Sony Pictures Classics has always leaned heavily on foreign acquisitions in advance of the awards season. Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are often betting on the likely submissions for the best foreign film entry, and can be counted upon to wind up with more than one in the final five. At the same time they can't handle too many movies at once, so they must pick well.
Going into the fall fest circuit, they had already acquired Cannes titles "Amour" (Austria), Chile's entry "No," and "Rust & Bone" (which may or may not be France's Oscar pick), as well as Susanne Bier's possible Danish entry "Love is All You Need," which played well at Venice and Toronto and is a huge hit in Denmark, and at summer's end, incendiary Israeli doc "The Gatekeepers," which they will likely qualify with a one-week run ahead of its 2013 opening.
They've done well with Middle Eastern titles in the past, from Israel's Oscar nominee "Waltz with Bashir" to last year's Iranian winner, Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation." Now post-Telluride and Toronto they are on a Middle Eastern run: they've acquired U.S. rights to "The Patience Stone," which is adapted from the Prix Goncourt-winning 2008 novel and directed by Atiq Rahimi ("Earth and Ashes"). They plan a 2013 release for the film which stars Golshifteh Farahani, who some may remember from Farhadi’s "About Elly" and Marjane Satrapi’s "Chicken with Plums" and "Body of Lies." Farahani plays quiet woman in a wartorn Mideastern country whose husband lies in a coma. As she nurses him, she sends her two children to live with her aunt, and gets sexually involved with a young soldier.
"Like 'A Separation' last year, this movie knocks you out on a very human level," stated Sony Pictures Classics. "Atiq Rahimi tells a fresh story that we've never seen before and it is satisfying on all levels. Golshifteh Farahani's performance is staggering. American audiences will love her and the movie as well."
Produced by Michael Gentile and co-produced by Studio 37, Corniche Pictures and Razor Films, "The Patience Stone" is SPC's second 2012 Middle East acquisition with Berlin-based Razor Films. They also acquired North American rights to "Wadjda," written and directed by the first Saudi Arabian woman filmmaker, Haifaa Al-Mansour, as well as the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. Ten-year-old Wadjda wants to buy a bicycle, but everything seems stacked against her. She hopes to win her school's Koran recitation competition and the large cash prize for first place. (See both trailers below.)“I come from a small town in Saudi Arabia, a country where showing movies in public is illegal," says Haifaa Al-Mansour. "To write and direct the first film ever to be shot inside Saudi Arabia, with one of the leading companies in Europe, Razor Films, was beyond my wildest dreams. To premiere my film at the Venice Film Festival was even more incredible, and now to have Sony Classics bring the film to North America, the place from where I first saw the power and emotional possibilities of film, is beyond anything I ever could have imagined.”
"'Wadjda' captivated audiences in Telluride in a spectacular, richly rewarding way," stated SPC. "For the first time we are seeing a movie from that part of the world, and it's a great movie."
The film will open in 2013. SPC also worked with Razor Films and producers Roman Paul and Gerhard Meixner on animated doc "Waltz with Bashir."