By ALI NADERZAD – June 24, 2007

Who are the new faces of foreign film dealing? Does your mind conjure images of bronzed, celibate bachelors driving used Porsches? If you happen to run into Hengameh Panahi on the rue Turgot (in Paris) where her company Celluloid Dreams is located, you’ll notice that she does not look the part. A little on the shy side, Panahi is exclusively a behind-the-scenes player, donning both financier and producer hats with sagacity. Dreammachine and Celluloid Dreams, the companies she founded, are responsible for the diffusion of some of the most noticed foreign films in recent years: Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which was in competition at Cannes this year (Jury’s Prize), Broken English (Zoe Cassavetes) and Ray Lawrence’s dramatic Jindabyne, among others. At Celluloid Dreams and their London-based sister company Dreammachine, Panahi keeps a close watch of every foot of film acquired and produced under the Celluloid Dream imprint. Panahi says, if I am not convinced by the films it’s hard to convince others. Iranian by birth, she was sent to Belgium at the age of 12 so she could be spared the growing tensions in Iran. After her baccalaureate exam Panahi had a brief stint as a translator and then got hired to work with a local filmmaker. She became involved in the business aspects of film production, honing her skills for what was to become an apparent new calling. She soon moved to Paris, the bigger of the two French-speaking capitals. Though at first put off by the high premium the French place on les pistons (connections) Hengameh Panahi opened an office and started to build her catalog. Most recently Celluloid Dreams merged with England‘s HanWay, the newly combined entity boasting of a catalog of 500 titles from directors like Woody Allen, Takeshi Kitano, and James Ivory. At the last edition of the Cannes festival it was announced that Celluloid Dreams would also launch a division whose wish list will be in the horror area, ie, to ink ‘quality films which which will also deliver chills.’ Was this the right move for Panahi now? Guess we’ll have to wait and see; the merger with Hanway should help buffer any possible future missteps. Visit Hengameh Panahi’s company

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