An unwelcome silence threatens the next film of the French actor, Jean Dujardin, whose silent movie, The Artist, is wowing audiences around the globe.
A new film co-directed by Dujardin is one of 36 French movies due to be released next year which could be destroyed by the bankruptcy of a French film production company.
All or part of the digital footage for the movies is stored in the hard-drive of computers belonging to the failed Quinta group, which provides technical services to the French film industry. If creditors are allowed to seize the company's property, the films – including a new episode in the Astérix saga starring Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve – could be wiped from the computers' memory. The film was due to be called Asterix – God Save Brittania in English
The federation representing the French film industry wrote to President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday warning of "grave" and "irreversible economic and cultural consequences" if the films are lost. More than €300m (£251m) has been spent on their production, one quarter of the budget of the French film industry for 2011. The president of the federation, Thierry de Segonzac, asked Mr Sarkozy to intervene to allow other production companies to copy the films before bailiffs and creditors move in. "All seizure and movement of the computer servers would lead to the irrevocable loss" of all or part of the 36 movies, he said.
Dujardin plays the leading role in The Artist, which is a favourite to win at least one Global Globe or Oscar in 2012. In his next project, he directs and stars in Les Infidèles, a film containing several stories about marital infidelity. The movie is almost complete and ready for release in 2012. No copies have yet been run off from the master version stored in computers owned by a Quinta company.
The Quinta group, 83 per cent owned by the Franco-Tunisian businessman Tarak Ben Ammar, was placed in liquidation by a court in Nanterre, west of Paris last Thursday.