” said Maraval. “We’ll see whether he replies that he is honored or on the contrary, that it’s out of the question.”
As of the small hours of Friday morning in Paris, Maraval was still waiting for a definitive answer. If the director does agree, it will be a reason for a second party, says the irrepressible bon-viveur.
Deadline sat down with Maraval and Chioua to discuss the name change and their longer-term plans for their new company ahead of the party and we’ll post the interview on Friday.
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