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May 18, 2001 2:00 AM
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DAILY NEWS: "No Man's" Deal; American Directors in Cannes and Sony Classics Deals

DAILY NEWS: "No Man's" Deal; American Directors in Cannes and Sony Classics Deals



by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE with a report from A.G. Basoli


>> CANNES 2001: UA Acquires Tanovic's "No Man's Land"


(indieWIRE/05.18.01) -- North American rights to Danis Tanovic's Cannes
Competition entry, "No Man's Land," have been sold to United Artists. The
Sales Company closed the deal with UA, who made the announcement yesterday
(Thursday).


The film, the story of two soldiers -- one Bosnian and one Serb -- is set
between enemy lines during the 1993 Bosnian conflict, was well-received here
in Cannes.


"We are really proud to acquire the surprise hit of Cannes," commented UA's
Larry Gleson and Gerry Rich in a prepared statement. "It is wonderfully
engaging and entertaining while treating a universal theme in an elegant and
accessible way."


Writing about the movie in his mid-fest report for indieWIRE, reviewer Mark
Peranson wrote, "The Bosnian "No Man's Land" is characterized by a slickness
both in its aesthetic and in how it deals with the subject matter; indeed,
it could pass for American, if only those soldiers spoke good English."
[Eugene Hernandez]


>> CANNES 2001: American Directors Lament Distribution, Debate Digital, Praise Personal Cinema


(indieWIRE/05.18.01) -- "American films are in a very healthy state, right
now," was Roger Ebert's opening statement at Cannes' annual American
Directors Panel
. "American distribution sucks." The ensuing discussion,
sponsored by IFC and Bravo and hosted by the IFP, ranged from topics such as alternative distribution methods, to the current state of American market and
the challenges, in Mr. Ebert's own words, "of making intelligent films at a
time when distribution seems so skewed toward the vulgar and shameful."


A remarkably diversified panel of first-timers, directing teams and
actors-turned-directors included: Israeli-born Amos Kollek ("Queenie in
Love
"), Frenchman Michel Gondry ("Human Nature"); Scottish actor Alan Cumming and American actress Jennifer Jason Leigh ("The Anniversary Party"); Wayne Wang ("The Center of the World"); Scott McGehee and David Siegel ("The Deep End") and Arliss Howard ("Big Bad Love"). Notably absent were other US Festival participants Hal Hartley ("No Such Thing"), David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive"), Ethan Hawke ("Chelsea Walls"), Joel and Ethan Coen ("The Man Who Wasn't There") and Abel Ferrara ("R X-mas").


While the bane of many a director's project has traditionally been finding
financing, all panelists seemed to agree that getting released has recently
proven the more difficult task, as even good reviews don't help. The debate
became heated when Wayne Wang, whose "The Center of the World" was shot in
digital, advocated digital distribution as the wave of the future, allowing
directors to make films relatively inexpensively to be distributed via
satellite or disk, citing Madstone Films intended digital network as a model.
While Ebert agreed with Wang that satellite distribution would get films
around the multiplex gridlock, not everyone agreed that it would slash
distribution costs. "The cost of distribution is mostly in P & A," said David
Siegel
. "Distributors feel the need for a film to deliver a certain way so
they can make the money back." Jennifer Jason Leigh noted that digital
distribution is still incredibly expensive even as cameras improve.


"I don't think the issue is digital or not digital," said Amos Kollek. "In
America, everything is monopolized. My assumption is that once movie
distribution moves to digital that could be also monopolized and at that
point it's not like everybody who makes a movie for ten thousand in their
backyard is going to get distribution all over the place. Unless a grassroots
system is in place, the costs will stay the same."


The philosopher of the group seemed to be Arliss Howard, who mused that the
question is eternal and if someone were to read the transcripts from the same
panel thirty years ago, the terms would change, but the questions would
remain the same. "If you want to make movies you have to deal with the
reality of the market," said Howard. "And if you want to make movies outside
the system you have to deal with that reality."


On the subject of making a movie that is commercially viable as opposed to
one that is personal, the panelists unanimously agreed that the more personal
and specific the film, the higher the chances that people will be able to
connect to it. "There's a thing called genre indicator," said Howard, citing
a telltale sign of non-personal films. "It happens about ten or twenty
minutes into the movie, to let the audience know what kind of movie they're
watching so they can get comfortable."


Inevitably the discussion shifted on the aesthetic merits and pitfalls of
digital and on celluloid's looming obsolescence. "When photography first was
invented," said Alan Cumming, whose "The Anniversary Party" was shot
digitally, "everybody thought that painting would be dead. But now they
co-exist. I think there will still be underground clubs where they shoot
celluloid."


Arguing that it's not a matter of resolution vs. revolution, Wayne Wang
proved a staunch supporter of digital, even as an overzealous member of the
audience proposed to the eight panelists to take a vow -- a counter-Dogme 95
of sorts -- that they would only shoot their next film on celluloid. "It is a
different experience when the image is being projected through light and when
it's being projected with digital projection," said Wang. "But I still swear
by both of them." The only one who took the vow was Scott McGehee, but his
partner David Siegel abstained.


Much like a child coaxing a parent into re-telling a favorite fairy-tale,
another member of the audience coaxed Ebert into speaking about his pet
pro-celluloid argument: the effects of electronic image as opposed to
photographic image on the brain, which he did elegantly. "Cinema creates
reverie and television creates hypnosis," said Ebert. "They interact with the
brain differently. If you throw out film, you may be throwing out cinema." In
the same breath, Ebert joked that the bigger threat to film right now are
cellular phones -- that went off numerous times during the press screening
for David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" the previous night. [A.G. Basoli]



>> CANNES 2001: Sony Classics Nabs A Pair, Pursues Another


(indieWIRE/05.18.01) -- Sony Pictures Classics has acquired two movies,
according to trade reports yesterday. The company acquired rights to Zhang
Yhang
's "Quitting", as well as Liven Debrauwer's Directors Fortnight movie, "Pauline and Paulette." Variety reported yesterday that the company is also close to a deal for Eric Rohmer's "The Lady and the Duke."
[Eugene Hernandez]


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