by Anthony Kaufman
Having established long-term relationships with talents like Takeshi
Kitano ("Hana-bi"), Abbas Kiarostami ("Taste of Cherry") and Tony Gatlif
("Gadjo Dilo"), "the company has basically exploded," said acquisitions
and sales rep, Janine Gold from this year's Toronto Film Festival, where
the world sales agency represented its largest showing yet of eleven
feature films. "The company is expanding," she added, "because we are
handling more and more films, and because the levels the directors are
reaching are so much greater as well."
Founded ten years ago in Belgium by Hengameh Panahi, when directors like
Kiarostami were just breaking through, the company has since relocated
to Paris and has moved to the forefront in the sales of cutting edge,
At this year's Cannes Film Festival, one of the hottest properties in
the market was Celluloid's series of 10 films, mostly 1-hour long, about
the end of the millennium, called "2000 Seen By." Produced by Haut and
Court producers Caroline Benjo and Carole Scotta along with broadcaster,
Arte, each of the films is directed by a different country's distinctive
voice (U.S.A.'s Hal Hartley, Brazil's Walter Salles, Canada's Don
McKellar, Belgium's Alain Berliner, and Taiwan's Tsai Ming-liang, among
others). As the series was picked up in most European territories along
with Brazil, Mexico, and Australia, films in the collection have
continued to pop up again and again on the festival circuit. At
Toronto, five out of the ten were in the official selection, and among
New York's exclusive 26-film group, two were included. McKellar's film,
one of the only full-length entries, has gone on to win acclaim at many
Canadian festivals and a U.S. distributor, Lions Gate Films, while Walter
Salles has recently completed a full length version of his work.
But will anyone in the United States get a chance to see the 2000
series? Gold noted the U.S. sale is the hardest nut to crack. "[US
distributors ] are not familiar enough with the collection. They became
aware of it during Cannes. And during the summer, we've sent out
screeners, and they've taken a look at some of the films." Gold further
explained that they hoped to work out a deal "with some of the newer
distribution companies that have been created lately." More recently,
there has been reportedly "strong interest" in the package from U.S.
distribs, but no ink has hit the page yet.
One of the problems in selling the anthology is its scope. "Certainly 10
films, even though they are shorter, is a lot for one distributor to
take on, because they still are 10 films," expressed Gold. Their
shorter lengths may also face discrimination. While foreign distributors
feel they can combine two 1-hour films for a standard theatrical
exhibition time, U.S. distributors haven't been open to such a release
in the past.
Still, Gold was optimistic. "The truth is the films work so well if you
present them that way. Because of the common themes. Not only the
theme about the coming of the new millennium, but also because of the
fact that each of them presents the current, cultural socio-economic
situation of each of their countries."
In addition to the topical 2000 collection, Celluloid Dreams represents
a number of international auteurs, sure to be the next Kitanos and
Kiarostamis in the company's hat. At Toronto, buzz quickly surrounded
the premiere of Japanese director, Hirokazu Kore-Eda's new film "After
Life," which went on to receive the Fipresci Critic's Prize at the San
Sebastian Film Festival. Celluloid also has the rights to the
director's first acclaimed film, "Maborosi."
"One thing that we really stress at Celluloid Dreams is following the
career of a director. It's not just about the one film," Gold declared.
"We believe in the talent of the filmmaker and that's what it's about."
Along with Kore-Eda, the sales agency has developed a relationship with
another young directorial talent, French provocateur Francois Ozon,
whose most recent "Sitcom" may have proved too perverse for prudish U.S.
distributors, but has sold healthily everywhere else in the world. But
Ozon has surprised us before; his two excellent shorts films "See the
Sea" and "A Summer's Dress" were distributed in the U.S. as a package by
Zeitgeist Films. Furthermore, Ozon's growing popularity is proven by the
fact his next project, a teenage crime thriller which stars Natacha
Regnier ("The Dreamlife of Angels"), has already been pre-sold to several
At this year's Cannes, Toronto and New York Film Festivals, Gasper Noe's
"I Stand Alone" also took audiences by surprise. The film was awarded a
prize for best film in the Critic's Week competition at Cannes and
subsequently, Celluloid Dreams has been on the verge of a US sale to
Strand Releasing. Brutal, innovative, and provocative, "I Stand Alone"
shares a darker place on Celluloid's slate with "Sombre," Phillip
Grandrieux's arty document of the days and mostly nights of a serial
killer. "Sombre" was recently bought for French distribution by
Diapana, while Western audiences will likely have to look for it in
recent French film retrospectives at museums and film societies.
Other notable possessions include a 1999 Sundance selection, "The
Adopted Son" from Kyrghyzstan director, Aktan Abdikalikov, which won a
Silver Leopard at Locarno, and "Rosie," Flemish director, Patrice Toye's
poignant, yet edgy look at a young girl's love for her mother.
"Rosie" received strong distributor interest immediately after its
screening in Toronto and a deal is in the works.
"What's happening more and more, is that filmmakers are coming to us to
handle their films," said Gold. As opposed to soliciting new work, Gold
feels that together with Panahi, they have a strong sense of the
material they are after. "What we want to do is, again, because of what
I said earlier about staying with the career of a director, is to select
those films that we feel most strongly about."
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