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Film adaptation of Arsenal Pulp graphic novel wins Cannes top honours

When Arsenal Pulp Press publisher Brian Lam first agreed to publish the English-language version of Julie Maroh’s graphic novel Le bleu est une couleur chaude, he was unaware there was a film version in the works. On Sunday, that adaptation, titled Blue Is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele, was declared a breakout hit at the Cannes Film Festival. Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche and the film’s stars, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydou, were presented with the Palme d’Or, beating out films by the Coen brothers and Roman Polanski for the festival’s top honour.

In 2010, Belgian comics publisher Glénat published the lesbian coming-of-age story, about a teenage girl who falls in love with an older woman. Last year, an agent representing Glénat approached Arsenal Pulp about acquiring world English-language rights, attracted by the Vancouver company’s experience publishing LGBT titles and graphic novels. A deal was signed in October at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair.

Since yesterday’s award announcement, Lam has already been in touch with Glénat, making sure references to the film are clearly marked on the book and in our publicity materials. To be titled Blue Angel (Blue Is the Warmest Color), the book will launch in October. The film’s North American release is also scheduled for the fall.

There’s the niche market of it being a lesbian graphic novel, but we didn’t imagine that it would be a huge commercial success, says Lam. It’s a beautiful story, but not a mainstream subject, and it’s not going to fly in certain communities. This gives us new opportunities.

Later this week at BookExpo America, Lam will meet with Arsenal Pulp’s U.K. and U.S. distributors to discuss sales and marketing strategies. We have our distribution networks all lined up, and now it’s just a matter of everyone being on side and knowing what to do to take it to the next level, says Lam.