DISPATCH FROM CANNES: Deals Announced as Cannes Fest Continues, Biz Insiders Buzzing About Other Titles

by Eugene Hernandez

A scene from Zhang Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers", which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.

Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" debuted to expected rapturous applause here in Cannes yesterday at its competition screening in the Palais des Festivals. Festival chief Thierry Fremaux has called the twenty-minute standing ovation the longest he has witnessed at this festival. More on Moore tomorrow as we take a step back to report on business activity. While this year's market has been quiet through the first half of the festival, a spate of deals emerged on Monday.

THINKFilm Nabs "Kontroll"

North American rights to Nimrod Antal's "Kontroll" have been acquired by THINKFilm. Company CEO & president Jeff Sackman and head of U.S. theatrical distribution Mark Urman closed the pact with Andrew Herwitz of the Film Sales Company.

The first feature, set in the underground Budapest subway system, has already won a number of awards in Hungary. American-born Antal studied film in Los Angeles before moving to Hungary and graduating from the Hungarian Academy of Drama and Film. The movie is screening here in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section.

Sony Classics Gets "Flying Daggers"

On Monday, Sony Pictures Classics announced its pact for North American rights to Zhang Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers," the Out of Competition Cannes entry from the master Chinese filmmaker ("Raise the Red Lantern," "Hero," "The Road Home").

The movie, described as an epic action romance adventure, stars Zhang Ziyi ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), Takeshi Kanishiro and Andy Lau, is further described as "a story of love and betrayal with secret societies vying for the loyalty of the emperor." It is set in 859 AD, amidst the decline of the Tang Dynasty.

"This is our sixth film from a filmmaker regarded as one of the very best in the world," said Sony Classics co=president's Michael Barker & Tom Bernard. "It is an honor and thrill for us to be working once again both with Zhang Yimou and our good friend, his producer, Bill Kong."

Sony Classics Barker and Bernard, along with SVP Dylan Leiner, negotiated the deal with the film's producer Bill Kong and Howard Frumes of Alexander Nau Lawrence & Frumes.

TLA Takes Two

Two films have been acquired by TLA Releasing for the outfit's International Film Festival DVD/VHS label: Srdjan Karanovic's Serbian film, "Loving Glances" (Sjaj U Ocima) and "Gun Shy" (Schussangst) by Georgian filmmaker Dito Tsintsadze. TLA president Ray Murray and company director of acquisitions Richard Wolff negotiated the pacts with Bjorg Beland of BV International Pictures for "Glances" and Solveig Langeland of Sola Films for "Gunshy."

"Glances," a comedy, is described as the story of "two refugees from the Balkan wars of the 1990s (who) try to recover from lost loves by tentatively wading into an unsettled dating pool." While "Gunshy," is described as a thriller, is described as the story of "a lonely young man who delivers meals to the elderly and meets a beautiful, enigmatic young woman trapped in a violent and unstable relationship."

Biz Buzz

While North American buyers have yet to nab higher profile Cannes titles, a few movies have generated interest, aside from the aforementioned "Fahrenheit 9/11" which Michael Moore said today is not yet near a North American pact.

Niels Mueller's Un Certain Regard film, "The Assassination of Richard Nixon," with a starring role by Sean Penn and performances by Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle and others, has had buyers buzzing. As has Sebastian Cordero's Un Certain Regard film "Cronicas," produced by Alfonso Cuaron and starring John Leguizamo and Leonor Watling.

Agnes Jaoui's "Comme Une Image" screened well in competition, attracting interest, while insiders seemed mixed to positive about Hans Weingartner's "The Edukators." Lucrecia Martel's "La Nina Santa" and Hong Sangsoo's "Woman is the Future of Man" have not favored as well according to informal industry buzz here.

Jon Fitzgerald and Mitch Levine, in Cannes to launch a new company. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE.

Fitzgerald and Levine Launch Outfit

Former film festival directors Jon Fitzgerald (Santa Barbara, AFI Fest and Slamdance), and Mitch Levine (Palm Springs), have launched Festival Consulting Group (FCG), to consult on all aspects of festivals, from programming and sponsorship to production services, special events, and industry relations.

Other execs on board with the company include former Warner Bros. acquisition exec John Halecky and marketing & fundraising veteran Cindy Green.

Hamptons to Honor Marcie Bloom

Former Sony Pictures Classics co-president Marcie Bloom will be the recipient of the first Industry toast at the Hamptons International Film Festival this fall in an event co-presented by indieWIRE. The new event, in the words of an announcement, will "celebrate a person or persons who best exemplifies the spirit of the independent film world and whose energy, vision, and acumen enhances the industry we are in and propels the art of film to greater heights."