Deals for “Weather Underground” and “Other Side of the Bed”; Ghobadi Screens in Iraq; Tribeca Recap & Much More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Mark Rabinowitz has joined the Hamptons International Film Festival as industry liaison. Rabinowitz, a film journalist and former editor of indieWIRE, “will act as an ambassador for HIFF with a clear eye towards raising the profile of the festival within the industry and increasing the global film industry’s awareness of and participation in HIFF events.” He is attending the Cannes Film Festival with HIFF executive director Denise Kasell and programmer Rajendra Roy.
Ariel Veneziano has been named director or motion picture sales and international home video distribution for Alliance Atlantis Entertainment Group. He will be based in London, and will oversee European motion picture sales activities and worldwide home video distribution (outside of North America). He had previously worked in worldwide distribution for Alliance Atlantis’s feature film titles, and also held posts at Menemsha Entertainment and Roundtable Ink.
ACQUISITIONS ROUNDUP: The Sundance Channel announced the fourth and final film acquired for the first year of its Sundance Film Series. The company claimed U.S. rights to the Spanish box-office hit “El Otro Lado de la Cama” (The Other Side of the Bed); Lions Gate International had acquired worldwide rights to the film (excluding Spain) from Madrid’s Estudios Picasso/Telecino after the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. The film, which racked up $13 million at the Spanish box office, is about two couples searching for love. Emilio Martinez-Lazaro directed “The Other Side of the Bed,” which was nominated for six Goyas in 2002. In other news, Shadow Distribution has acquired U.S. rights to the doc “The Weather Underground,” a hit at the Sundance and San Francisco fests. Shadow will open it at New York’s Film Forum on June 4, followed by a rollout to more cities in July and August. Finally, Myriad Pictures announced that it acquired international rights (outside U.S. and English-speaking Canada) to Helmut Schleppi’s “A Foreign Affair,” a dark comedy starring David Arquette, Tim Blake Nelson, and Emily Mortimer.
MIRAMAX MAKES “PROMISES”: Miramax execs in Cannes have announced a deal for “Eastern Promises,” the new project by writer Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things”). The company has acquired all rights, outside of free television rights, to “Promises.” The film will be produced by BBC Films, Miramax’ collaborators on Stephen Frears “Dirty Pretty Things.” The film, set to begin production later this year, was described in a Miramax announcement as “a contemporary thriller set in an immigrant community.”
IRAQ ROLLS OUT THE RED CARPET: Bahman Ghobadi’s Kurdish-themed feature “Marooned in Iraq” isn’t marooned at all, and will in fact be shown at several Iraqi towns starting this week. The film opened in Sulleimanieah and Erbil on Wednesday, and will premiere in Baghdad tomorrow. The film is the first to be publicly screened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Ghobadi will be on hand at the premieres, and then the film will travel to smaller Kurdish towns and refugee camps. The film is now playing in the U.S. through Wellspring.
MANIACS: If you think YOU’RE a film fanatic, then you need to show up tonight at New York’s Cinema Village to meet the subjects of “Cinemania,” Angela Christlieb & Stephen Kijak’s doc about New Yorkers who attend multiple film screenings every day. Cinemaniacs Jack Angstreich, Eric Chadbourne, Bill Heidbreder, Roberta Hill, and Harvey Schwartz will answer questions after the film’s opening-night screening at 7 p.m.
BACKYARD BUSINESS: Fresh off its audience award at the Brooklyn International Film Festival, amateur wrestling doc “The Backyard” has been picked up by HIQI Media and Image Entertainment. HIQI will open the film theatrically in New York and L.A. on July 25, followed by more dates nationwide, and then Image’s DVD release. The film, the directorial debut of NYU Film School grad Paul Hough, looks at the scary world of backyard wrestling, where kids put on matches with staple guns, razor blades, and barbed-wire-covered baseball bats.
CLOSER TO A MILLION: The 2003 Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival announced the five finalists in this year’s competition: Victor Buhler from Los Angeles, Paul Cotter from Chicago, Tanja Mairitsch from Los Angeles, Stephen Marro from New York, and Andrew Mudge from New York. These five will now live together in a house in L.A. where they will develop a feature film production package with the help of an industry mentor. They will pitch the projects to a panel in September, and the winner will get a $1 million production deal.
BAFTA MOVE: The awards season continues to shift with the Oscars move up three weeks to February 29, 2004. The Orange British Academy Film Awards has announced a date switch from February 8 to February 15. The BAFTAs said that they moved their event to avoid conflict with the Academy’s annual Academy Awards nominees’ lunch on February 9. The BAFTAs are held at London’s Odeon Leicester Square. This year’s event was held on February 23.
TRIBECA RECAP: Though the Tribeca Film Festival ended Sunday, we’re still recovering from all the parties. Faced with a daunting 14 social invitations last Thursday (we should always be so lucky), BUZZ instead had to work late and then cut our losses and went home without attending some major fetes. But by all reports, Thursday’s parties were fabulous. AMC’s party for the restoration of “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” was a flashback to dot-com boom, complete with lavish buffet and fake money strewn all over the floor at Capitale. The soiree for “Ghostlight,” held at Mission also attracted an A-list crowd (stars Ann Magnuson and Debbie Harry, plus B-52 Fred Schneider and Lady Bunny). There was yet another bash for IFC Productions (at Diesel StyleLab) where the crowd included directors and casts from several IFC productions (“Kill the Poor,” “Paper Chasers,” “This So-Called Disaster”). Surprisingly, things were most rocking at Magnolia’s bash for “Capturing the Friedmans” — who would have thought a doc about a family facing child molestation charges would have attracted a sexy crowd including Moby, Robbie Williams, and others.
Friday’s festivities included a lovely intimate dinner down at Chinatown’s Sweet & Tart for Chen Kaige’s “Together.” Kaige attended with wife Chen Hong, friends from United Artists, which will release the film, producers Scott Macauley and John Lyons, and Tribeca fest director Peter Scarlett. Other events over the weekend included Satruday’s afternoon party for “Cinemania,” at Bubble Lounge, which drew the film’s directors Stephen Kijak and Angela Christlieb plus Cowboy’s John Vanco, writer/director Ira Sachs, and producers Diana Williams and George LaVoo. On Sunday, there was a sedate closing-night soiree, but BUZZ thought it wiser to catch up on her sleep.
WINNERS ROLE CALL: Spring film festival frenzy means a slew of regional fests that recently wrapped. indieWIRE wanted to give a quick rundown of highlights of some recent fest winners. At the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the jury picked “Die Mommie Die” as best feature and “All About My Father” as best doc, with the audience prize going to “Tipping the Velvet.” At the Nashville Film Festival, Japanese director Sai Yoichi won the NFF/Regal Cinemas Dreammaker award for “Doing Time,” Robb Moss won the best doc award for his “The Same River Twice,” and the audience picked A.W. Vidmer’s “Stuey” as best feature and Mark Moorman’s “Tom Dowd and the Language of Music” as best doc. At the first Independent Film Festival of Boston, the jury picked Bernard Rose’s “Ivans Xtc.” as best feature and Jesse Moss’ “Speedo” as best doc. The audience favored Bob Odenkirk’s feature “Melvin Goes to Dinner,” and Josh Pais’ doc “7th Street.” At the Brooklyn International Film Festival, Andreas Samland’s “Day 26” won the grand chameleon award, Susan Taslimi’s “All Hell Let Loose” won best feature, and Walter Stokman’s “Ash, Worldwide Suicide” won best doc. Finally, at the Washington, D.C. International Film Festival, Chen Kaige’s “Together” was the top audience vote-getter.